Distinguished, it is an honour standing before eminent professionals to discuss on a matter so instrumental to meaningful and sustainable development in all ramifications.
Beyond this, I feel more than fulfilled that a much respected institute like the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) can engage me with the critical task of convincingly situating the merits, beyond the polemics of its quintessential pre-occupation ----- public relations.
To do justice to the subject matter, I will like us to first dilate on what Public Relations is all about.
Public relations, as you will agree with me, stands for commitment towards meeting public expectations and unshakable integrity, which is the key to persistent reputation for any individual, corporate and government entity.
A person with such background will make an immense and unqualified contribution towards a transforming different sphere of human activities like education, politics, sports and values geared towards raising a comfortable, formidable and harmonious society that is good for human habitation.
Public relations is all about reputation and reputation has six sides which are: what you think you are, what people think you are, what you think people think you are, what people think you think you are, what you are exactly, what you expect your reputation setting to be: if achievable
And this takes us to what local government administration is all about:
Local government administration in simple parlance entails the beaucratic governance at the grass-root, by implication it is the management of the government structure with the closest proximity to the people.
If this definition is accepted by all then local government administration becomes an expedient process of making the government structure at the lowest level live up to its constitutional responsibility of improving the living conditions of its people and ensuring massive social transformation of its immediate constituency.
How best the simplicity of the above conceptualization, should not be allowed to mislead one by determining the true complex system that makes up the local government administration and the process of making this system effectively functional.
A critical review of this system particularly when considered within the context of our subject of discuss, will throw light on some various organs and internal substructures like:- Local government Management/administration level, the political structure which is made up the Excecutive, the technocrats example the Civil Servants, the legislative arms etc by extension, we also have the residential community, the corporate community, the Civil society etc.
Now, how does the role of public relations effect negatively or positively the contemporary local Government administration
If public relations evolved from all facets of life cutting across all discipline because it’s a deliberate planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between organizations and its publics, hence, public relations is an indispensable tool in the administration of any local government.
So given the nature of public relations, it becomes very clear that the practical application of this concept to the local government administration readily addresses its ethical standpoint. Let’s not forget that the need to bring the government and governance to the people underlies the very essence of local government administration. By this fact, therefore is it ethical then for a grass-root government to open channels of communication with the people it serves and use the instrumentality of this communication channel to build a positive image, good will and guarantee a priority position of itself in the mind of the public.
The answer is an emphatic yes: but then this is what PR is all about. A government founded on accountability, probity, rule of law and the ideals of freedom of information, owe it a duty to constantly relate with the people, and the people as stakeholders must be given a sense of belonging as government progresses.
To successfully achieve this, a cordial relationship must be built between the government and public.
As it is with the executive, so it is with the legislative, whose primary duty is to ensure that the interest of the people they represent should override all interests in the course of discharging their duties through an effective two way communication and feedback process.
The civil servants, who form the block of technocrats at the local governments must also relate positively and effectively with the public so that the latter will be put in the know on the level of development going.
The whole essence of thus is not just for grass-root government to be working but to be seen to be working by members of the public who actually are the umpires wielding the barometer by which the performances of local government are measured.
One of the major roles of public relations here is to help create a strong political brand for the local government as a government structure with the capabilities, poise, glamour, panache, style and disposition to effectively and efficiently serve the public.
Public relations lubricate the hearts of individuals, government and organizations.
Every local government deals with the public and needs a staff pool with the right attitude which if lacking will continue to destroy the evident works being done by the Local Government administration but having a PR professional will indirectly put every other staff uncheck through good communications, pleasant relationship in strategic marketing communications, advance etiquette, protocol polite, media and information management and executive development
Already, several countries in Asia which form the new emerging world, e.g. Malaysia, China, Singapore, Korea, Japan etc have used public relations to attract foreign investment to their countries. It is important to realize that in governance what matters most is the people who make up the superstructure of the society.
A local Government that makes use of a good PR skill will succeed in providing quality services and also develop a wide range of strategic brand values.
It is expedient to state here that the world should start thinking and moving towards the stage where public relations becomes a non-negotiable tool for the global enhancement of humanity and society.
It is also important to state at the juncture that public relations make use of facts to plan and package a programme with cognizance of ethics and code of proffered conduct and this has helped my local Government (Amuwo Odofin) in achieving tremendous breakthroughs in practically all sectors – Traditional, Health, Education, Youth empowerment, Environment, Sports, Culture, Fashion, Market women, Religions etc.
I will be glad to highlight some of our achievements
Education – We have been able to run an educational policy which enunciates child education for all, to achieve this we have renovated 17 of the 20 existing schools which will soon be completed. We distributed fee 1000 GCE forms, 1200 may/June forms, 16,006 Mathematical sets, 13,300 uniforms, 220,000 notebooks etc. We have also built modern toilet facilities, dug bore-holes, procured treatment plant and 6 KVA generators to power the plants in all the schools.
Health – in Health, we have touched a cumulative total of 64,429 lives in our four well renovated and equipped health centres, including the riverine communities; we have increased the number of doctors from one, which I met on ground to 21, we disperse free drugs to persons between 0-16 and from 60 above and only recently, the budget for this drug scheme was increased by a hundred percentage; we have distributed free delivery and baby kits, engaged the private sector in the areas of medical diagnosis and drug dispensing and have given financial support for the treatment of ailments that attract huge cost ranging from hundred of thousands to millions of naira, just as we have sponsored free medical test on terminal diseases like cancer, prosthesis, kidney diseases, eye test etc.
We have taken great steps at socio-cultural integration; embarking in effective and practical youth empowerment initiatives like continuous skill acquisition workshops at our vocational centres; we have comprehensively changed the face of or environment by planting over 4,000 trees of various species, creating green environment, continuous desilting of drainages, etc.
We have also rehabilitated 13 roads and the construction of the circular road at mile 2 low cost housing, etc.
Aside these, we have also constructively engaged the civil society, e.g. Community development associations, social groups, religions, groups, artisans, traders, market women and men, youths, etc. to play their roles as development partners.
As I speak today, plans are at the advance stage to achieve new initiatives and projects like the construction of a multi-purpose office complex that will house office blocks, a five – star Hotel, a spacious legislative gallery to house our legislators, a car park, etc. we intend to build more schools and Primary Health Centres at our river-rine communities and open the area for fast socio-economic development. We also intend to expedite actions for the commencement of the Folashade-Tinubu Ojo International Market at the 6th Avenue and a host of other plans.
Need I say at this juncture that is not enough to do all these without carrying along the mutual people for which these projects are meant. This the fundamental role of public relations, which supports a popular maxim “government must not just perform, but must be seen to perform”.
Thank you and God Bless
Eko oni Baaje ooo!!!
COMRADE AYODELE ADEWALE
EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN AMUWO ODOFIN L. G. A.