Connect with us

Trending Stories

Read Gov Kayode Fayemi’s Speech At The Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria (PRCAN) Annual Public Relations Gold Medal Lecture




The Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi was the guest speaker at the Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria Annual Public Relations Gold Medal Lecture event which took place at the prestigious Oriental Hotel Lagos on Thursday, September 19, 2913. Click the more tag to read



It is a great pleasure to be here today with this distinguished audience. It is always refreshing to take time out of the very demanding schedules associated with governance, to join in the contestation of ideas on how to move our great country forward. The theme of today’s event is very pertinent to our collective aspirations for a more functional democracy and a better life for Nigerians. I therefore commend the Board of Trustees, Executives and Members of the Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria (PRCAN), as critical stakeholders in the Nigeria project, for the patriotic instinct that informed your investments in today’s event. I also thank you for your kind gesture in inviting me to share my thoughts with other leading lights in your industry and the country at large.

Trust Deficit and the Price of Apathy


One of the most profound challenges of governance in post-authoritarian Nigeria is the deficit of trust between the state and society. The relationship between the government and the governed is severely undermined by a distrust of the government and a pervasive lack of faith in national institutions. It is not an exaggeration to say that Nigerians nurse a profound skepticism about the intentions of their political leaders, and about the capacity of institutions to deliver on the promise of democracy. In fact, it is fair to say that most Nigerians have adopted cynicism as their default attitude towards politics and politicians.

The prevalent notion is that politicians come into office to simply line their pockets. This view can be traced back to the era of military rule during the 1980s and 1990s. Military dictators who seized power typically did so while announcing their patriotic credentials as incorruptible soldiers who had come to save the country from imminent chaos. A major plank of their appeal to national sentiments were their populist critiques of politicians as corrupt elites who had despoiled the commonwealth and led the country towards conflict with their ceaseless bickering. These themes were emphasized during the military coups that terminated the First and the Second Republics. Even when the military government of General Ibrahim Babangida annulled the June 12, 1993 elections, one of the reasons proffered for the decision was widespread fraud, corruption and chicanery by political elites.

The military regimes were able to discredit politicians in the public space by highlighting their misdeeds in office. In time, a significant proportion of the Nigerian population came to see military rule not just as an alternative to democracy, but military officers as being inherently morally superior to civilian political elites. However, public faith in the incorruptibility of the military was undone by the corruption scandals of the 1980s and 1990s. The official impunity of the military regimes of that epoch was of such a scale that the misdemeanours of civilian politicians paled in comparison. For example, although bribery had always been a problem with the institutional and bureaucratic culture of post-colonial Nigeria, it was during the Babangida era that bribery as a political and commercial tool euphemistically known as “settlement” or “egunje” became fully entrenched in the public lexicon.

Having been disappointed by both civilian political elites and military rulers, a cynicism towards constituted authority set in among Nigerians. The conduct of politicians since the onset of the Fourth Republic in May 1999 has done little to alter the perception of politicians and public office-holders as thieves. The headlines of our news media are rife with tales of the misdemeanours of the high and mighty. Corruption scandals featuring millions and billions of naira lost to high-powered public theft have become so frequent that they are now almost non-events.
This widespread distrust is perhaps the most understated crisis of our young democracy and poses a serious threat to its sustainability. While the distrust of politicians is an understandable sentiment, it holds adverse implications for our democracy. Cynicism leads inevitably to apathy. If people cease to believe in their elected leadership, they will also shortly lose interest in public affairs.

Democracies are never more vulnerable to hijack or collapse than when citizens lose interest in the activities of political leaders and cease to hold them accountable. If people are generally disbelieving of what their political leaders are saying, it follows that they will shortly become disinterested in what they are doing. And as their emotional and intellectual investment in the democratic process wanes, they give room for anti-democratic forces to take advantage of the vacuum and seize the public square.


The consequence of this crisis of trust hurts everyone resulting in a lose-lose situation. We politicians may feel affronted by our low estimation in the public eye, but it is the vocation of politics that suffers even more. If people come to believe that politics is a field reserved for knaves and scoundrels, then that society’s politics will become exactly that – a domain of the worst people in the community. When people become so cynical about politics that they set their bar of expectation so low, it reduces both the quality of those entering politics and the quality of governance. By refusing to expect or demand accountability and competence from their elected leaders, we pave way for the least competent among us to seize the reins of leadership. Governance and public service delivery suffer and the quality of life of the people nose-dives. Thus popular cynicism about politicians results in a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy in which low-quality individuals continually emerge through the process of leadership selection precisely because the public expects them to. In this sense, the people themselves are the greatest victims of their own distrust of politicians. This is why cynicism is an unaffordable luxury in any democracy much less a fledgling one like ours.

