Department Of Mass Communication Cultural Studies Essay

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There have been consistent but not enough intellectual commitments from academics, educationists, human rights activists - after nation-states secured their political independence - to providing indigenous historical and contextual perspectives to many professional and technical fields in social sciences and humanities. In fact, in this 21st century, efforts to provide alternative narration on knowledge production and distribution that will reshape various fields and offer benefits to the younger generation and indeed the society remain glamorous among scholars.

This encourages many communication scholars from Nigeria such as Opubor, Ugboajah, Des Wilson, Ajala, and in Africa (Tomasili, Mawlana) to review the historical narrations of communication and its related areas such as public relations, that were commonly captured in literature that is Eurocentric and colonial in nature, and very often on the shelves of our institutional and individual libraries.

Eventually, new and more indigenous theoretical and historical explanations have emerged from such fruitful and laborious academic exercises that provide alternative direction to understanding of multifaceted communication profession (M'bayo, Amobi & Sunday, 2012).

Accordingly, the work by Ibraheem, Ogwezzy-Ndisika and Akanni (2013) aimed at a departure from the usually Eurocentric to an issue-based approach to treating the history of public relations in Nigeria. Its connection to Nigeria's political history, which a number Public Relation history books have somewhat neglected, serves as a good example of indigenous efforts to offer clear and scholarly explanations of peculiar local developments.

Thus, it is the focus of this paper to review the work by highlighting its thrusts, strengths and weaknesses in order to improve its quality and intended contribution to the theoretical and practical understanding of Public Relations and communication in general.

Chronologically structured, the review reflects literature aimed at buttressing the points and strengthening the discussion. It gives the thrust of the article, strengths, factual and technical observations and then, conclusion and recommendations.

THRUSTS AND STRENGTHS

This article sought to postulate new perspective to the historical development and growth of public relations in Nigeria. It traced this genesis from its original function of information management - or what Coombs and Holladay (2007: 49) called corporate-centric public relations, which reflects the United Kingdom and the United States (US) narratives, to reputation management that is cognizant of the plight of the public, their immediate physical environment, and the interwoven nature of such evolution with political history. For instance, Coombs and Holladay (2007) argued that corporate view of PR has dominated some scholars' conceptualization of the field, which ignored how other activist organisations utilised it in reacting to events in the local environment.

Along this line, these authors shifted their attention to the critical local environmental factors particularly in the Niger Delta, where crisis persists because of the alleged environmental exploitation, subjugation and neglect of natives by the international oil explorers and the government of Nigeria.

The authors used what we called Five-Variable Approach, which Sriramesh and Vercic (2001) proposed, for the analytical study of public relations. The five variables are political system, level of activism, culture, economy and media system. Although, they apply other variables, the work focused more on political system, which shapes public relations practice more than do others. This is why Coombs and Holladay (2007: 49) stated that the relationship between public relations and politics is very long, and that the latter shapes the direction and history of the former. That relationship generated revolution and led to the expansion and integration of the PR profession into American national politics. Despite the fact that Coombs and Holladay (2007) explained American environment, it has captured an important part of the reasons for the under review. Here, the four items on the apparatus would receive discussion, while discussion on political system, which serves as flow of this article, follows later.

Just as the media system, like the chameleon, takes on the colouration of a society by depicting its socio-political milieu, so is PR practice subject to the influence of that socio-political context. Hence, a social system that is authoritarian impinges on the professional practice of PR (Folarin, 1998; McQuail, 2005).

The second aspect of the apparatus is legal environment. This argues that the legal system of any country has significant and effective influence over the practice, growth and development of PR. In a situation where there is serious difficulty in securing license and freedom of expression the profession would not flourish.

The third issue is the level of activism. Activism is about the struggle to gain an advantage on one another, a struggle that requires persuasive power. Moreover, the society's culture determines what is acceptable, unacceptable, moral, and immoral. In other words, the activism to lobby one another springs from society's cultural norms and values, which directly or otherwise shape the direction of public relations perspective.

PR DEFINITION AND ITS HISTORY

The reviewed article argued that there is relationship between difficulty faced by scholars and practitioners in defining public relations and its history. It attributed the relationship to inadequate and clear distinction of (i) the set of rules of public relations, and (ii) the goals of the profession. However, Osunbote (2009) contended that PR is one of the most misunderstood and misconceived concepts partly in Nigeria because of the management of an organisation and those people that are employed with other qualifications that are not relevance to the field.

Historically, the article traced PR history in the US and argued that press agentry, publicity, advertising, and propaganda characterised PR history in the 20th century. The authors further argued that Vos (2011) believed that it is inappropriate and invalid to link PR history with press agentry and publicity. However, this shows that its history seems to be related to the last two (advertising and propaganda) but they are not the same (Ajala, 1991).

From the other direction, the paper gives two fundamental historical phases of public relations in Nigeria, which the authors in this article under review viewed as part of Information Management perspectives.

First phase: This is anchored on the work of Otubanjo (2009), who located the history of public relations in Nigeria in the contexts of (i) newspaper in Nigeria (Iwe Irohin), (ii) PR broadcasting (iii) political propaganda (iv) Public information, and (v) professionalism.

Second phase: This is based on works by Olusegun (2006), Oso and Ayankojo (2001). In this stage, the roles of colonial and indigenous governments as well as multinational corporations received discussions. It started with:

The period of Second World War (WWII) when government established public information unit to feed the local and indeed expatriates that lived in Nigeria about the progress of the war,

The creation of the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN) before it was changed to National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) and to Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) in 2001.

