The Missing PR Between the Government and Citizens
By Inyene Ibanga
Nigeria is today grappling with a plethora of economic, social, political problems ranging from corruption, insurgency, kidnappings, banditry, and widespread poverty.
These factors have combined to inflict severe economic and political instability across the country. Most of these challenges can be attributed to the absence of transparent, responsive and responsible political leadership.
This situation is compounded by the widening gap between the government and the citizens. The essence of Nigeria’s democratic governance is totally detached from promoting the interest of the citizens. Instead, it is driven by the selfish, greedy, and primitive tendencies of the men in power.
The current spate of ethno-religious, inter-communal and political crisis across country, makes it imperative for concerted communication, interactions and conversations among citizens. It is evident that an objective, purposeful, targeted and committed process of rekindling mutual trust and confidence among the various segments is long overdue. And PR is well-positioned and eminently competent to spearhead the campaign for a new Nigeria.
PR is a vital element for accomplishing beneficial relationships among individuals, groups and organizations. The aim of PR by private and public organizations is essentially to persuade their stakeholders to maintain a favourable point of view about its products, services, leadership or political decisions. These stakeholders include employees, customers, local community, and regulatory authorities among others.
While PR in private organizations is geared to achieve organizational goals and growth which translates into profit, it can be deployed for the promotion of good governance, peace and stability of a nation. Public service organizations and institutions need PR to further the effective implementation of government policies and programmes for overall national development and wellbeing of the citizens.
PR practice is guided by integrity, the sincerity of purpose, transparency, accountability, and respect for the rule of law. These qualities are needed to drive ongoing efforts towards deepening Nigeria’s democratic culture.
Its strong insistence on ethical practices should be entrenched in the political space which is currently dominated by divisive tendencies of greed, tribal and religious sentiments.
Respect of other peoples’ cultural and religious beliefs is the hallmark of the leading communication field. PR embraces the human essence which foster greater understanding, empathy and collaboration devoid of selfish interests, but focused on mutual benefits for sender and receiver. Hence, PR consistently creates opportunities for people on one side to appreciate and show understanding to the religious and cultural values of people on the other side of the coin.
PR programmes should be utilized to correct the misconception about the rich socio-cultural, tribal, religious diversity among the various components groups of Nigeria. Such programmes include, but not limited to, inter-community meetings, intercultural exchange/excursions, diversity in employment, peer activities in sports, academics, innovation etc. These would help expose people from different parts of the country to gain better appreciation/understanding of the diverse values that bind us a nation, even though diverse.
Genuine understanding, interaction and cordial relations among the various constituents of the country can only become a reality when government institutions begin to appreciate the value of PR as a process for building goodwill. Strategic PR activities extending from rural communities to urban centres, academic institutions, religious organizations, and even at the workplace would go a long way in building national integration and cohesion.
There is an urgent need for PR intervention in present-day Nigeria to stimulate goodwill and understanding between the government and the people. Citizens are alienated from making input on the choices that will guarantee their best interests because the government is aloof and inaccessible. Effective deployment of PR strategies by relevant organs of government would help to address the indifference and nonchalant attitudes by government institutions and agencies.
The public sector demands a greater need for PR in order to provide good governance to the citizens who are dependent on government and its institutions for the equitable distribution/administration of national resources. PR is a knowledge-based profession, guided by truth and honesty. It demands integrity, transparency, accountability of individuals, groups, business organizations, government institutions as well as not-for-profit organizations.
Invariably, it can be used to tackle corruption and graft. These are critical qualities necessary to positively impact society.
PR is all about creating a connection between organizations with their internal and external stakeholders using a two-way communication approach for exchange between them. Similarly, it cultivates cooperation and understanding between the government and the citizens, who are direct beneficiaries of public policies and programmes. So, PR is necessary for the promotion of integrity and fairness in the formulation and implementation of policy decisions by government authorities and their agents.
Effective PR will facilitate the timely sharing of reliable information to promote the government’s image in the mind of citizens both at home and in the Diaspora. It will help government establishments to reverse negative perceptions, protect their reputation and foster mutual understanding between it and the citizens. This entails constant communication with the citizenry. With the effective deployment of PR practices in the public sector, administrations would be able to entrench peace, progress and stability in the country.
PR strategies are vital for the political dialogue and awareness-raising required to bring about social and institutional reforms. Providing access to information enables all citizens to be better informed, claim their rights and use state services to purposely pursue their aspirations. Government authorities require competent PR persons to address problems of perception, restore trust and help them to earn credibility. Through this process, the eyes and ears of government will be opened to actual happenings outside the corridors of power.
Considering the existing political and socio-economic uncertainty pervading the country, it becomes necessary for the government to urgently deploy strategic nationwide PR efforts to galvanize the citizenry towards patriotism, respect for values of togetherness, understanding and cooperation for Nigeria’s development and stability.
Emphasis must be placed on the recruitment of professionals to oversee affairs of the PR departments in government institutions and agencies.
Adequate budgetary provisions must be made available to facilitate the work of the PR team by exposing them to regular capacity building training to keep abreast of emerging modern trends as PR practice is not cheap.
Personnel should discharge their duties under strict adherence to the ethics and laws guiding the profession without any interference, whatsoever.
Finally, governments should engage state chapters of the Nigeria Institute of Public Relations, NIPR, to carry out strategic PR communication campaigns on their behalf. Such partnerships will provide platforms for government to constantly engage with the people by highlighting policies and programmes to enable them to make input. In the process, the government will be able to earn the trust and confidence of the citizens, thereby building enduring cooperation and integration for the overall interest of the people.
Inyene Ibanga is Manager Image Merchants Promotion Limited