Public Relations, truth essential to building public trust – Information Minister

Alhaji Mohammed Idris, Minister of Information and National Orientation, said on Thursday that speaking the truth was essential to building trust between the government and the citizens, using the Public Relations strategies.

Idris said this in Abuja on Thursday during a panel discussion at a Grand Colloquium to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR).

The event had as its theme “Public Relations, Value-Orientation and Economic Transformation”.

The minister said that one of the things he said resolved to do on assumption of office was to restore hope in public communication.

This, he said was because Nigerians no longer listen to government spokespersons because they had lost hope in their words.

“As a public communicator, you have to ensure that you tell people the truth and nothing but the truth; it is important for people to recognise that.

“One of our five pillar agenda in the ministry is that trust must be restored on the path of public communication.

“If I do not have information about something, it is better I keep my mouth shut than to speak out of ignorance.

“I have the blessing and approval of my principal, President Bola Tinubu, to say it the way it is but in the most palatable manner.”

“Trust must return to public communication because that is the only way Nigerians can agree with you, respect you and even listen to you.”

Mr Yakubu Lamai, Director-General, Strategic Communications, Nasarawa State Government, said the state had used PR to attract investment.

Lamai said the Governor of Nasarawa ensured that the public procurement law was signed and he created a Bureau of Public Procurement which was recognised by the World Bank because of its transparency and accountability.

According to him, it is important to keep record books open to enable people to know what is going on.

Lamai said the true value of leadership was ensuring inclusivity and transparency, while excluding sentiments in all forms.

“In my opinion, I think it is best if we concentrate on competence, character, deliverables and vision, when we are thinking of campaigning for those in political office.

“There are politicians who bow to sentiments, either religious or ethnic, and their sentiments becloud the issue,” he said.

Allen Onyema, Chief Operating Officer (CEO), Air Peace, said humility was a grand tool for public relations, noting that people must learn to own up to their errors.

”This is what we do at Air Peace,” he said.

Onyema said Public Relations must be encouraged to help change the narratives for the country, adding that it had helped Air Peace and Nigeria as a whole to get to their present state.

“We are looking for a new Nigeria and we must use the tool of PR to change the narrative to make Nigerians know that we are one, and know there is unity in our diversity; therefore, we must fight for each other.

“Public Relations is one of the things that made the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari to waive the payment of VAT on ticket fares, and customs duties for the purchasing of aircraft and spare parts.

“For seven years we were battling the London route until we engaged in public relations, and that was brought to the public sphere. Without that, Nigerians would have been paying N17 million today for a six-hour flight,” Onyema said.

He said poverty in Africa was foreign-induced, and called on the leaders to keep fighting for the love of the continent.

“The country and continent have been adversely stigmatised. What can save the country and continent is us, not anybody else. When Africa will rise and refuse to bend, then they will no longer ride us,” he added.

Mrs Chizo Malize, Managing Director and CEO, Financial Institutions Training Centre (FITC), said trust in the financial sector was earned by trusting the systems.

Malize said trusting the system was like having trust in the nation and trusting the operators, regulators and policymakers.

“Trust is crucial for the financial service sector because without trust you cannot go to bed knowing you have so much investment or funds kept within that sector; so, trust is critical.

“So if you take that back into value, it means that both the operators, players and customers must be able to work collaboratively to build trust to ensure continuous growth.”

Malize said women must be recognised for their role in economic development, adding that Public Relations could be used to tell the stories of these women.

She emphasised the importance of storytelling, as she urged PR practitioners to collaborate with women, businesses, structures and organisations to tell positive stories that would make Nigeria the best in the world.

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