Persuasive Communication through Societal Re-orientation*

Executive Governor of Kano State

“All praise and gratitude are due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.  May the blessings of Allah be upon our exalted Prophet, the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad Sallallahu Alaihi Wassallam, his companions, the members of his family and all those who tread their path till the Day of Judgment.”

Just before the end of last year, President Umaru Musa ‘Yar adua, while addressing ThisDay’s Nigeria meet the World Summit in New York, called for attitudinal change on the part of politicians in the country, challenging them to conduct themselves in a manner that suggests a clean break from the past.  The President said there was a need for a change of attitude by the political class in order to engineer a new political process, build social foundation, and reposition Nigeria for leadership in Africa and on the world stage.

To quote Mr. President, he said, among other things, that: “Central to this attitudinal change is the concept of leadership.  If you are elected to a political office, you are provided with the opportunity to become a leader; you have a clear responsibility, and the way you handle it will determine whether you are a leader.  If you abuse your office in any form, you will not deserve to be called a leader at the end of your tenure”.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. President was echoing what our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said more than 1,400 years ago, that “Every one of us is a leader, and every one of us shall one day be asked to account for what he or she has been asked to be responsible for”.  This suggests that, though there may be gradations in Leadership and Responsibility, ultimately each one of us is responsible for something, however small that responsibility is.

Very early after the inception of my Administration in Kano State, conscious of that Prophetic exhortation of Leadership by Accountability, I established two Directorates in my Office:  The Directorate of Societal Re-orientation and the Public Complaints and Anti-corruption Directorate.  While the first Directorate was set up in 2004 to promote attitudinal change through the use of communication, the second was set up in 2005 to complement the activities of the first, by applying sanctions against those who choose to be corrupt and unjust.

Communication

Perhaps more than any other discipline, our understanding and usage of ‘communication’ are almost every day on the increase.  The changes in the field of communication have radically opened our eyes to new ways of doing things.  As late as 1928, the subject classification of the Library of Congress featured the word ‘communication (s)’ in only two headings:  “Communication and Traffic” and “Communication; military”.  With the growth of electronic media, the term came to signify the processes and transmission of information through technological channels.  And by the middle of the last century, as tons of research works on communication were published, the emphasis in defining the term shifted significantly.  Communication was then commonly defined as an “interactive process that performs essential functions in every field of social practice”.  This definition is still valid.  In fact, because of this decisive shift the themes of this Summit – communications in the war against corruption – become relevant.

Communication is as old as man.  But our understanding of its power and influence in human society continue to improve with each passing day.  Communication theories have been variously advanced to help us make sense of this all-important aspect of our humanity.  New trends in human development however, are challenging older assumptions and perceptions.  This is why global summits such as this are imperative, because invariably they will improve our understanding of communication and how it is used in different societies to achieve a positive impact and serve as a cure to the diseases that afflict human societies – corruption, wars, poverty, etc – which paradoxically are sometimes hinged on ‘breakdown of communication’.

Our hope is that by the end of this Summit, we will gain a better understanding of the unfolding revolution in communication that, as I said earlier, is challenging old assumptions.  There are the challenges of new technology, of globalization and of cultural imperialism, among many others.  Robert Craig, an American communication scholar identified a new trend of communication; one that shall be a central point of my paper – practice.  Craig observed that “In recent years, it has become more academically respectable – and more intellectually interesting – to admit that communication is a practical discipline.” The argument is that academic works should help us address socially relevant practical issues.  Thus, in Kano State, the two Directorates I earlier mentioned, i.e. Directorate of Societal Re-orientation and Public Complaints and Anti Corruption Directorate, are using practical communication tools in our effort towards attitudinal change, and in our fight against corruption, respectively.

But before I delve into our practice of communication as it concerns these two institutions in Kano State, it is pertinent at this point to pinpoint my working definition of the term ‘communication’.  Permit me to quote Craig again who defines communication as:

This definition, which represents the constitutive model, is much broader than the simplistic transmission model which is more concerned with how messages are transmitted from the sender to the receiver without distortions (noise) in the channels used.  I strongly believe the field of communication has expanded wide enough to include all aspects of the creation and negotiation of meaning in human societies.

Kano State’s Directorate of Societal Re-orientation –

A Daidaita Sahu: Persuasive Communication in Action

My presentation will dwell more on the activities of our Societal Re-orientation Directorate for the fact that if we succeeded in our societal re-orientation efforts, we would have solved 50% of the cases of corruption that will be requiring the intervention of the Anti-corruption Directorate.  This is because corruption is essentially an attitudinal (and therefore social) problem, which effective communication can help to remedy.

In my quest for political office, I was more concerned with the manifest decay of our cherished values, rules of behaviour, sense of civility and decency, all badly damaged by corruption, poverty, failure of leadership and the unbridled greed of our elites.  This concern drove me to state, at different forums, that I would like my Administration to be remembered not by the number of physical structures we shall ultimately put in place, but by the level of achievement we hope to record in restoring our cherished societal values.  And to achieve that, we made ‘human development’ the centre piece of our vision and mission.

