‘Akunyili shouldn’t ignore complaints against NIPR elections’
By Isa Bello Adamu
THE former NAFDAC head, Prof. Dora Akunyili, has been very much in the news since she assumed her new assignment as minister of information and communications but not for the same reason as she was previously and famously known. Now that she is in charge of a forte that is completely strange to her, no one knows for sure what she is up to.
This is because day in day out, she gets her hands soiled on issues she understands very little about and for whatever reason she does not seem to seek the advice of those who should know. A case in point is the heavily contested December 2, 2009 Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) elections held in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State. Despite the hue and cry over the elections, Akunyili went on to inaugurate the NIPR council on Tuesday, December 22 without demanding to know what happened in Yenagoa and ascertaining the pros and cons of the string of complaints over the elections.
By this posture is Akunyili adopting the PDP style of handling election petitions? Is the minister saying that the elections complainants can go to hell or resort to the long and ardours court process that can take ten years to resolve instead of complying with the present administration’s rule of law? Are vice president Goodluck Jonathan and the Attorney General of the Federation, Mike Aondoakaa listening to the numerous complaints arising from the NIPR elections? Are they comfortable with the way the Minister of Information has ignored the complaints against the way the elections totally disregarded a constitutional provision regarding the electoral college that elected a president and vice president for the professional association? For God’s sake, someone should care about the skewed process a cabal led by a former president of the NIPR used to elect favoured members into the council. We are in a democracy not military rule and so the process should be re-examined to establish what went wrong and what can be done to retrace the situation.
It is important to note that the Minister might have played herself into the hands of the cabal that planned the election to favour their chosen candidates. They made her an honorary fellow of the Institute a week before the elections. She received the fellowship right there in her office with only seven members of the old council without a blink. If Akunyili truly wants to rebrand Nigeria, she ought to have begun with the agencies under her ministry.
For the records, those who complain about the skewed NIPR elections say they completely reject the concocted results of the election which was allegedly plotted to select preferred candidates into council so as to continue their heinous strangulation of the Institute. They say that the process was a brazen disregard of the NIPR constitution.
First, Section 4, sub-section 1 (a) of the constitution provides that five of the 22 Council members of the NIPR shall be appointed by the Minister of Information while 17 would be elected, including the president and vice-president. The constitution clearly says that the president and his vice shall be elected when all the 22 Council members sit in a meeting and go through an Electoral College system.
But in this case, only the 17 elected members elected the president. The simple implication is that the council that participated in the election of December 2 was not properly constituted, so that results can only be null and void and not binding on members of the Institute.
Bearing in mind the due process posture of President Umaru Yar’Adua’s administration, the complainants led by Malam Yusuf Mohammed called on the Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili to insist that the correct procedure be followed in the NIPR Council elections. But she did not heed to the call and decided to inaugurate the phony NIPR council.
Another point raised by the aggrieved party was the fact that the electoral committee was not properly constituted by the outgone council. At no council meeting, throughout 2008/2009, was an item tabled for discussion on the setting-up of an electoral committee for the purpose of conducting the 2009 NIPR elections into council as demanded by the constitution.
It is important to stress that many members have been disenchanted with the way the Institute’s elections were conducted in the last 10 years and begun to agitate for an alternative professional body. If anyone had doubted the feasibility of this, the events of December 2 provided a leeway.
Public Relations is about relating with the public in an honest and transparent manner. So there is a need for all PR practitioners to stress transparency in the practice of public relations in order to earn respect for the noble profession.
In his book: "The Essentials of Public Relations", Dr. Sam Epelle, Nigeria’s founding father of PR emphasized that honesty is the bedrock upon which the profession is built.

The practice of transparency and honesty as preached by the founders of the NIPR was thrown into the winds. The funds that came into the Institute’s coffers were dishonestly used by those who do not wish the NIPR well. That is the story they do not want reported and so they always insist on deciding who leads the Institute. The minister of information and communications must reverse herself by de-inaugurating the NIPR council and seeking to know what happened at the December 2 elections and rectifying the anomalies in the interest of the rule of law and peace.

SOURCE: The Guardian


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