Democracy and Development as Conversation

No government, no matter how well-intentioned, can successfully conceive and execute policy in a climate of distrust. Public opinion and more importantly public confidence is the lifeblood of healthy democratic governance. The key to building trust between the government and the society is communication. Democracy, itself, is best understood as a continuous conversation by the citizenry about their values and priorities. The task of political elites is to take the pulse of the public, and develop the instincts and aspirations of the electorate into a political and public policy agenda. We tend to limit our understanding of this conversation between politicians and the electorate to election year when the electioneering campaigns are marked by a constant one-way traffic of campaign promises. Often, these promises are only tangentially related to public expectations and more like populist appeals for electoral support; swiftly forgotten once the voting ends.
In more advanced democracies, this conversation between electorates and their elected leaders is persistent. Politicians are frequently in tune with their people through various mechanisms such as opinion polls, approval ratings and focus group surveys assessing reactions to government initiatives. If some of our political elites on our shores seem disconnected from the public, it is because there is little conversation between them and those at whose pleasure they serve. Without the vital ability to gauge the public mood, governance delivery diverges sharply from the expectations of the citizenry and distorts the conception and impact of policy on those for whose benefit it is designed.

Despite the tons of well-intentioned and even altruistic policy efforts to fight poverty and other societal challenges, these initiatives fail because they are largely imposed by elites on the people. They emerge from a process in which the government dictates solutions to the people rather than discussing with them. Consequently, these policies have little or no ownership or buy-in at the grassroots level and are often dead on arrival. The current model of policy-making is a heavily centralized top-bottom approach to development planning that conceives policy as the projection or imposition of developmental objectives on hapless recipients by remote well-meaning bureaucracies. More often than not, this approach leads to a misappropriation of energies and a misdirection of resources. Consider, for example, a situation in which the government and foreign aid groups prioritize combating HIV-AIDS in a given community where the major cause of high adult and infant mortality is actually Malaria. The intentions on the part of the policy-makers are good but misplaced.

As John Naisbitt once wrote, “People whose lives are affected by a decision must be part of the process of arriving at that decision.” There is a hubris which leads us to presume to know far more than ordinary people about their problems than they themselves do. This paternalistic attitude causes us to prescribe solutions that often have no relation to the challenges on ground, and devise strategies that are consequently unworkable. This paternalism is partly a legacy of military rule which operated on the logic of centralized dispensation of patronage. Military rulers operated on the assumption that Nigeria has uniform development needs; they failed to countenance the reality of uniqueness or scenario specificity, and tried to deploy one-size-fits-all solutions to developmental problems that were varied in nature and scope, in a country as complex as Nigeria with such a huge land mass and socio-cultural heterogeneity.
For policies to work, the people have to take ownership of them and drive their execution. For this to be the case, the development goals have to be generated by citizens and tally with their own needs and aspirations. Policy-making has to emanate from the people’s perception of their own needs. Therefore, a more meaningful approach to policy conception and execution calls for us to adopt a posture of listening and attentiveness attuned to the pulse of the communities on the receiving end of our initiatives. This means a return to the conversational ethos that framed indigenous conceptions of democracy.


In this regard, it is important to note that democracy is not alien to Africa. Many cultural polemicists and scholars have proposed this thesis to explain the apparent crisis of democracy on the African continent. In fact, what is alien is not democracy but the mode of institutional operation by which it has become identified. Many pre-colonial African societies were democratic in the sense that their political cultures were based on consultation and consensus. Typically, every member and every household of the community had a say in the matters of collective interest. Governance was therefore based on widespread consultation that broadened the pool of opinion and also created avenues for the building of consensus. In the end, the decision, though delivered by a chief or a king, had to be a collective one of which he was the instrument of execution. The town crier’s announcement of such a decision thus rarely surprised the community. Absolutist monarchies existed only in very few places.

The values of consultation and consensus were essential to the workings of traditional African democracies. These values have been lost as indigenous models were supplanted by the colonially-designed clones of Western democracy. The setting that best portrayed the dynamics of participatory governance in pre-colonial Africa was the village square where the community gathered to address issues of common concern. In adopting western style democracy, we have forgotten the village square setting that characterized pre-colonial governance.
Our formal democratic institutions are exclusive in nature, often depicting politics and governance as a craft for an exclusive specialist class of politicians. The effect of this is that ordinary people feel alienated from government and their governments feel alienated from the people they claim to represent. The people rarely have any input in the policy-making process. This distance between government and the governed is highly inimical to democracy and simply sabotages ab initio any good faith efforts to govern effectively for the benefit of our people.