Therefore, after assuming office, we came up with this programme of Societal Re-orientation, which we code-named A Daidaita Sahu.  This Hausa term connotes a call to order, as it is directly borrowed from the command to align or straighten rows in a typical Muslim congregational prayer.  It is one single slogan we believe has been capable of carrying our message in an almost homogenous society such as ours:  mainly Muslim, main Hausa-speaking.  As Hausa-speaking Muslims everywhere have been familiar with term as a call to discipline, today A Daidaita Sahu has become household name not only in Kano State, but all over the Hausa-speaking northern states.

Defining the Problem:  Understanding the Concept

From the outset, we knew our task was enormous.  From inception, we knew our success in societal re-orientation lay in our use of effective communication.  We understood and expected hat our efforts would naturally meet barriers along the way.  We therefore armed ourselves to understand the barriers and to develop the means raze them down effectively.

Armed with this understanding, we conceptualized our societal re-orientation programme thus:

The Objectives

We could not help being broad in our objectives because our current social predicaments are enormous.  Therefore we put forward the following specific objectives – the values that need to be instilled in our people; Fear of Allah, Love for the State, Truthfulness, Selflessness, Philanthropy, Justice, Moral uprightness, Probity and Accountability, Sense of community, Good neighbourliness, Respect for law and order, Environmental cleanliness, Self-reliance, Cooperative spirit, Respect for leadership, Proper upbringing of children, Accommodation of differences, Respect for women and commitment to youth issues.

Operational structure

The operational structure of the Societal Re-orientation programme has at the top a State Council, which is chaired by me with our eminent Royal Father, His Highness, the Emir of Kano, as Alternate Chairman.  This Council, which has representation from the community, is responsible for formulating policy and setting the general direction of the programme.

At the second level are state committees that handle specific aspects of the societal reorientation programmes.  There are seven of such committees handling aspects of:  public service; business community; urban community; rural community; youth; women; and educational institutions.

At the third level, we have the local government committees; they are carriers of programme’s message at the grassroots, usually in a face-to-face manner.

Strategy

The strategies of A Daidaita Sahu revolve around the use of effective communication to deliver our message of attitudinal change to its target audience – the people living in Kano.  We believe good communication is the answer because it is the bond that holds society together, and the channel through which knowledge is disseminated to society and eventually conveyed to generations yet unborn.  We can broadly categorize the strategies employed into three major headings:

i.              Branding

We realized the power of branding in communicating messages to target audiences.  So from onset we borrowed this corporate business strategy into the public sector sphere.  Through branding we have been able to remain in the consciousness of the public. The name A Daidaita Sahu, like any market product, has now become household name.  The Tricycle vehicles we introduced in the state to alleviate the suffering of women experiencing commuting in public transport were all branded with the name A Daidaita Sahu.  Road signs that were erected to bring order in our roads carry the sign of A Daidaita Sahu.  Public buses owned by the State Transport Company also carry the brand.  Through branding, our messages stand out and appeal to the public because the symbol they portray is always attached to public social welfare activities.  No doubt this strategy has helped us.  And we shall continue to build on the successes recorded so far by building the brand further.  After all, branding is an effective communication tool and part of modernity; there is no gain living in the past.

ii.             Partnership

A Daidaita Sahu adopted the approach of going into partnerships with institutions, schools and development organizations to deliver its messages and achieve its goals.  Its major partnership is with the Emirate Council – the custodian of the cultural and religious beliefs of the people.  This partnership has helped the programme in reaching the grassroots with relative ease and made the ownership of the programme by the people more straightforward.  Based on an extensive personal communication tour by His Highness the Emir of over several months to all the 44 local government areas of the state, A Daidaita Sahu today is also household name at the rural level.

The programme is also in partnership with schools, Education is central to all aspects of the individual, especially as it relates to growth and development. A Daidaita Sahu has identified issues on education as it relates to character-building and has therefore made education (as in communication’s Public Education) at the core of its activities.

Similarly, the programme is in partnership with development agencies, civil societies and community-based organizations in delivering its messages and carrying out its activities.  This is because CBOs represents of particular segments of the society and work on particular development issues. A Daidaita Sahu collaborates with them to deliver its messages.  This way, all sectors of the society are reached, communication wise.

