Public Relations Management of Conference as a Veritable Tool for Eradicating Cultism in Nigerian Tertiary Institutions. A Study of Nasarawa State University.
- Background to the Study
Tertiary institutions in Nigeria are expected to play a major role in the country’s human resources development and to serve as vibrant centers of productive research and academic excellence. In recent times, cult violence has become a serious bane among tertiary institutions in Nigeria; and intensely so in the last two decades. Quite unfortunately too, tertiary institutions in Nigeria are the major critical target point where the bulk of adolescent offenders are either students or stakeholders who constitute the high risks and also pose challenges to institutional managers who are at the receiving ends of youth violence and psycho-pathological carnage in university campuses (Austin, 2009).
Most of the extant literatures that have ventured to study the phenomenon have been preoccupied mainly with magnifying the implications of secret cult activities in Nigerian universities which includes youth carnage on campuses commonly referred to as cult wars, thuggery at political events/activities, motor parks “overthrows”, rivalry for the same girl/woman referred to as macho-violence, gang rape, drug-related violence, assault on lives and property, indiscriminate use of light weapons, dangerous arms, and the resultant disruption of academic calendar(Austin,2009). According to Austin (2009, p.1) “a major factor working in the favour of cult groups is mass ignorance on the part of students especially the new students who are hoodwinked and deceived in joining their dead cemeteries”
Secret cult activities have and are still causing hindrance in the smooth flow of academic curricula in Nigerian tertiary institutions. There is no doubt that the phenomenon of campus secret cults is negative development in tertiary institutions and has destroyed and still destroying the value of academic life, meaningful co-existence, the pursuit of academic excellence and inter-personal relations required in academic community. However, students are not prevented from forming social groups like clubs and other social gatherings but when the groups turn into culture of violence; posing as factors detrimental to democracy and inimical to the development of manpower required for the emancipation of Nigeria, then they should be discouraged.It is against this note that this research study is anchored on investigating how public relations management of conference could be used to eradicate cultism in order to create acceptable social order in Nigerian tertiary institutions with a focus on Nasarawa State University, Keffi.
In doing this, the researcher drew inspiration from George Santayama’s quotation that “those whocannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it”.For the purposes of empirical analyses in the later part of this study, a secondary survey of the history of public relations, cultism, and its various names, mode of operations, objectives and modes of initiation has been conducted.
1.1.1 Origin and Development of Public Relations in Nigeria
The development of public relations practice in Nigeria originated from the British colonial government. As a result of the unpopularity of government policies and measures (conscription, taxation, scarcity of essential goods, etc.) and growing tension among the populace, the British colonial government felt the need for an organ to create a favourable local image for its war efforts. During the colonial period, a lot of government activities were shrouded in secrecy, which made the words and actions of the government very suspicious. Consequently, it established the first information office in Lagos in1942 with the aim of disseminating war messages in which many Nigerian service men were involved. As a result, the colonial government deemed it fit to establish public relations unit known as War Information Office.
In 1944, the Information Office was renamed Public Relations Office under the leadership of D.C. Fletcher. In 1947, the Public Relations Office was renamed Public Relations Department under the leadership of Harold Cooper. The Public Relations Department introduced regular press briefings and issued news releases frequently. It also published magazines such as the Nigerian Review, etc.
According to Asemah (2011), the public relations department established branch offices in the regional capitals of Ibadan, Kaduna, and Enugu in line with the regional set-up brought about by the Richards constitution. The aim of the public relations department was to calm the tension of Nigerians and to create an atmosphere where British colonial policies could face no resistance. During this period, 64 Nigerians (most of whom were former journalists) including Cyprian Ekwensi, Peter Enahoro, Ayo Lijadu, and Sam Epelle were employed as publicity officers. In 1954, the public relations department was also renamed to Nigerian Information Service and this was the predecessor of the present day Nigerian Ministry of Information.
British colonial government led the way in setting up public relations practice in Nigeria. This was closely followed by statutory corporations and agencies, The Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN) now Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) was one of the first government parastatals and agencies to establish a public relations unit when in 1950 it established public relations department to carry out its mutual relationship with customers. The Nigerian Railway Corporation set up a public relations department with late Sam Epelle as the public relations officer. Other government institutions that contributed to the development of public relations in Nigeria included the University College Hospital, Ibadan (1956) with Scott Emuakpor as the first PRO, the Customs and Excise (1960) with Alex Akinyele as the PRO (Asemah, 2011).
Within the private sector, the United Africa Company (UAC) played the pioneering role in establishing public relations departmentin 1949. The department was located at the old Niger house, Marina Lagos, and from there, it spread out to other branches of the company at Kaduna and Enugu. Contributions of UAC to the growth of public relations is reflected in the fact that most of the public relations experts in Nigeria and who can be referred to as the foundation members of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations once worked for UAC (National Open University of Nigeria, 2010).
Asemah (2011) posited that the enviable position that public relations has attained in Nigeria today can be ascribed to the efforts of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR). To help create ethical standards in the fledging profession,Sam Epelle, one-time director of information in Nigeria, Tonye Willie-Harry, IlhazYakubu, H.K Offonry and Bob Ogbuagu founded the Public Relations Association of Nigeria (PRAN). With the formation of PRAN, public relations developed and assumed professional status (Asemah, 2011).
After PRAN was launched in Lagos in 1963, it gradually spread to regional headquarters beginning with Enugu and Port Harcourt. The effort put in place bySam Epelle in 1961 when he initiated the formation of a body that would “professionally think, plan, practice and live public relations in Nigeria” finally bore fruit with Sam Epelle as the Coordinator of PRAN. As the number of practitioners increased with better objectives, PRAN widened and developed into the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations in 1972, again with Sam Epelle as the first president. The promulgation of the institution’s decree No. 16 of 1990 under the leadership of Mike Okereke placed public relations on a higher status. The practice of public relations is so important that every corporate social responsible institution now take the operation of public relations seriously including tertiary institutions (Asemah, 2011).