Public Relations: Bridging the Divide Between Crucial Stakeholders In Society
By Inyene Ibanga

TECH DIGEST – Nigeria is today grappling with a plethora of economic, social, security and 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 perennial absence of transparent, responsive and responsible political leadership.

Unfortunately, the essence of Nigeria’s democratic governance is totally detached from promoting the interest of citizens. Instead, it is driven by the selfish, greedy, and primitive tendencies of the ‘men in the corridors of power’. This unwholesome trend is compounded by the ever-widening gulf between government and citizens.
The current spate of violent crimes, ethno-religious, inter-communal and political crises across the 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/sections of the country is long overdue.
Flowing from above, the situation calls for the implementation of strategic communication through the deployment of Public Relations as the most potent and objective vehicle to drive the campaign for national rebirth.

PR is a vital element for accomplishing beneficial relationships among individuals, groups and organisations. The aim of PR by private or public organisations is essentially to persuade their stakeholders to maintain a favourable point of view about their products, services, leadership or political decisions.

While PR in private organisations is geared towards achieving organisational goals and growth, which translate into profit, in public affairs it can be deployed for the promotion of good governance, peace and the stability of a nation. Public service organisations and institutions need PR to further the effective implementation of government policies and programmes for overall national development and the wellbeing of citizens.

PR practice is guided by integrity, 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 the divisive tendencies of greed, tribal, religious and other primordial sentiments.

Unarguably, the respect of other peoples’ cultural and religious beliefs is the hallmark of the leading communication field. PR does not only engender the human essence, which fosters greater understanding, empathy and collaboration, devoid of selfish interests, it also offers mutual benefits to both the sender and receiver of the message/communication, thereby sustaining a productive exchange between government and the people.
Therefore, PR programmes should be utilised to correct misconceptions about the rich socio-cultural, tribal and religious diversity among the various components groups of Nigeria. Such programmes include, but are not limited to, inter-community meetings, inter-cultural exchanges/excursions, diversity in employment, peer activities in sports, academic innovations, among others. These strategic activities would help expose people from different parts of the country to better appreciation/understanding of the vibrant diversity of heritage and values in a nation.

Genuine understanding, purposeful interactions 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 organisations, and even at the work place, would go a long way in building national integration and cohesion.
In fact, there is urgent need for PR interventions in present day Nigeria to stimulate goodwill and understanding between government and the people. Citizens are alienated from making inputs on the choices that will guarantee their best interests because government is aloof and inaccessible. Thus, the effective deployment of PR strategies by relevant organs of government would help to address the indifference and nonchalant attitude of public officers to the people.

The public sector demands 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. Being a knowledge-based profession, its specialisation is founded on truth and honesty. It demands integrity, transparency, accountability at all times.

PR is all about creating the connection between organisations and their internal and external stakeholders through a two-way communication approach for exchange between them. Moreso, it nurtures true cooperation and understanding between government and citizens, who are direct beneficiaries of public policies and programmes.

Consequently, effective PR will facilitate the timely sharing of reliable information to sustain the government’s image in the minds of citizens, both at home and in the Diaspora.

This involves regular communication and engagement with the citizenry. With the effective deployment of PR practices in the public sector, administrations would be able to restore lasting peace, progress and stability in the country.
PR strategies are vital for the political dialogue and awareness creation required to bring about social and institutional reforms. Providing access to information enables all citizens to be better informed, to claim their rights and use state services to purposely pursue their aspirations.

Considering the existing political and socio-economic uncertainty pervading the country, it becomes necessary for government to urgently deploy strategic PR efforts nationwide to galvanise 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. 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 Relation (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 make inputs into this. In the process, 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 Managing Editor, TechDigest, Wuye District Abuja