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People’s power necessary to transform Nigeria – Ex-NIPR President

Former President of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, NIPR, Amaopusenibo Bobo Sofri Brown, has said that for Nigeria to achieve desired and genuine transformation, the power of the people must be deployed.

Mr. Brown who spoke at a lecture organised by the Rivers State Chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) as part of activities to commemorate the 60th anniversary celebration of the institute in Port Harcourt said, Nigerians must rise up and take collective action geared towards total transformation of the nation and recovery of her economy, adding that the citizens must recognize themselves as true stakeholders and that they have relevant roles to play.

He commended the President and Governing Council of NIPR for deciding to make a national milestone from their 60th anniversary celebration.

The Ex-NIPR Boss, who also spoke as Chairman of the anniversary lecture, described the theme of the lecture, “60 years of Public Relations Practice in Nigeria; Milestones, New Trends and Prospects”, as well as the road walk and tree planting exercise held nationwide by the institute on Saturday June 1st, as apt, timely and symbolic.

According to him, “By deciding to make this anniversary a national event, we have as NIPR invited the nation to be our witness that we can no longer sit on the fence. The theme we chose for the road walk; ‘Walk for economic transformation of Nigeria’, and the idea of planting trees are very symbolic and of high impact especially, to those of us from the Niger Delta region.”

He said, “Every month, 36 states of the federation gather in Abuja with the Federal Government waiting for revenue from oil and gas which comes from the Niger Delta but nobody cares to think or border if the Federal Allocation Committee has slated a meeting to discuss the environment of the oil producing communities or not.

“But we as NIPR are planting trees because the environment of Nigeria is soon going to be treeless, that is because we will soon go into accelerated depletion of our trees.”

He further noted that “Ninety percent of the national population, especially those outside the urban areas, cannot afford to buy gas at the current rate, they can’t even see kerosene, the high price and none availability and the tedious complexion of the industry now is forcefully driving them to cut trees and make fire to cook, but intriguingly, according to World Health Organization (WHO), 4.5million Nigerians die every year out of ill health related to firewoods and open fire.

“So, this country, by denying them access to alternative cooking fuel, we are forcing more of our population to join the casualty rate reported by the WHO.

“Also, the environment in which we live is being deforested by efforts of Nigerian citizens in the Niger Delta to put access to alternative fuel, and beyond fending for themselves when the government has refused to invest in local growth technology to enable our people process hydrocarbons efficiently and cost effectively, the people have been left with no choice but to resort to self-help (illegal oil bunkering) and they have burnt themselves in the fire and they have robbed themselves of dignity.

“So, we have a situation where our environment is being seriously damaged beyond repairs, and when NIPR decided to walk for the economy and the environment and plant trees, we thought that it was quite a powerful statement.”

The former Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) said, “NIPR now has a duty to hold our state governments and stakeholders at the state and federal levels responsible to help restore our environment and to make our economy more citizen friendly.

“It is time to put the economy back on the front foot because without that, Nigeria will continue to be in search of a direction that they can never find in politics.

“The hypothesis is that when a people in an economy that is disconnected from formal structure, they tend not to mind issues that concerns the formal structures of society such as government behaviours, but it is time for us to query those things because if we must make progress as a country, the trends around us, the direction we are going and the milestones we have covered must be noted.”

Speaking on how to get over the numerous challenges faced by the country, Brown said, “The way forward is that Nigerians must rise up to recognize that they are true stakeholders in this project called Nigeria.

“If you look around, Nigerian citizens have no voice in the decisions and policy making in the country. Am not sure the citizens were consulted when the members of the National Assembly fixed their salaries. Am not sure the citizens contributed to discussion in the debate of any state budget. Those are duties genuine stakeholders of any entity should be part of, and NIPR at it’s 60th anniversary is trying to say that Nigerians must be organized and be given a better sense of awareness of their roles and their relevance as true citizens, and for them to get up to be real stakeholders.

“If we are not stakeholders, we cannot defend our own interest. Twenty four years of civilian rule has told us that the politicians don’t care about the people (you and I). And it is our fault that we kept trusting them.

“Now that we have seen for twenty four years, they have grown richer and richer, and we have become poorer and poorer, should we go ahead trusting them?” He queried.

Continuing, he said; “things will not change, unless we (Nigerians) come together and begin to express ourselves and take an action that will make them change, that is the benefit of this programme.

“We are calling Nigerians together to know why they are getting poorer and how they can work together to change the situation of the country.”

He further stated that, “unless we do that, Nigeria will not change. If we just keep praying and complaining yes, those things helps, they vent anger but the only thing that will change policy is collective action.”

He recalled that “the moment Organised Labour shut down the airport during the just concluded two days nationwide strike declared by the leadership of NLC and TUC, and the politicians can no longer fly around, they came to the meeting.

“That is to tell you that power of the people matters and we must deploy people’s power to transform our country so that it can become a country where the labours of our past heroes will not be lost,” he said.

Our correspondent reports that Professor Godwin Okon, Director of Research and Development at the Rivers State University, RSU, was the guest lecturer for the anniversary lecture.

Prof. Okon while speaking urged the government to accord greater recognition to the practice of public relations in Nigeria, even as he noted that public relations practitioners have so many roles to play in the transformation of the country.

He said, “We need to upscale, dynamism rules the world, and of course what you need to do is to prepare yourself for the future and the only way to prepare yourself is to upscale your dexterity, not relegating educational qualification to the background. So, it’s a wake-up call for everybody, we must prepare for the future and by so doing, we must upgrade ourselves.”

Earlier in his address, the NIPR Chairman in Rivers State, Pastor Francis Asuk said the anniversary lecture was second in the series of activities by the institute to mark its diamond jubilee celebration and 60 years of professionalism and excellence.

Recalled that members of NIPR in Rivers State, alongside their counterparts across the nation, on Saturday 1st June, 2024 as part of events for the 60th anniversary celebration of the institute, embarked on a street walk with the theme; “Walking for Economic Transformation,” from GRA Junction along Port Harcourt-Aba Express Way, to Isaac Boro Park where they also planted good number of trees.

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