- Attributes falling journalism standard to poor pay
By Rotimi Lawrence Oyekanmi
President of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, Dr Rotimi Oladele has warned individuals practising Public Relations (PR) illegally to stop doing so. Such persons, he said, risk prosecution and possible jail terms.
But Oladele, The Tribune’s former Managing Director, also admitted that the journalism profession in Nigeria “has gone well below the ethical standard,” attributing it to poor welfare packages for journalists, owners’ interference, lack of career progression and weak regulatory bodies.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The intellectual at the weekend in Lagos, Oladele, who is also the Managing Director of Megavons West Africa Limited, affirmed that only those who belong to the institute’s affiliate called the Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria (PRECAN) were qualified, competent and licensed to run a consultancy in public relations.
“But for those who are not members of this synergized structure, they cannot say they are consultants and they cannot get jobs,” he declared. “They are charlatans, they don’t have the expertise; they don’t have the experience. People who are aware will not give them jobs.”
He averred that the PRECAN was put in place via a bye-law some years ago, while the institute’s substantive enabling law, Decree 16 of 1990, now an Act of the National Assembly, stipulates the process that must be complied with by anybody seeking to practice PR. “That was why we started a campaign last year against quackery,” he said.
On what a practitioner requires to be registered with PRECAN, Oladele explained: “There’s a prescribed number of years you must have practised. Then, you must have been a member of the institute. Your organisation must be managed by a CEO (Chief Operating Officer) who must be a very senior member; either a full member, if not a fellow of the institute. Then, your organization must be a corporate member of the institute. You must pay your dues and be licensed.”
On the current slowdown in business across the country, Oladele said the invasion of foreign PR firms was partly responsible. He explained that foreign practitioners who have close ties to government at the state or federal level, or firms that double as parental bodies to their Nigerian affiliates, have all been competing for jobs with Nigerian professionals.
While the NIPR is not against any foreign company coming to do business in Nigeria, he insisted that such firms must do so in compliance with the law.
His words: “A foreign company can come to Nigeria and do the needful, follow the due process and then practise. We are not saying foreigners should not come to Nigeria to practice, but they should do so legally. That’s what we are saying. I can also go to another country and practice. Nigerians are all over the place as medical doctors, but they are practising legally. They have done the needful of that society where they find themselves. That’s what we are saying about compliance with the law.”
To tackle the current harsh business climate, Oladele said: “As I speak, we are finalising a special programme, which is a Master Class for the Public Relations Consultants. We need updating ourselves, just like lawyers, medical practitioners would do. You have to be current. You have to know what are the new challenges you are to manage as consultants. You should be ahead of your clients, so that when you go to them, they see you as a bundle of solutions, as the last point of reference where their challenges can be resolved.”
With regard to the falling standard of journalism practise in Nigeria, the NIPR helmsman said: “I must tell you, we have gone well below the ethical standard. We are already losing the grip of professionalism. We need to really, really re-challenge ourselves, those of us who still remain on the media side of the divide.
“First of all, the recruitment process must change. Professionalism in journalism is now a necessity more than ever. Secondly, we must challenge the business owners in the media, to be up and doing in their responsibilities of welfare to practitioners.
“The bane of journalism is poor welfare package. Here in this small company (Megavons West Africa Limited), you can go and interview any member of our workforce or any of my colleagues, from the most junior, if he is given the same job in Bank A, or Telecom company B, or in Oil and Gas company C, whether he will readily move. The answer will be no; not because we are paying better than those organisations, but because there’s a welfare package and there is a relationship arrangement that is far, far competitive and friendly, sensible and measurable.
“That is grossly missing in media organisations. Worse off is the print media. That was one of those things that were not in the Tribune of my own time.
“Apart from that, you will also discover ownership interference, which does not allow professionalism to thrive. It does not allow career paths to thrive. Where workers don’t have the hope for the future….any organisation where I worked in the last 30 years, and I cannot say where I will be in the next five years, I will not stay. I would leave so soon. People who are career-focused are always like that. So, ownership interference does not help the practice and it makes people go and do all sorts of things.
“Thirdly, we also need to ensure that the regulatory bodies function properly. The must be synergy among the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON). There must be an umbrella body that will bring everybody together and form media policy in Nigeria.
“South Africa is a very good example: whether you are in the print or broadcast media, there is an umbrella under which they all meet. So, we can do the same, look at the media policy in Nigeria and solve so many problems, like infrastructural problems. It is a shame that till date, despite the number of book publishers, newspaper publishers, printers, graphics, communication organisations, magazine publishers in Nigeria, we cannot acquire any of the paper mills in the country. We had the giant three; two are dead – Iwopin and Oku Iboku. Jebba is operating at between 30 and 40 per cent capacity. Yet, we have a very robust consumer demand for paper.”