POLITICIANS, in the last eight years of democracy in Nigeria, have subsumed the phrase ‘dividend of democracy’ into the consciousness of Nigerians.

But in most cases, the phrase is viewed in relation to the number of projects, especially public utilities that an elected public office holder, is able to put in place.

On a daily basis therefore, the media, print and electronic, is inundated with stories of how politicians have succeeded in ‘reducing’ governance to provision of basic infrastructures and amenities such as roads, electricity supply, shelter, water, telephone services among others and labelled such as ‘dividend of democracy’.

But of what benefit is the construction of roads, for instance, which ultimately serves as conduit for the same politicians to siphon public fund, as corrupt practices become the order of the day.

The Kano State governor, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau painted the picture succinctly last Monday in Abuja when he rhetorically questioned the usefulness of “providing public phone booth as ‘dividend of democracy,’ especially, as it might be vandalised eventually by the ‘people’ that the facility is meant to serve.”

The governor was speaking at the global communication summit organised by the Timex Communications, a Public Relations and Communications outlet, in collaboration with the Federation of African Public Relations Associations (FARRA) and the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR).

Mallam Shekarau was specifically invited to speak on the Kano State’s societal reorientation programme, A Daidaita Sahu, a communication strategy for better society and social justice, which the organisers felt had a rhythm with the theme of the summit, Building a corruption-free society: The challenges of communication.

And of all the guest speakers that presented papers at the three-day event held at Nicon Luxury (Le Meridian), Abuja between February 24 and 26, 2006, only Mallam Shekarau had a longer time of 58 minutes. But the presentation was not only lively, it was thought-provoking. Members of audience listened with rapt attention and they were held spell bound throughout. The teacher in the governor was on display at a supersonic note as he lazed his talk with practical experiences, which underscored the fact that leading by examples “is the best form of governance.”

Incidentally, the presentation was epilogued by a panel discussion featuring communication personalities such as the President, Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), Lolu Akinwumi; Chief Executive Officer, Channels Television, John Momoh; Director-General, Voice of Nigeria (VON) and Chairman, Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), Mallam Abubakar Jijiwa among others.

But the session became a platform to pour encomiums on the governor not only for his erudition and articulation, but for his deep grasp of the concept of leadership and the will to deliver as encapsulated in the mission and vision of A Daidaita Sahu. This was aside the standing ovation that members of the audience accorded the governor as soon as he finished the presentation.

With a mission to promote attitudinal change through the use of communication, A Daidaita Sahu was conceived and structured in 2004 as the Directorate of Societal Reorientation. Under the supervision of the governor as the Chairman and Emir of Kano, Ado Bayero as Alternate Chairman, the operational framework of the agency is complemented by another government outlet christened 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.” The governor said.

Described as persuasive communication in action, the significance of the programme, he noted, was premised on the understanding that “if we succeeded in our societal reorientation efforts, we would have solved 50 per cent 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 a social) problem, which effective communication can help to remedy.”

In his quest for political office in 2003, Shekarau told the gathering that he was more concerned with the manifest decay of Nigerians’ cherished values, rules of behaviour, sense of civility and decency, which have “all badly damaged by corruption, poverty, failure of leadership and the unbridled greed of our elites.”

This concern, he said, changed his approach to governance as, he told people of Kano, during the electioneering campaign in 2003 that he would love 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.”

The realisation of this vision led to the design of Societal Reorientation programme, 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, mainly Hausa-speaking.

“As Hausa-speaking Muslims everywhere have been familiar with the 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,” explained Shekarau.

The resolve to undertake the project, said the governor, was emboldened by the understanding that societal reorientation “represents a systematic and virile strive through which desirable qualities such as discipline, honesty, piety, hard-work, sacrifice, selflessness, etc, can be instilled in our citizens.

“It entails a firm commitment to putting in place the required institutions and procedures, and the pursuit of conducts that over time will result in a God-fearing enterprising and cultured society. It is expected to bring about positive attitudinal changes in the people that will engender love for the state, foster societal harmony, minimise social menace, develop human resources to their full potential and ensure rapid development and progress while protecting societal norms and values. Ultimately, societal reorientation should put the human capital of Kano State on the path of sustainable growth.”

He outlined the objectives of the programme as well as values that need to be instilled in the people to include, “fear of Allah (SWT), love for the state, truthfulness, selflessness, philanthropy, justice, moral uprightness, probity and accountability, sense of community, good neighbourliness, orderliness, 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.”

The programme has an operational structure that comprises of a state council chaired by the governor with Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero as alternate chairman.

“This Council, which has wide representation from the community, is responsible for formulating policy and setting the general direction of the programme,” Shekarau noted.

He continued, “At the second level are state committees that handle specific aspects of the societal reorientation programmes. There are seven of such committees handing aspects of: public service; business community; urban community; rural community; youths; women and educational institutions.

“At the third level, we have the local government committees; they are carriers of the programme’s message at the grassroots, usually in a face-to-face manner. The Directorate of Societal Reorientation is the coordinating body of the programme. Here, the formulated policies of the State Council are put into practice.”

But the strategies of A Daidaita Sahu revolve around the use of effective communication to deliver the 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,” the governor said.

And the strategy has three categories: Branding, partnerships, and pilot projects. Early enough, the Kano State government realised the power of branding in communicating messages to target audiences.

“So from onset, we borrowed this corporate business strategy into the pubic 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 our women experience commuting in pubic transport were all branded with the name A Daidaita Sahu. Road signs that were erected to bring order on our roads carry the sign 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 pubic 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.”

Also, the approach of going into partnerships with institutions, schools and development organisations to deliver A Daidaita Sahu’s messages and achieve its goals is adopted.

“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 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 partnering schools and other agencies to accomplish its objectives. This is in realisation of the fact that 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,” noted the governor.

Similarly, the programme is in partnership with development agencies, civil societies and community-based organisations in delivering its messages and carrying out its activities. “This is because CBOs represent interests 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,” he emphasised.

Pilot projects approach comes under the introduction of creative interventionist measures. “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 sachets) 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 underlining principle guiding these approaches, according to Shekarau, is the belief that “it is not enough to tell people about a problem, but we must also show them how that problem can be solved. Thus through communications, we want to achieve so many things; change attitudes and raise awareness of people on some thing that will be beneficial to them.”

With respect to the second segment of the presentation, Shekarau summed up the functions of the Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Directorate to include mediation of disputes between individual members of the society as well as corporate bodies; investigation and redress of complaints from the pubic; investigation of allegations of corruption; assistance and support for citizen’s rights of protection through legal advice; assistance to access justice; and dissemination of information and raising public awareness on citizen’s rights and duties and on the legal processes for redress of complaints.

These two directorates, which are directly under the governor’s supervision, he declared “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.”

And to connect the presentation with the theme of the summit, Shekarau traced the success of the undertakings of the two directorates to massive use of communication tools such as the electronic media with daily programmes on four radio stations and three television stations, featuring dramas, discussions, exhortations (nasiha), debates, quizzes and songs, as well as documentaries and inserts of dozens of jingles and announcements.

The use of print media is in form of tree 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. This is addition to use of Internet facilities and other media-related platforms.

In conclusion, the governor affirmed, “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.”

* Source: The Guardian Newspapers


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