Nigeria’s strive for development may continue to be a mirage until the critical roles of public relations and ethics are accorded their pride of place as precursors to nation building. This was the common position of participants at the just-concluded National Conference and Annual General Meeting of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, held recently in Abuja, which had as its theme; “Nigeria’s Centennial Celebrations: Constructing Social Bridges, Concretizing Relationships, And Building National Reputation.”
The well-attended conference afforded a cross section of Nigerians – students, professionals, media practitioners, politicians, academics, top public and business officials – a unique opportunity to brainstorm on the challenges facing us as a nation as well as the way forward.
Professor Umaru Pate of the Department of Mass Communication, University of Maiduguri, opened discussion with his incisive lecture titled: ‘National Ethics and Nation Building: A Call for Action,’ as he stressed the need for Nigerians to make ethics central to their daily lives.
He described ethics as the science of what is good and what is bad and stated that nation building and development are two concepts that should not be far from the country’s lexicon. But their attainment, he said, could be elusive in the absence of ethical values, resulting into poverty, corruption, indiscipline and other social problems. The don observed that there was no basis for the people to feign ignorance of societal cultural expectations, when it comes to the upholding of morals, discipline and legality, as stipulated by the extant laws.
Professor Pate outlined the prevailing ethical malaise plaguing the country to include tribalism, poor leadership, bad governance, corruption, dishonesty, laziness, dirty politicking, and nepotism, among others. The speaker regretted that Nigerian politicians were not showing enough commitments at instituting good ethical behaviour because they are highly intolerant of healthy competition and opposition, as oftentimes, opponents are either silenced or eliminated.
In view of the prevailing breakdown of morals in the country, he called for the entrenchment of ideal family values, imposition of sanctions on culprits, moral suasion, rewarding adherents to good ethical values, compulsory inclusion of history in the educational curriculum, public enlightenment and the deployment of public relations principles in promoting national rebirth and integration.
Professor Pate expressed optimism that Nigeria would get better, especially when professionals such as NIPR members learn to know their organizations and environment better and using their skills at addressing peculiar challenges.
The need to find a lasting solution to the myriads of problems facing us a nation spurred the Federal Government to establish the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference – which has just submitted its report to President Goodluck Jonathan – with a view to eliciting healthy, robust and unhindered discussions on burning national issues.
The Director-General, National Orientation Agency, Chief Mike Omeri, gave the rationale for the proposed conference while delivering his lecture titled, ‘National Dialogue: The Imperative of Public Relations,’ where he gave an expose on the concepts of dialogue and public opinion.
Chief Omeri, a fellow of NIPR, during the lecture, distinguished between personal opinion and public opinion and warned those who mischievously make personal opinion look as if they are public opinion, in order to curry favours from those in authorities for selfish reasons, as he enjoined PR practitioners to always maintain an unblemished career by upholding professional ethics.
The Nigerian system should serve as the breeding ground for a new nation, as we proudly celebrate the centennial anniversary of the country, going by the keynote address delivered by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim.
Represented by Dr Ferdinand Agu, Senior Special Assistant in the Office of the SGF, Senator Anyim said there was every reason for Nigeria to celebrate its 100 years of existence, when other countries that were founded almost about the same period with Nigeria, had witnessed disintegration such as Yugoslavia, Sudan, India and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. He admonished public relations practitioners to deploy their professional acumen in making the nation a better place for all to live in.
This clarion call was similar to the challenge posed by the immediate past Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu, while expressing his gratitude on behalf of recipients of this year’s honorary fellowship of the Institute, alongside Senator David Mark, Senate President and Dr Abdullahi Inde Dikko, Comptroller-General, Nigeria Customs Service.
Outstanding Nigerians were invested as Patrons of the institute, including the state governors – Gabriel Suswan of Benue, Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano, Rauf Aregbesola of Osun, Rochas Okorocha of Imo and Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo. The communiqué advised that the family, as a social institution, should instil basic ethics on the young ones; charged the government to design and implement sound policies that genuinely emanate from public opinions; cautioned politicians to eschew violence, bigotry and stop heating up the polity; commended the government’s fiscal responsibility in engaging the private sector in funding the country’s centennial celebration.
NIPR was founded in1963, hitherto known as the Public Relations Association of Nigeria, until when it was renamed in 1972. It attained the status of a chartered institute in June 1990.
•Kupoluyi writes from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, via, [email protected]