At private sector level, the efforts of the United African Company of Nigeria and Shell BP Corporation were acknowledged and discussed.

Finally, under this second narration, public relations is developed and expanded because of the establishment of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), and its eventual recognition by the government as a professional agency in 1992. This, coupled with the establishment of mass communication and journalism institutions in the country, has tremendously aided the growth and development of PR.

However, the above narration and linear history of public relations is information management driven but it sets the stage for a more critical and political directed narration which the other part of the reviewed article dealt with.

POLITICAL SYSTEM AND PUBLIC RELATIONS IN NIGERIA

With regard to the political system of Nigeria, the authors discussed issues such as ethnicity, religious misunderstanding, resource control and allocation as key factors responsible for the poor level of development in the Delta. This factor affected all aspects of Nigeria's corporate existence, PR inclusive. Hence, this political uncertainty with the Niger Delta debacle has obviously twisted the history, growth and development of public relations, and has given and relatively helped metamorphose PR profession from information management to reputation management.

The struggle for political power among the three major ethnic groups (Yoruba, Hausa and Ibo), and the discovery of oil, made the then military President, General Yakubu Gowon to say that the problem of Nigeria was not how to make money but how to spend it (Achebe, 2012). In addition, the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) introduced in the 1980s destabilised the polity, making the future of Nigeria hazy, and leading to demand for a re-direction of PR practice.

To stress the political quagmire, in Nigeria's political history, the authors narrated five heavy political expressions. These expressions attributed to Awolowo, Burns, Clifford, Hailey and Emerson described Nigeria as "mere geographical location"; "a country without a nation, a common language, a common tradition and an ingenious name"; "mere collection of self-contained and mutually-independent native states separated by great distances, differences of history, tradition, ethnological, racial, tribal, political, social and religious barriers"; "the most artificial of administrative units created in the course of British occupation of Africa"; and "a notoriously previous lumping together of peoples of separate identities".

Nigeria's involvement with international organisations like the United Nations, regional bodies like the African Union (AU) through endorsement of the bodies' treaties and conventions has also created instabilities in the political and economic milieu of the nation-states like Nigeria and by extension its PR environment.

This resulted to the emergence of "Three New Spheres of Public Relations" that is new class, new identities and new space. Expectedly, the profession responded appropriately to the three spheres because it could not ignore them. That ultimately modified its operation, practice and history.

Meanwhile, in such situation, any company conducting business in any society is expected to do it with 'due diligence' through compliance with existing law(s) and ensuring that inhabitants of the area are unharmed. However, in Nigeria, it appears that political elites and oil companies have neglected the people and engaged in information management; and Niger Delta locals lacking access to media have resorted to kidnapping and other forms of terrorism as avenues of communicating their grievances to the concerned bodies (Tuman, 2010).

The Niger Delta issue led to the central government's brutal and inhumane handling of the crisis, at the end of which it has reactively created the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and a Niger Delta Ministry, saddling both with the responsibility of providing lasting solution to problems of the region. Nevertheless, the issue has dragged on, requiring more than just community relations approach. Thus, there is need for more a proactive and serious public relations because of the political, economic and technological changes that have redefined public relations from information management to reputation management.

OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Usually, a review reflects both the high and low sides of an intellectual property, and may suggest ways of improving the reviewed work - this review now intends to do just that, at this point. Having reflected the thrusts, major strengths of this article, we hereby make the following observations, in which we seek to improve the quality of the work. Areas in the article that we believe should have received some care, prior to press, are as follows:

Factual deficit: We observed that it was an error calling the defunct Organisation for African Unity (OAU) without any reference to its present name African Union (AU) (see p. 6 ¶ 3). We also observed that some of the laws (e.g. Derivation Formula and Offshore-Onshore Dichotomy) that were enacted and endorsed by the National Assembly and Presidency between 2003 and 2011to meet some of the yearnings of people in the Niger Delta region and engender environment-friendly operations (if vigorously and sincerely implemented) in the region have not been captured in the review. Thus, discussing such laws would show the political will to ameliorate the environmental issues and provide basis for reputation management.

Citations: We found in the article some degree of compliance with guidelines of the American Psychological Association, APA. However, instances exist of non-compliance. For instance, initial citations of works by multiple authors failed to disclose authors' surnames even though they number below the standard six permitting use of 'et al.' in both the first and subsequent citations (See p. 2: ¶ 3; p. 3: ¶ 2; p. 4: ¶ 4; p. 8: ¶ 1). The use of '&' must appear in a parenthesis for joint-authors, while 'and' is used in the narrative text. Examples are [(Oso and Ayankojo, 2001:4), p. 5: ¶ 3], [(Cohen and Rai, 2000), p. 6: ¶ 4]. Though used bibliography not reference but we thought that more book should have been cited besides, 'Akanni, T. and Ubani, C. (1994)' which is referenced, which is the only one that has not been mentioned in the article.

Syntax: This deals with sentence structure in written communication in English. For instance, a sentence in the article goes thus: "…public relations 'in' mired in controversy…" More instances on p. 2: ¶ 5; p. 7: ¶ 4; p. 10: ¶ 4; p. 10: ¶ 4 and p. 11: ¶ 2).

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