PUBLIC RELATIONS AND POLITICS
The Triumph March 1993
The option A4 system, fashioned out
for the success of the transition to the civil rule programme of the Babangida government, has now come to its final stage,
a stage where campaigns to the nook and crannies of the federation to win public support is inevitable. The Presidential Election
is renewing interests in one of Nigeria’s most enduring businesses, politics. In Nigeria, as in other parts of the world,
the secret of getting elected by the populace is not in massive publicity and investing in advertising. It involves something
a lot more personal; image building and presenting good credentials. This is where public relations comes in. Unfortunately,
little is known by party stalwarts of the significance of public relations and how it can serve them.
A great majority of voters consciously belong to some sort of
special interest group. The candidates who can appeal to most of these groups may end up being the victors. It’s quite
unfortunate that most politicians believe only in the advertisement game, where gutter language is often used, and money politics
becomes the order of the day. With public relations, the office seeker easily receives feedbacks of his campaign and gets
public acceptance by his appropriate response.
The field of public relations is large. Its boundaries include
marketing, advertising, promotion, sales and journalism. To sum it, PR is the mother of all publicity. Public Relations helps
its users to anticipate and optimize new values and life styles. It also helps media houses to enlighten and educate the public
on particular subjects.
According to the authors of Effective Public Relations, public
relations is the management function that identifies, establishes, maintains mutual beneficial relationships between an organization
and the various publics on whom its success or failure depends. Although public relations has gained a lot of grounds in developed
countries, the idea is comparatively new in third world countries. In recent times, Nigeria has gradually realized the importance
of PR through the efforts of former and incumbent chairmen of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, Chief Mike Okereke
and Alhaji Sabo Mohammed, respectively who fought doggedly to ensure that the general public is aware of the significant roles
PR can play in people’s lives.
In America, where it is firmly established, it was initiated as
an effort to persuade and promote the settlement of unsettled West and to build up political heroes with the use of the press.
It was also intended to assist politicians in their campaign strategies when voters became more and more out of reach and
mass communication was inevitably pushed to the fore.
Though some critics allege that PR cheapens publicity when it
is compared with the advert, they fail to realize that while advertisements are designed to influence the public of the need
to vote for the candidate, public relations is more subtle. Its campaigns are designed to influence attitudes and beliefs
of the electorate (general public). And there is no room for campaigns of calumny in PR. In adverts, gutter languages and
senseless arguments are freely used and raised.
Decree 16 of June 1990 empowers the Nigerian Institute of Public
Relations to regulate the practice of PR in the country, already, the Institute, under its present chairman, Alhaji Sabo Mohammed,
has set up a monitoring committee, which will ensure the enforcement of the Decree. There are many features of PR: Seasons
greetings, condolence visits, courtesy calls, congratulatory messages, letters to the editor, favourable news stories, feature
articles and rejoinders which we read are the hand work of hidden persuaders, i.e., public relations practitioners.
The practitioner is endowed with an appreciative demeanour. The
practitioner, who is often called image-maker, image merchant, information officer, etc. studies the attitudes and values
of the public concerned so that he can develop effective relationship between his candidate and the electorate (public). He
adopts persuasive devices to win people over to his man. It is obvious from the foregoing that PR has to do with publicity,
awareness, mutual cooperation and understanding and goodwill. Its abuse should be avoided.
For a successful transition to civil rule devoid of rancour, acrimony
and political abuse, which consumed and caused the demise of the first and second republic, the politicians should boost their
image by presenting themselves to the public through press briefings, attending conferences, and honouring invitations to
occasions and cultural shows.The politicians can write articles
for and grant interviews to the press. Indeed, the politicians should fall in love with pressmen and the editors who are the
determinants of what goes out to the public through their media. And if he is lucky to get the support of columnists and writers,
the politician would get his name frequently mentioned in feature articles as a reference point in discussions. The politicians
may probably find public relations very cheap but they should avoid unnecessary press briefings, blind arguments, childish
statements, disrespect for particular groups in the society and failure to watch their tongue whenever they are chipping in
their views on sensitive issues of public interest.