FEATURE ARTICLE

Alaba YusufFriday, February 14, 2014
olobeide1@gmail.com
Abuja, Nigeria

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OF PUBLIC RELATIONS, POLITICAL INFECTION AND DEFECTION IN NIGERIA

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"For forms of government, let the fools contest; whatever is best administered is best governed" - British Political Philosopher, Lord Acton

et's try to draw attention, and if possible affection, to this composition by way of definition of the terms public relations, politics, infection and defection. At this juncture, it is pertinent to ask the question: 'what books do political scientists read nowadays given the rat race pervading the Nigerian political space?' Not even the multimedia benefits of the Digital Age can cope with the robotic catapulting being displayed by highly placed Nigerian politicians in view of the forthcoming 2015 General Elections. Actually, it will take a man who rides on the meteor's tiger to understand the game these men and women play with people's mandate. You may name it cash-for-crossing transaction.

Amidst this enormous confusion, let's lean on the back of public relations, PR, for probable explanation before drawing a tangible conclusion. PR is a dynamic discipline in human social engineering. It seeks and creates understanding between two or more people or organisations for mutual benefit, progress and development. Essentially, effective PR is the cumulative attitudinal latitude that extracts a man from the multitude and places him or her on an enviable altitude - such as the revered Nelson Mandela, the Madiba of the World. We all know the word and place for those who swim against the tide of good Public Relations. If unsure, search your history books.

So vital is PR that it forms the kernel of human aggregation; be it for political, religious, environmental or sundry reasons. Man always has to be seen as creating or generating understanding within society. Therefore political actors, often times, perform highly or lowly to motivate or bamboozle their core audience - the spectators or constituents. And since politics is derived from the free association of men and women with common interest in a body called a political party, the leader and the led therefore require good PR to steam a dream team. This in politics-speak is referred to as Constituency Consultation.

Ideally, this arrangement constitutes an embodiment of people's power or mandate; which by inference means a representative government. Old Athenians taught the world about the beauty of village square parliament; from which modern politics took a cue. Hence, a government of the people, by the people and for the people is labelled: Democracy! Little wonder, there is a dream and desire for the dividends of democracy. It is in itself a genuine and expected reciprocity of the people's political faith in their elected representatives.

But when things fall apart and the ideal centre no longer holds, everybody gets confused and pandemonium reigns supreme. Such is the macabre dance in the Nigerian political theatre today where representatives brazenly play god to those they are representing. The falcon seems to have no ears for the whistle of the falconer. So much that people's power now whither like flowers, in their twilight, in the hands of political mercenaries and gangsters.

Come to think of it, political parties are supposed to be based on ideological principles with clear-cut manifestoes for community development where chosen leaders serve the people selflessly. The opposite seems the case in Nigeria today. Now looters and rulers, much like Lords of the Manor, feast and oppress the masses that truly hold the key to power. Many politicians even buy their ways into office, in order to find the net to fish in the country's oil-rich treasury. The outcome is often so bare: mass looting, brigandage, unlimited corruption, nepotism, outright arrogance and cut-throat competition at elections. What a shame?

Sadly, in the 21st century, where advanced democracies are upping their political games seamlessly through global best practice of due process, transparency, responsibility and accountability; the Nigerian nation, albeit Africa, is still groping in the woods, like the primitive man, defying the laws of human relations and social contract.

If not, how do we explain the unabated spate of political crisscrossing or jumpology, as folks in Raypower's Political Platform want us to believe? Check out the interplay of defection forces in David Mark's Senate and Aminu Tambuwal's House of Representatives. The States and Local Government Areas are even worse for it. Our parliaments nationwide are now veritable platforms for political summersaults. Where is the people's interest in all of this? Just imagine if this gets copied into our business, religious and matrimonial relationships. Are we losing it? A people without ideological adherence can hardly seek relevance in the Comity of nations. Ours is being tagged a 'Dollarised Democracy;' one that enables the highest bidder to have the key to the treasury and an authority to steal. Funny enough, we all celebrate the looters in our midst; especially when they dangle a bit of benevolence through shady philanthropy - pet project, foundation or charity. This is not to say that there are no honest wealthy people who genuinely help the needy in our midst.

Like a coin, Public Relations is two-faced. One side is positive: publicity, promotion and branding. Whereas the other dwells on negatives: conflict, crisis and even war! Now that the lure of lucre has taken over the land politically; most young people do have taste buds craving the sweetness of quick money and power. So gun-running, kidnapping, armed robbery, thuggery, area-boyism, jeunsoke-ism, tasase-ism, no-shaking-ism have all become free-for-all 'associations' at the beck and call of political actors, to recruit 'army' of young people.

This seemingly incurable affliction has become so contagious and has risen to the proportion of a serious infection in the nation. For want of appropriate terminology it is called defection. Otherwise political prostitution might be apt. It is a situation where a member of one political divide can jump to and from the other at will, without much ado! And like any other business in Nigeria, copy-catism has dominated this anomalous and chameleonic political residency and expediency.

In fact, it is a pestilence that may soon ravage whatever is left of our commonalty, sanity, humanity, power of value and revered culture as a people. The young ones who daily face gross unemployment, school closure, lack of social welfare and infrastructure; are reading these verses and vices from their elders and so-called leaders. And very soon they shall overtake these current players. May the common brand we have, Nigeria, be strong enough to withstand the concomitant tidal wave of assaults that may follow in future.

Finally, instead of this prevalent heated political climate, exacerbated by bread and butter partisanship, each representative of the people at all levels, should ask him or herself: 'have I truly served my people well?' Let them score themselves honestly on the ration of 1-10. Because, in the words of a British Sage, Lord Acton: "for forms of government let the fools contest, whatever is best administered is best governed." After all, the beauty of democracy lies in people's power of perception and ability to unravel deception. This is a lesson for those angling for political space now, in 2015 and beyond. Public Relations and good reputation, without doubt, will determine who we are and not mere political hypocrisy, or any infection of defection.

Alaba Yusuf is a International Publicist, Strategist and Commentator based in Abuja.

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