A few years ago, a rector of one of Nigeria leading higher institutions admitted unqualified students. When his action came under probe, he claimed that he did it for public relations purpose. People expect too much from public relations. It is not a cure-all for problems that beset an individual or an organisation.
Public relations in Nigeria is a child of many parents. The attitudes of these various parents bastardised the instinct of the child and the child has lost his bearing with his creator. Cancer of moral corruption ate their way slowly into the vitals of Nigeria’s society not a man escapes entirely. Truly, today, Nigeria is in a lost condition. Unless everybody in the nation becomes discreet and socially responsible in his/her civic conduct, effort to restore buoyancy to the country may be in vain. Only our collective change of attitudes can facilitate the much desired socio-economic regeneration.
The growth of public relations in Nigeria in recent years has been described as ‘explosive’ but with less professionalism to show for it. There have been interlopers in the profession who put on the toga of publicity specialist on radio, televisions and in newspapers and thereby, killed public relations as a moral profession.
These interlopers have become so powerful as they rose from political axis of the society and now so powerful that they cannot be easily wish-away by the society.
Before the first coup of January 15, 1966, the armed forces of Nigeria seemed to have no need of public relations department. But, the civil war (1967-1970) exposed the Nigerian army’s ill-preparedness for the avalanche of public and international criticisms of its action. When the civic war broke out in 1967, the Biafra regime was more cohesive and forthright than Nigeria. They seized the initiative to launch international communication war against Nigeria. The federal military government and the Nigerian Army found themselves on the defensive side of both military and communication wars.
To counter this adverse image, a directorate of public relations was established by the Nigerian Army in 1968, headed by late Brigadier-General Folusho Sotomi. The army started the enlistment of civilians into the public relations corps, but, unfortunately, most of the enlisted officers were non-professional public relations practitioners. They were mainly broadcasters and journalists.
The Nigerian Army had improved impressively in the area of building its public relations directorate to a world class standard. Nigerian Army now has a school of public relations of its own with mostly army graduate public relations practitioners. The school is under the command of a colonel with Ph.D.
The Nigerian civil war had the most telling adverse effects on the Nigerian Police Force. All Officers and men of Eastern origin left the force to form the nucleus of the Biafra police and army. As the Igbos were the largest group in the police force, their withdrawal had a telling civil order’s management on the rest of the country.
When General Gowon, the then head of state created more states in 1967, this inadequacy became more pronounced in the new states. The image of the Nigerian police was at its lowest ebb during the civil war and immediately after the hostility. Armed robbery, hired assassination and other criminal tendencies were rampant.
To redeem its image, the police started the enlistment of public relations officers into the force in 1971. The first ser of 10 officers were appointed on assistant police superintendent grader. By 1987, police public relations department had gained recognition throughout Nigeria. Mr. Bara Heart was the first head of police public relations to be promoted commissioner in 1975.
The frequent changes of governments and also that of Inspector-General of police had not allowed the police to build and rebuild the image of the force.
After Alhaji Kam Salem who initiated the establishment of police public relations, other successive Inspector- Generals seemed to have a wrong notion of public relations concept.
The Nigerian police still sees the public relations officer as a personal assistant of every Inspector General of Police. With all the efforts of the founding fathers of police public relations, the reputation of the police is still in the doldrums as the corporate image of the police does not fair better.
The Police Service Commission should establish a directorate of public relations like the Nigerian Army for public relations officers to develop their career in that directorate to the highest post in the force. As I said earlier, the interlopers took over the activities of public relations in Nigeria. The institute itself did not help matters. Every Dick, Tom and Harry from allied professions were admitted into membership after it was chartered in 1990. After their admission these sets of people or groups became more powerful than the institute. They started introducing various name into public relations profession. It is only in public relations that you will hear corporate affairs, public affairs, communication department and others
In the legal profession, you cannot hear such various names even though lawyers pride themselves as ‘learned’ fellows. These interlopers have made mockery of public relations as a moral profession in Nigeria.
It is high time the federal, state and local governments allowed public relations practitioners build a career in public relations instead changing them with the change of the government.
Whereas, publicity is the only visible part on the iceberg of public relations, it is much more than that.