Aug 03, 2019 | 04:34 pm | 1781
Public relations is a planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organization and its publics. However, many government establishments like the local government councils do not make use of public relations effectively in the administration of public service. Many Nigerians have not felt the impact of local government administration in their area. There is a distant relationship between promise and performance in the local government setting. This research examines public relations practice in local government administration in nine local governments which were randomly selecteds from Delta, Edo and Rivers States In order to determine the practice of public relations in the selected local government council, two instruments were used for data collection. They were interview and administration of questionnaire. Senior members of staff from the nine local government councils were interviewed. One thousand, two hundred and eighty three (1,283) copies of the questionnaire were administered both to local government council staff and the public in these areas. However, one thousand, two hundred and twenty–two (1,222) copies were returned. Percentages and average mean-point were used to analysed the data collected. Results showed that there were public relations departments in these local government councils although they are called public affairs department. The result also showed that the public perceived public relations practice in local government as not responsive to the plight of the people and not active in crisis management. Invariably, public relations have not been used in many local government councils to influence the image the local government in South- South Nigeria. However, the study among other things recommends that public relations should be established and effectively used in local government councils in Nigeria since public relations is a strong instrument for good governance.
1.1 Background of the Study
Local Government is one of man's oldest political institutions. The earliest form of Local Governments existed in the form of clan and village meetings. In fact, democracy itself originated and developed along the lines of local governance initiatives in the ancient Greek city states (www.wikipedia.org,2012 ).
In other parts of the world, local governance was developed along the people’s culture and expectations. Prior to colonization, there were in existence in most Africa enclaves, local administrative machineries founded upon traditional institutions. In the area known as Nigeria today, the existing tribes that make up the geographical areas already had one form of local administration or the other. In the Northern part of the country, the Hausa/Fulani practiced a highly centralized form of government with the Emir at the head as both the political and religious leader. The Emir however delegated his power to district heads (the Magajis) to oversee the districts that made up the emirates. In the Western part of the country, the Oba firmly held power over towns. This power was delegated to the Baale who administered a town or village and paid royalties to the Oba at specified times of the year, Adeyemor (2005)
The Igbo of the Eastern part however were republicans and egalitarians in nature. That notwithstanding, there were still in existence, the 'Ohaneze' (an assembly of men) who sat in the village square to take decisions on behalf of the people. Some parts of the East still have village heads and Igwes who administered a particular town with the advice of the council of elders. Over all, central control was exercised by a body of local chiefs. As the industrial revolution proceeded and towns developed, there came new needs for highways, street paving and lighting, more efficient police, better public health, and, eventually, public education.
The colonial administration recognised local administration by enacting the Native Authority Ordinance of 1914, Native Court Ordinance of 1914 and Native Court Revenue Ordinance of 1916 (Dike 2011, in www.wikipedia.org). Nonetheless, the period 1976-1979, in which the military administration of Murtala/Obasanjo lasted, is usually regarded as a period of watershed in the annals of Local Government Administration in Nigeria (Awotokun, 2005, p.129). It was the first time a concerted effort would be made by the federal government to brighten the future of Local Government. Local Government was not only accorded its place of pride in the socio-economic well-being of the country, it was also seen as a way of bringing government closer to the people. Consequently, a uniform system known as single tier structure was adopted throughout the country. This uniformity can be conceptualized in terms of: (a) The functions of Local Governments; (b) The structure of the Local Governments; (c) The financial resources of the Local Governments; (d) The place of traditional institutions in the Local Governments; (e) relationships with State Government; and (f) Law enforcement. In terms of functions, there was uniformity of function and responsibilities for all the Local Governments throughout the federation. These functions and responsibilities were later to be enshrined in the 1979 Constitution of Nigeria. The political and administrative structures were also uniform in all the Local Governments in Nigeria. Every Local Government council was headed by an elected chairman. The administrative wing was headed by career administrator styled secretary to the Local Governments. In addition all Local Governments were departmentalized (Awotokun, 2005, p.129)
The 1999 constitution has recognized Local Government existence. The system of Local Government by democratically elected government councils is under this constitution guaranteed, and accordingly, the government of every state shall, subject to Section 8 of this constitution, ensure their existence under a law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils. Under this composition we have the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. The executive function is vested in the chairman, vice-chairman, supervisor or supervisory councilors, and the whole machinery of Local Government bureaucracy. The legislative functions are vested on the councilors, who represent the wards which make up the Local Government Area (Federal Republic of Nigeria Constitution 1999).
