Raheem Akingbolu writes on the need for the new leadership of Public Relations Consultants’ Association of Nigeria to work closely with government at various levels to change narrative about the Nigerian project.
Three months after the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term in office and barely a month after he named members of his cabinet, the Public Relations Consultants’ Association of Nigeria (PRCAN), has also equally named a new president and other members of executive. Though coincidental, experts believe the development should set the tone for collaboration between the two parties considering the experience of the new leadership in both public and the private sector as well as the challenge relating with the country’s image.
At the Annual General Meeting and election of the association held last week, the Chief Executive Officer of Chain Reactions, Mr. Israel Jaiye Opayemi, emerged PRCAN President, while the Managing Director and founder of Caritas, Mr. Adedayo Ojo became the association’s Vice President. Before establishing Chain Reactions, a PR firm, Opayemi, was an aide to a former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu. With his firm, he has also worked for many multinational companies and consulted widely for the governments of former Governor Babatunde Fashola and Governor Kayode Fayemi in Lagos and Ekiti respectively. Meanwhile, Ojo, who has since assumed office as Vice President is also an expert in public communication and crisis management, given his biases for community relations and strategic communications for companies in the oil and gas sector.
Other members of the executives, who will be steering the affairs of PRCAN over the next two years are; Mrs. Tokunbo George-Taylor (Secretary General); Ms. Martha Okpeke (Assistant Secretary General); Mr. Bolaji Abimbola (Publicity Secretary) and Mr. Raheem Olabode (Treasurer).
Prior to establishing H+K, Tokunbo George-Taylor, who had practiced Public Communications in United Kingdom and South Africa, had also served as the Corporate Communication Head, Oando Plc. She is expected to bring in lot of experience.
Bolaji Abimbola, who is the Managing Director of Integrated Indigo Limited, has rich experience working for businesses in both public and private sector. He is expected to deliver seamlessly as Publicity Secretary given the fact that he is on a familiar turf.
For bringing in Raheem Olabode, a Chartered Accountant as Treasurer of the association, some industry watchers have also commended PRCAN leadership for putting round peg in a round hole. A lot is expected from Olabode in the area of accountability and transparency.
Promise to the nation
As if reading the mood of Nigerians, while giving his inaugural speech, Opayemi had offered the professional body’s assistance to the Federal Government in improving Nigeria’s battered image on the international scene.
Speaking in the wake of the recent grand jury indictment of 77 Nigerians for alleged involvement in online fraud schemes in the United States, Opayemi said what was needed was a robust response strategy and campaign plan and not knee-jerk reactions from several government spokespersons.
The new PRCAN President explained that the FBI investigation and subsequent indictment has further sullied Nigeria’s brand reputation and that the association was in the best position to help. “The truth is, a narrative has been created about us as Nigerians.
“A wrong perception with its attendant generalisation has also been created. Not a few Nigerians have cancelled their planned trips to the United States for fear of Sunday September 8, 2019, Sunday Telegraph the horrible treatment they will be subjected to by the United States Immigration Service.
The PRCAN leadership takes the view that rather than engage in the needless game of blaming the government for the character of its response to this issue, we on this occasion offer the professional assistance of our member firms to the Federal Government at a time like this,” Opayemi said.
He added that: “In times like this, governments the world over would rely on the professional advice and expertise of practitioners who are not in any short supply within the Nigerian Public Relations community to help craft a response strategy and a campaign plan to manage the narrative and shape the perception. This has not been the case here.”
Opayemi has simply toed the line of marketing communications experts, including a former President of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), President, Mrs. Bunmi Oke, who spoke to THISDAY on the same subject recently and urged Federal Government to apply “positive shock therapy” with action that is fact-based and attention grabbing to sanitise the country’s image. The experts who spoke in separate interviews with THISDAY also advised Government and the media to begin rewriting the country’s story by playing up the beauties of the country as well as celebrating Nigerians who are doing well globally.
As one of the professional bodies that have been consistent in calling on government to engage registered marketing communications agencies to handle government communication, many stakeholders expect PRCAN to explore the relationship between its current leadership and people in government to push the agenda.
Speaking while handing over the mantle of leadership to Opayemi, the immediate past president of the association, John Ehiguese, said he was confident that the leadership of the association was going to the hands of practitioners, who understand both the industry and the association. He however urged them to be steadfast in promoting the objective of PRCAN.
“I’m excited today because PRCAN is transiting to the right hands -hands of men and women who understand PR and appreciate PRCAN. To this end, I’m not in doubt that they are going in to raise the stake of Public Relations and PRCAN but we can only implore them to be steadfast in promoting the objective for which the association was established,” he stated
To ensure PRCAN is a complete representation of all PR consultants in Nigeria, the founder of PRNigeria and award-winning Public Relations practitioner, Yushau Shuaib, has called on the new leadership to see the association as a national body and begin rotating its activities beyond Lagos axis. He also advised Opayemi and his team to start projecting PRCAN image to represent a champion of local content on PR patronage in the private and public sectors of the economy.
He said: “PRCAN is national body and should be accorded that treatment. Under Opayemi, I expect the association to begin rotating its activities beyond Lagos axis. Again, I think PRCAN should improve its relationship and partner NIPR in campaign against charlatans and quacks in PR. As part of the ways to deepen PR practice, PRCAN should engage in sponsorship and mentorship to advance the practice of PR. At this crucial moment, if there is any leading role PRCAN should play, it is to promote the image of PR consultants as reliable partners to in house practitioners by closing the seeming conflicts and rivalry,” Shuaib said.