Ajuri Ngelale is just Media adviser, not a PR professional
By Francis Ogunbowale
On the 31st of July 2023, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu appointed the 37-year old Ajuri Ngelale, as Senior Special Adviser on Media and Publicity. Since then, there has been condemnation from the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) to the point of declaring the appointment illegal on the ground that he is not a certified member of the Institute. Some others further expressed the view that Ngelale has committed an offence, by accepting the appointment and performing the role of public relations without any license from the NIPR.
A cursory look at Section 19 (1)(2) of the NIPR Act, Cap N114, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 (The Act), will reveal that truly, any person who is not a member of NIPR and certified by it, but practices or holds himself out as a public relations practitioner is guilty of an offence; and by Sub Section 4, such person shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding N100 or on conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding N1,000 or to imprisonment of two years or both.
The question which arises from the above is whether Ngelale as Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President has held himself out as a Public Relations Practitioner or whether his job includes performance of public relation activities as contemplated by the law establishing the NIPR?.
By definition, an Adviser is a person who renders an expert opinion in a particular field, whereas, a Public Relations Practitioner is an ‘image maker’ whose job includes maintenance of public and strategic communication. By his title, Ngelale’s main duty as Special Adviser, is to render advice and make suggestion to the President on matters relating to media and publicity.
Ngelale is a seasoned broadcast journalist and TV Producer and has proved to be eminently qualified as Adviser to the President on his avowed field. He has not only been performing his assigned role, he has added the role of a Master of Ceremony (MC), which he acted creditably well during the swearing in of the Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He has also acted as Spokesman and conveyed information from the President to the public on important issues.
Nobody can claim to be more qualified as an adviser on media and publicity other than a journalist. By qualification, Ngelale cannot be waved aside, he attended the prestigious University of Kansas at Platteville in Wisconsin, United States and graduated with a degree in Political Science and History. He has worked at African International Television (AIT) and Channels Television, as a senior journalist. Ngelale was also at a time Lead Consultant on Public Affairs at the Federal Ministry of Power.
AsAdviser on media and publicity, Ngelale is not be expected to perform public relations activities. An Adviser on Media and Publicity and a Public Relations Practitioner are not the same and they perform different and distinct roles. Ngelale is expected to offer suggestions to the President particularly on the movement of information from its source to the general public through the available means of dissemination.
The view that the gaffe in the reports that the UAE cancelled the visa ban on Nigerians when it did not, during the diplomatic visit of the President and the wrong information that Tinubu was the first African President to ring bell at the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations (NASDAQ) in New York, when he was not, was because Ngelale was not certified by the NIPR is wrong, incorrect and erroneous.
The truth is that there is no perfect being and no one is infallible. Anybody, notwithstanding qualification or experience can make mistake. The gaff did not occasion any collateral damage to the public. The enlightened public was quick to conduct a fact check and corrected the wrong information that UAE had not lifted the visa ban on Nigerians and that Former President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania was the first to ring NASDAQ closing bell in September 2011, and not President Tinubu in 2023.
In conclusion, Ajuri Ngelale as Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity does not perform public relations activities. By the title he only gives advice and make suggestions to the president on matters relating to media and publicity and as such has not committed any crime as contemplated by the NIPR Act, Cap N114, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004. His appointment is therefore not illegal according to any law. It is doubtful if there is any Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity has ever been a certified member of the NIPR.