In Nigeria today, there are over 250 ethnic groups with diverse cultures and tongues. These ethnic groups are further divided into communities. These communities form the constituents of most Local Governments in Nigeria. By carving out Local Governments amongst people of the same community, government is preserving such long 'traditional association' and using same to foster the interest of the people concerned. It is on this platform that Adeyemo (2005,p.77) sees Local Government as a system of local administration under local communities that are organized to maintain law and provide some limited range of social amenities. This implies that a Local Government is a political and administrative organ that is empowered by law to administer a specified locality. Participation by the citizens in governance is one of the underlying precepts of democracy and modern day notion of government. Local Governments served as avenues through which the people participate in governance. This is done through participation in the electoral processes and decision making in the local communities.
There are 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Nigeria. Each Local Government Area is administered by a Local Government Council consisting of a chairman who is the Chief Executive of the LGA, and other elected members who are referred to as Councilors. According to Adeyemo (2005,p.79), the basic functions of the Local Government are: (a) to make appropriate services and development activities responsive to local wishes and initiatives by devolving or delegating them to local representatives body; (b) to facilitate the exercise of democratic self government close to the Local Government levels of our society, and to encourage initiatives and leadership potential; (c) to mobilize human and material resources through the involvement of members of the public in their local development; (d) to provide a two way channel of communication between local communities and government (both state and federal). Invariably, ‘this grassroots democracy’, as Adeyemo (2005, p.80) calls it, is primarily aimed at giving the vast majority of the people the fullest opportunity to participate in determining their own destiny. But it is obvious that the fourth function listed above is very important because it is the basis by which the government and the people interrelate.
These many functions may be cumbersome for the State and Federal Government to perform because of the distance separating them and the people. These functions can be best and effectively performed by the Local Government. Also, due to the vast nature of the country, the presence of government whether at the Federal or State levels have not been felt much at the Local Government. The resultant effects being neglect and distrust for government. In a bid to bring the activities of government closer to the people, Local Governments were created to serve as conduits through which government's policies are communicated to the people. In other words, the creation of Local Government is intended to bring people of common heritage or ancestry together as a political unit to further their interest and increase their participation in government business.
One of the channels through which people relate with government and participate in the act of governance is by communication. Communication sustains relationship between people, friends, family, nations, organisation and the target publics and between government and the people. Public relations(PRs) is a persuasive communication that can be used to develop and sustain relationship between government and the people. Hence, PRs is accepted as a management function in the formulation of policy and decision-making. It is the way in which an organisation makes and keeps contact with those who affect its life and growth. Therefore, skilful management is being given to the effective use and application of PRs for the growth of any organisation (Soeze, 2006, p.37).
The well known definition of public relations as stated by the British Institute of Public Relations (BIPR) has it that PRs is:
the deliberate planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organisation and its public as well as the planned effort to establish and improve the degree of mutual understanding between an organisation or individual and any group of persons or organisations with the primary object of assisting that organisation or individual to deserve, acquire and retain a good reputation (BIPR, in Oboh and Enobakhare, 2010, 307).
The above definition implies that “the fundamental purpose of public relations practice is to establish a two-way flow of mutual understanding based on truth, knowledge and full information” (Nkwocha,1999, p.20). Invariably, PRs entails mutual understanding between an organisation or government and the public. It should be noted that public relations is located within the ambit of governance, industry, community, social affairs, international affairs as well as educational institutions with a calculated vision of bettering mutual understanding.
