In the face of the growing concern about the health of President Mohammadu Buhari and the scotching economic recession in the country, the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) has proffered Public Relations strategies that could help reposition the economy, arrest the nation’s sliding reputation capital and better manage the news of the President’s health condition, which is fast becoming a subject of political theatric.
This is coming as the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has leveraged on the expertise of the institute to strengthen its reform agenda with a three-day workshop on Crisis Communication with the high-point of the event being the induction of the Comptroller General of Customs (CGC), Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) as a Fellow of the institute.
The event which took place, last week, at the NCS Command and Staff College, Gwagwalada, Abuja, saw the training of all the PR officers of the customs commands and some select journalists, provided the opportunity for cross-fertilization of ideas between the media and customs PR officers, and essentially x-rayed some latent national crisis that require urgent PR responses.
In an exclusive interview with MMS Plus, the National President of NIPR and Chairman, Governing Council, Dr. Rotimi Oladele said that PR could help reposition and reinvent the nation through giving critical and thorough analysis to government policies.
His words, “All government policies aimed at combating recession must be analyzed in terms of human capacity, workability, time-tenure, monitoring and measuring. There must be assessment of policies with feedback mechanism, marketing of policies, public enlightenment and masses education which are key in recession management. People need to know what the government is doing and the role of every citizen must be clearly defined. People don’t know that leadership cannot work if followership does not work. This is the essence of PR in governance, as this explains why government must not use quacks for policy marketing.”
Acknowledging that the war against corruption policy of the Federal Government has done a huge discredit to the image of the nation, he questioned why former ministers and governors who have corruption cases and baggage clutched to their personality should be in the same government said to be fighting corruption, adding that the campaign against corruption is not yielding results because “PR strategy is not used. If we had used PR strategy to fight corruption in Nigeria, the first thing we should have done was to sanitize from within. You cannot keep a former minister and governor who embezzled money as part and parcel of the government and yet fight corruption”.
On using PR solution to re-invent the economy, Oladele said, “The first thing is to change our school curriculum to have entrepreneurial content. We must de-monetize politics. It is wrong to have people as career politicians, who have become very greedy with elective positions. No politician should be allowed to take another elective position after having spent eight years on one. People in elected positions should have salaries. With these, we shall repair the reputation of our country.”
According to him, the political theatric arising from the news of the President’s ill-health is needless because anybody could fall sick, saying that the best way to manage the information is to say the truth at all times because the masses own the President. “We are all aware that he needs rest because he is sick. The masses who are the stakeholders and the owners of the President should know what is going on. So we should all appreciate the sincerity and honesty in this situation”.
However, while declaring the workshop open, the CGC declared that “Any non-designated officer that transmits or circulates information that should be properly handled by the public relations officer will be sanctioned. Messages from the service must always be correct and professionally communicated to the public”.
“I believe strongly that the ability of any organization to deliver on its mandates depends largely on how it is understood. PR can therefore be a tool for entrenching higher integrity among operatives and compliance from stakeholders”, Ali stated.
Saying that the service will allow professionalism in PR among officers by encouraging them to make career in public relations, the Customs boss said, “NCS today is at a critical stage of implementing the reforms agenda with serious impact on stakeholders’ expectations. These changes no matter how necessary are sometimes resisted resulting in misunderstanding that could lead to crisis if not well managed. This is where there is need to have a crop of well-trained PR officers equipped with crisis communication skills”.