By Ndubueze Okeke

Recently, precisely on April 21, 2008, the Federal Government constituted a National Council and National Steering Committee on Nigeria’s Vision 2020.

Going by the objectives of these Committees which I believe is to chart a roadmap that will ensure that the country is not left out in her quest to become one of the 20 largest economic in world by the year 2020, the Federal Government, by constituting these Committees has taken a step in the right direction.

It is gratifying that the Federal Government deemed it fit to set up these Committees with President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as the Chairman of the National Council while the Minister of National Planning Commission, Senator Sanusi Daggash is the Chairman of the National Steering Committee.

The National Council has a total of 27 members with the Vice-President as Vice-Chairman, some selected Governors, Head of Service, the CBN Governor, Prof. Charles Soludo, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), NACCIMA, the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Engr. Charles Ugwu among others.

The Steering Committee, has a total of 71 members with representatives of some Head of parastatals, Permanent Secretaries of some selected ministries, representatives of civil society groups and professional bodies like Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN), Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Nigerian Economic Society (NES), the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) among others as members.

Even the journalists were not left out as they were ably represented by the Nigerian Union of Journalist (NUJ), while our development partners such as World Bank, United Nations, Department for International Development (DFID) as well as representatives of the academia and Nigerians in Diaspora were also included in the Steering Committee.

In as much as one will not want to question the criteria that was used during the selection process, it is however disheartening to note that a professional body like the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) was not included as a member of the National Steering Committee.

Without equivocation, the enormous role which public relations play in any given society and the world as a whole cannot be overemphasized. Whether we are talking about business or international affairs, public relations plays an important role in building and sustaining mutual beneficial relationships between an organisation and the public, the governed and the government, among nation’s which seek to establish good relations, and indeed, in world affairs and international trade.

This is premised on the fact that it is only an expert in public relations, who by the nature of his training, understands and employ public relations techniques and tools to win favourable opinion and support for our policies – be it our foreign, trade or investment policies. Today, it is incontestable that most government negotiators, mediators or diplomats employ lobbying in achieving their objectives in international affairs, politics and diplomacy.

Lobbying – which is an effort to influence the policy process among other legislative and regulatory matters, is one of the several tools used in public relations to win support and understanding for the policies and programmes of an organisation. As a matter of fact, public relations communication functions to establish and improve channels of communications and increase awareness for an organisation’s (or country’s) programmes or activities, and therefore, win public support and understanding.

More so, applying the right public relations strategy – which is a comprehensive situation analysis which focuses on how to realize the objectives and goals of an organisation (or vision 2020) in the short, medium and long term using public relations techniques or tools, is indeed, imperative if we are to make the vision 2020 a reality.

Suffice it to say that an understanding and execution of a well-planned public relations programmes and application of key public relations techniques and tools is a sine qua non to achieving optimum result in planning and executing the programmes and activities of the vision 2020. So as hidden and persuasive communicators, public relations practitioners are better positioned to communicate effectively with the public and deliver the message in such a concise, clear and unambiguous manner. Thus, the essence of public relations communication is to create, sustain and change value. And if we are to involve every Nigerians by consciousness – raising, then now is the time to involve public relations experts who know what it takes to plane and execute an effective campaign using public relations as a tool.

This is based on the premise that a well articulated public relations programme will provide effective publicity and awareness campaign and encourage the people to support the programme using public relations tools to inform, educate and sensitize them about the goals and objectives of the Vision 2020. Therefore, public relations communications should be made a concurrent part of every strategy to be adopted during the planning and implementation of the Vision 2020 project.

And the only body that has the expertise to co-ordinate all the activities of both committees with a view to projecting the goals and objectives of the Vision 2020 in order to win public support for the project is the NIPR. Now is the time for the Senator Daggash led Steering Committee to include NIPR as a member.

Okeke, is an Associate member of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations


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