Nigeria operates a federal system of government with the Local Government as the third tier. As the political link between the local people otherwise called the grassroots, and the State Government, Local Government authority enjoy the freedom of action, which makes it possible to discharge the function conferred upon it by the constitution. The enviable position Local Government authority occupies in the political structure of the country imbues people with the expectation that this level of government should bring development to the people’s doorstep (Anele, 2008, p.398). The citizens of this country realise the utility of Local Government authority in actualising both collective and genuine goals, and individual interest. However, many have complained of the Local Government functions, and wondered whether they are really close to those in the grassroots. Many argue that the Local Government had not met the aspirations of the public. Perhaps, there is problem of effective use of communication through public relations techniques between the Local Government authorities and those at the grassroots. This study therefore aims to determine the influence and application of public relations to Local Government Administration in South-South Nigeria.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Many Government establishments like the Local Government Councils either do not have public relations department or do not make effective use of public relations in the administration of public service. It seems, PRs practice is inactive or passive in the Local Government system in South-South Nigeria. A study conducted by Onyenyili-Onuorah in 2005 identified the absence of PRs from government establishments as a serious problem. He says PRs is employed in some organisations only when it is convenient. This explains the “absence of PRs units and personnel in several viable organizations,” Onyenyili- Onuorah (2005, p. 13). Black (2004, p.6) also identified failure of the government to provide knowledge and understanding of PRs practice to the public as one of the factors affecting PRs in Local Government Administration. How true are the above submissions? This question will form the crux of this study.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
In a broader perspective, this study will expand the scope of knowledge in public relations. The work specifically seeks, among other things to:
Find out whether there is public relations unit in Local Government Administration in South-South Nigeria.
Ascertain public perceptions of public relations practice in Local Government Administration in South-South Nigeria.
Determine the influence of public relations practice on the image of Local Government Administration in South-South Nigeria.
Identify the communication strategies used by public relations units between Local Government and its publics in South-South Nigeria.
Evaluate the effectiveness of communication strategies adopted by the public relations units in Local Government Administration in South-South Nigeria.
1.4 Research Questions
The study is guided by the following research questions.
Does public relations unit exist in Local Government Administration in South-South Nigeria?
How do the public perceive public relations practice in Local Government Administration in South-South Nigeria?
Does public relations enhance the image of Local Government Administration in South-South Nigeria?
What are the communication strategies used by public relations units between Local Government and its publics in South-South Nigeria?
How effective are the communication strategies adopted by public relations unit in Local Government in South-South Nigeria?
1.5 Significance of the Study
The study is significant in the sense that it will enable the Local Government authorities to know how the public perceived public relations practice in their council. It will equally enable the council to have knowledge and interest in the activities of public relations practice in their environment considering the important role PRs plays in harmonizing the divergent views that could lead to conflicts in the relationship between an organisation and its relating publics. From this study, the Local Government authorities will be able to know where and how to improve the PRs department in order to be able to meet the challenges of an organisation in relation to its target publics.
This work will expand knowledge in the field of PRs. In the academic community, the work will add knowledge to the researcher and other researchers. This study will be a guide to other researchers who would have interest in this area in the future.
1.6 Scope and Limitations of the Study
The scope of study is nine Local Government Areas, three from each of the Senatorial Districts of Delta, Edo and Rivers States. The Local Governments Areas from Delta State are Warri South Local Government Area in Delta South Senatorial district, Ughelli South Local Government Area in Delta Central Senatorial District and Oshimili South Local Government Area in Delta North Senatorial District; those from Edo State are Oredo Local Government Area in Edo South Senatorial District, Akoko Edo Local Government Area in Edo North Senatorial district and Esan Central Local Government Area in Edo Central Senatorial District; and those from Rivers States are Port Harcourt City Local Government Area from Rivers East Senatorial District, Eleme Local Government Area from Rivers South East Senatorial District and Ahoada West Local Government Area from Rivers West Senatorial District. The limitations encountered in this study include the delay and disappointments in conducting interviews with senior officers at the Council and the eliciting of information from the respondents. Adults from eighteen (18) years and above form part of the scope of the study.
1.7 Definition of Terms as used in the study
Administration: The management of the public affairs or the affairs of a government.
Council: A group of people elected to govern a local district. Like the chairman.
Grassroots: The rural people or the ordinary people in a community or the ordinary members of an organisation, as opposed.
Influence: The power that one has to affect other peoples thinking or actions
Indispensable: Extremely desirable or useful, or not to be done without.
Local Government: Local Government refers to collective administrative authorities over areas that are smaller than a State. It is the third tier of the government.
Mutual understanding: having the same feeling consigning an issue.
Public: The community as a whole is refers to as the public.
Public Relations: The practice or profession of establishing, maintaining, or improving a favourable relationship between an organisation and its publics.