But by far the most important partners for A Daidaita Sahu have been the media.  The programme makes extensive use of the mass media of Radio, Television, Newspapers, Films, Books, Advertising, Public Relations and more.

iii.            Pilot Project

Another strategy that A Daidaita Sahu adopts is introducing creative interventionist measures through pilot projects.  Projects are initially thought out at the Directorate, then Consultants are invited to develop them and then the Directorate implements it.  If it works successfully, it is then transferred to the relevant ministry to carry on with it.  One example among many such pilot projects is the waste-to-wealth pilot project (Leda Jari) aimed at removing Polythene bags (especially Pure Water sachet) from streets and drainages.  The programme was run successfully for a year, and then was transferred to the state’s Refuse Management and Sanitation Board, a parastatal under the Ministry of Environment.  Other successful pilots included Girl-child Hawker Redemption (Fansar ‘Yar Talla), now transferred to local governments.

The message here is: it is not enough to tell people about a problem, but we must also show them how that problem can be solved.  Thus though communications we want to achieve so many things; change attitudes and raise awareness of people on something that will be beneficial to them.  Raising awareness through communications brings me to our war on corruption.

Anti-Corruption War:  Fostering Accountability

In all human endeavours, voice and action must go together.  While A Daidaita Sahu may be  the VOICE of my Administration in our fight to sanitize society both literally and metaphorically, ACTION sometimes may speak louder than VOICE.  Therefore, a few months after the establishment of A Daidaita Sahu, we set up the Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Directorate to foster accountability, social justice and social cohesion in public and civil service, and to guarantee the rights of the weak and vulnerable members of the society.  In essence, that is the ACTION, the SANCTION craved for by Mr. President in my earlier introduction.

The Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Directorate’s main functions include mediation of dispute between individual members of the society as well as corporate  bodies; investigation and redress of complaints from the public; investigation of allegations of corruption; assistance and support for citizens’ rights of protection through legal advice; assistance to access justice; and dissemination of information and raising public awareness on citizens’ rights and duties and on the legal processes for redress of complaints.

As we can see, one of the functions of this Directorate is in raising public awareness of the citizen’s rights.  With adequate information and awareness of rights, most citizens will claim their rights, and it will not be easy for government officials to trample upon those rights.  We affirm that educating the people of their rights and helping them to access justice on sustainable bases will help stem out corruption, for, injustice is the root of most corrupt practices.  Once people can access justice easily and conveniently, corruption will be minimized drastically, and enforcement and interventions will fall.  Therefore, encouraging the people to be aware of their rights should come first on the agenda on any anti-corruption outfit that wants to succeed.  And of course, communication is the best tool of achieving this awareness.

These two Directorates, which are directly under my office, work in excellent harmony.  While A Daidaita Sahu is busy campaigning on attitudinal change among the citizenry, Anti-corruption is busy intervening and mediating and reclaiming the usurped rights of the people.  There is perfect synergy in their use of communication tools.

Communication Tools

The total sum of communication output by A Daidaita Sahu looks something like this:

•             Electronic Media:  Daily programmes on four Radio stations and three Television stations, featuring dramas, discussions, exhortations (Nasiha), dabates, quizzes and songs, as well as documentaries and inserts of dozens of jingles and announcements.

•             Print Media: There full pages in different newspapers, weekly, featuring opinion talks, book serials, news, interviews and well-placed public relation pieces, as well as monthly and weekly newsletters and weekly news releases in magazines and other publications.

•             The Internet:  Website (www.adaidaitasahu.org) and e-mail (adaidaitasahu@yahoo.com).

•             Others:  There are also text and Telephone communication, Billboard and Signboards, Poetry and Songs, Drama and Soap Opera (stage drama theatre), public lectures (Zauren Shawara), Public Seminars, Advocacy visits and many more.

In addition, A Daidaita Sahu Directorate has a modern, fully-equipped Studio where it records all its output.  Other components of its extensive media centre include a book library; a video and audio library; a video viewing room; and a computer lab with 24-hour Internet facility.  Similarly,  A Daidaita Sahu conducts weekly Mobile Cinema (Majigi) in various areas in the state.  At these exhibitions, A Daidaita Sahu shows its own productions of Drama, Video documentaries, Songs and others.

To ensure that our messages are effective, A Daidaita Sahu conducts periodic monitoring and evaluation of its activities.  At the end of every year also, the Directorate conducts a thorough study of its activities and their impact.

Conclusion

Let me conclude my presentation by affirming that the successes we recorded in our war against corruption in Kano State and our campaign for attitudinal change can largely be attributed to the use of effective communication to deliver our messages.  I have no doubt that no other agency of government in Nigeria uses such extensive communication to pass its message across to its target audience.  And the successes we have recorded so far are far-reaching, all thanks be to Allah.  We have created awareness among our people that we need to restore our cherished values and make our lives and society worth living.  Already, many states in the country are emulating our models.

Finally, our invitation by the organizers of this Global Summit is a further testimony of our success,  Alhamdu LIllah!

Thank you.

*    This is an excerpt from the Governor’s speech on Kano State’s Societal Re-Orientation Programme (A Daidaita Sahu) – A Communication Strategy for Better Society and Social Justice delivered at the Timex Global Conference on February 25, 2008.

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