A graduate of Mass Communication from Bayero University Kano where he currently lectures, he had over 20 years’ working experience as spokesperson in the bank and later to the government of Kano State.
Mallam Sule spoke to the Spokesperson’s Digest on political communications and the current membership drive of the NIPR where he is a Council Member.
As the Chairman of membership committee of NIPR, what does it take to be a member and what are the deadline and penalties?
You see, we realize that NIPR is saturated by quacks, unprofessional people who are not trained to handle public relations job but join the profession for lucrative ventures. Most of those quacks create bad names for the profession. This prompted us to set up a committee that would sanitize the membership and accreditation processes to also recertify every member including the old members too. If you are a member, you have to present your credentials before the committee for screening, upon the completion of the screening; you will then get a number. Every member would now have a number which will give you access to the website of NIPR and other facilities and benefits.
What are the major qualifications for membership of NIPR?
Some of the qualifications for membership include graduating from Department of Mass Communication from recognized institutions. The graduate will apply and follow the due process for membership induction. Other requirement for memberships include NIPR organized and endorsed specialized trainings, courses, diploma in public relations through written exams among others.
What about those that have been practicing without NIPR certificate?
We are now sensitizing them that those who have spent years in the profession can apply for certifications. There are individuals who have been performing the roles of PR for many years without registering with the NIPR. We have created a window of opportunities for them to apply, attend a training programme and be certified. The new NIPR certificate is for recertification of all members.
What are the penalties for Non-Members who engage in PR activities?
There is an existing law in place that warns non-registered NIPR members from holding any public relations office. The federal government has backed the regulations and procedures. An enforcement task force would soon tracks quacks for prosecutions.
What are the benefits of Membership of NIPR?
Apart from certification of members as PR professionals, there are opportunities for capacity buildings to update members on latest thinking and strategies in the profession. Members will also benefit from in-house and specialized publications on the industry. Lately we have received many requests for recruitments of qualified and registered PR practitioners from different sectors even governors seeking for Media Aides. So there are job opportunities too. In a nutshell, the major benefits are in education and training, learning best practices from the field’s most respected speakers. Also, NIPR is improving job proficiency through critical information sharing with other PR professionals in all levels of government, private sector among others.
What are you doing to woo unregistered media aides to NIPR?
We are identifying such individuals and twice a year, we organize and host a course which we design specifically for media assistants to governors, ministers and even to the president. We give them the guidelines for the registration and thy follow the process towards becoming registered NIPR Members. We also provide the window of opportunity for those that have been practicing but are not members of the institute. We encourage them to join so that the law won’t catch up with them. By the time we started enforcing the law, anyone who is not a member and is occupying a position of PR must leave that position. The Nigerian law is clear on who should practice as PR persons in the country.
What are the membership grades?
In the membership grades we have Graduate Membership, Associate Membership, Full Membership and Fellows. There are also different fees for the membership.
What are the penalties for non-practitioners practicing PR in Nigeria?
The Decree 4 of 1992 bars non-member of the NIPR from practicing public relations in Nigeria. The Decree also empowers the Institute to prosecute offenders. To avoid that scenarios that is the reason we are currently engaging in sensitization campaigns to come forward to register. We have a strong task force committee headed by Major Gen. Olukolade who are monitoring compliance. The full enforcement of the law would definitely commence on January 1, 2016.
What is the deadline for the window of opportunity you have created before the enforcement of the law?
Window of opportunity is being organized every three months and by the end of December 2015, there won’t be any more windows of opportunity courses again.
What are the modes of communication in political communication?
In political communication, you make use of informal way of communication. Things do emanate through gossip, blackmail, you don’t need to always come out officially to issue statements to counter such gossips and speculations but you can employ the unconventional, informal kind of communications, especially if under provocation by the opposition. It also depends on the items you are dealing with and the situations you find yourself because situations normally dictate the kind of communication you employed.
How does political communication influence people’s decision?
Before there is this skepticism, whatever is coming from the political office holders, people don’t take it serious but because people had the freedom to now respond to whatever statement you issued, political communicators are now being careful in giving out information. Unlike before whereby it was almost one way traffic kind of communication, with the advent of the social media, people have the opportunity to respond to whatever communication you pass around. So political communicators are now being tasked to sit up and ensure that whatever they are giving out is nothing but correct information.
Do you think political communication impact on outcome of elections?
Seriously, it played as greater role in 2015 elections, opposition seriously made use of political communications-both the conventional and social media. Also the election of President Obama in 2008, in that too political communication has really worked. If you watched the political campaign of Obama especially that of 2008, it became a global campaign, he was touring nations, he is only a president of the United States but he was in UK, Germany and look at the kind of crowd- what brought that up was because of the power of political communication that his media team has deployed- that has enticed people outside the USA to take interest in the campaign. In Nigeria, APC bombarded the psyche of Nigerians that PDP has failed, they capitalized on the little available opportunity they got and hit on the ruling party which was not doing very well on communication aspect, thinking that we are the ruling party for 16 years; we would continue to be there. They’ve underrated the power of communication.