Public relations as a management function is quite an exciting profession for those that strongly believe in relationship building, reputation management, crisis management and similar endeavours towards mutual and better understanding. Therefore, I can simply say the job requires in-depth understanding of issues, analytical thinking, creativity and speed in delivery, which means timely response. The job of a PR person is beyond mere media relations and issuing press releases, press conferences and interview. Critical thinking and creativity in what you do also count.
No. I love friendship and love communicating. I therefore studied Mass Communication at Bayero University Kano. I started practising public relations when I was elected PRO of Mass communication Students Associations (MACOSA) in 1991. Also, after winning state and national NYSC awards, I was offered automatic employments first as PRO in Government House, Asaba, Delta State and also as Information Officer, Federal Ministry of Information before my eventual posting as Press Secretary at Federal Ministries of Finance, Health, Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). Like the job itself (PR), the secret behind the awards and the automatic employments where through the recognition of my opinion writings and basic PR skills of researching, planning, executing and reviewing programme of actions.
I accepted offers of automatic employment in the state and federal service in the belief that I would continue to contribute to better understanding of issues through writings for the media. I must appreciate the fact that it seems I was one of the most tolerated civil servants for consistently writing features and opinions that are supportive and also critical towards a better society. On several occasions, some managements were not too comfortable with my constructive criticism, I always insist that writing is my hobby while PR is my profession. Sincere only a mad person would write to himself as hobby. I write to inform and educate the public through the media. Surprisingly some bosses would like to be glorified rather than be advised. To glorify a boss or the organisation in the media, one must pay for space because editors only accept newsworthy, objective materials for publication. In that case to balance between what the editors want and what the organisation and the boss want, one must also balance between the two: a bit of hot-and-cold. In my 20 years in public service, I had never received a single warning or query until when the so-called and overexaggerated Coordinating Minister reported me to former President Goodluck Jonathan that I should be sanctioned for one of my opinions after she had spoken to me on phone. Probably she wasn’t comfortable with my bluntness in our conversation. I must be sincere and have no reason to pretend that I have never been intimidated by someone’s position. Not every civil servant is docile. I have no respect for those that look down on others. I don’t cross paths with such individuals because respect begets respect.
After the encounter with the so-called super minister, those that were not comfortable with me insisted I should be retired prematurely from the Federal Civil Service. I have no regrets serving and doing all I did in the 20 years of civil service career. Since the so-called retirement, which I am contesting in court, I am better and better off today outside the public service than inside the service. God Almighty has been so kind and merciful to me. I currently manage a PR firm in Abuja, Image Merchants Promotion, whose staff strength after my so-called retirement in 2013 was less than five staff has grown to over 15 competent, young and vibrant staff. We specialise in crisis communication, reputation management and publication for private and public sectors.
I am very passionate about writing, communicating and sustaining friendship. I always look out for new innovations and new techniques that would ensure the message gets to the right audience at the right time. When internet technology was emerging, I underwent some studies at home and abroad which encouraged me in creating list server, also known as group mailing list. There were no Facebook, Twitter or Instagram that time. The seeming social media platform that time was yahoogroup. I created a group for all federal press secretaries known as Resident Information Officers (RIO); I created another for PR practitioners and spokespersons known as PRNigeria where we debate and discuss issues on the job. In fact all the who-is-who in PR in Nigeria were in that group. We even had Emeka Opara of Airtel and Salisu Suleiman, current Principal Private Secretary to the Kaduna State governor, among the moderators; I later created MediaNigeria, where all major editors of local and international media covering Nigeria are listed. Each of these groups and platforms serves different purposes on information sharing. Therefore when I was prematurely retired, I integrated their functionality for news release syndication platform known as PRNigeria press release website. You can track any press release from our clients on the pages…. especially press releases from the military, security, intelligence, response agencies and other federal ministries, departments, agencies (MDAs).
The success of any PR person relies, heavily on his relationship with the media. After my family, journalists are my immediate constituency. In fact through my public service, all my press releases and opinion articles were published for me free. I mean this but many may not believe this I enjoy establishing and sustaining relationship with the media when there is no problem. Media relations is free but sustaining it can be expensive because it requires integrity, sincerity and responding to their enquiries and ensuring you do the right things always. Talk about phone calls, visits, facilitating engagements, attending to their enquiries and programmes 24/7. And guess one thing, never ever get provoked with media enquiry. In fact if they criticise objectively, I acknowledge and appreciate their concern. I realise that being friendly with them before you have crisis is most cost effective strategy to sustain their loyalty and support. A sincere journalist would never abandon you in your moment of need. The greatest asset of any person managing the media for institution and public figure is sustained and improved media relationship.
After my disengagement from the service, many institutions gave me employment offers, but I insisted on providing consultancy services. I am presently the Chief Consultant to Forum of Spokespersons for Security and Response Agencies (FOSSRA), under the auspices of the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA). About 20 spokespersons are currently members of the forum. The forum gave birth to the Centre for Crisis Communication (CCC) which has membership from the military, security, intelligence and response agencies. We provide services that do not compromise national security and national interest.