The Role of Policy Communications in Democratic Governance

When the concept of Policy Communications is applied to governance, it often evokes the imagery of government sloganeering and the dark arts of state propaganda. However, the challenge of Policy Communications in the deepening of our democracy is that of enhancing the grasp of the public mood by political leaders. It also entails building our capacity to shape public opinion and mould the consensus required for successful policy implementation. Simply put, it is about winning hearts and minds – a vital but much understated aspect of policy-making on our shores. Many Nigerians cannot take ownership of policies, even those which are manifestly beneficial to them, because they are alienated from the policy making process. For all the grandeur and fanfare with which they are launched, development plans often lack buy-in or legitimacy at the grassroots.
Consider the Federal Government’s removal of the subsidy on fuel at the beginning of the year 2012. The decision led to nationwide protests that paralyzed socio-economic activities and resulted in huge economic losses. The vociferous opposition to the subsidy removal was down to a number of factors. It is true that the subject of fuel subsidy has long been a sensitive issue certain to elicit combative reactions from Organized Labour and the broader Civil Society. While it is certain that there are those who will probably never agree in principle with the elimination of subsidies, there was also a sense that the Federal Government did not sufficiently engage the public on the issue.

The Honourable Minister of Finance/Coordinating Minister of the Economy candidly admitted that there was a trust deficit between the public and the government which was causing the former to doubt the latter’s avowed good intentions. But beyond this, the way the Federal Government went about the issue only served to fortify the misplaced conviction of the public that their leaders cannot be trusted. The subsidy removal was announced almost surreptitiously at the beginning of the New Year with none of the publicity normally requisite for such a high profile economic policy decision. Many Nigerians that were holidaying in their hometowns were stranded following the immediate rise of transport prices. Worse still, the subsidy removal was announced at a time when the nation was mourning, reeling from terror attacks on churches. Announcing such a policy shift when the nation was grieving struck many people as insensitive. A series of town hall meetings which had been planned to discuss the proposed policy nationwide was apparently called off after just one edition. On the whole, the entire affair was a public relations disaster resulting in a loss of confidence, credibility and political capital.


We can compare this incident to the PR-savvy approach with which General Ibrahim Babangida handled the IMF debate in the mid 1980s. His regime threw open the debate over whether Nigeria should take an IMF loan and accept its conditionalities and called for memoranda. It organized town hall meetings across the country in which pro-loan and anti-loan experts debated the pros and cons of the loan. Eventually, the regime announced that in consonance with the wishes of the people, it would reject the loan. It was a fine example of how even a military regime used the instrumentality of public relations to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the public by depicting itself as a listening government. By facilitating national conversation on a theme which Nigerians felt keenly about and taking a policy decision reflecting the conclusion of the debate, the military regime earned the confidence of the people and increased its reserves of political capital. It is a measure of how effective this tactic was that when the regime adopted a structural adjustment programme with many of the IMF conditionalities built in, the civil society barely noticed.

These two episodes show how Policy Communications has played and continues to play a key role in the development and implementation of policy particularly in the public sector. The key lesson here is that successful public relations management requires the facilitation of conversation and debate. It means involving all stakeholders in the decision making apparatus thus minimizing the conflicts and collisions of disparate interest groups that obstruct policy implementation. Obviously, it is not the case that good Policy Communications will totally eliminate differences of opinion or opposition to particular policies and this is not the point. Democracy after all, is about differences of opinion within the broad spectrum of our pursuit of the common good. The point of Policy Communications in a young democracy like ours is to broaden the public space for conversation and to raise the quality of public debate. The goal is to move from a representative format of democracy to a participatory democracy in which the stakeholders can make inputs in the policy making and implementation process.

One way of enhancing participatory governance and engineering high stakeholder involvement in public affairs is by entrenching a culture of freedom of information. The enactment of the Freedom of Information Act is a step in the right direction and the Federal Government must be commended for this; but the culture of transparency extends beyond this to creating a climate in which our governments are truly open to the people. Too often, the affairs of government – which really means how we run the society – is classified, veiled in secrecy and shielded from the people. This culture offends the democratic spirit which is all about openness and transparency and is one of the ways in which leaders alienate the masses. By entrenching a culture of freedom of information, we create an atmosphere in which people not only feel closer to their governments but are also motivated to positively engage in the policy-making process.

Conclusion – The Ekiti State Experience

The Government of Ekiti State, Nigeria has taken the lead in making the shift from the current orientation of representative governance which posits a political class that represents the people and knows more than them. This posture has fostered an alienation of the people from their representatives. Participatory governance and a citizen-generated policy-making process are the keys to closing the rift between the state and society. This is crucial for all governments. To do this, we have to resolve the residual antagonism that frustrates relations between the state and civil society. Political elites tend to see both spheres – State and Society – as being implacably opposed. Given the infancy of our institutions, our social infrastructure deficits and the poor track record of governments, civil society organizations play a fairly prominent role in Nigeria, especially in the delivery of social services such as Education and Health Care. Some politicians view CSOs and all Non-State Actors in general with distrust and see them as busy bodies trying to supplant the formal establishment.


For their own part, it is not an exaggeration to say that some elements in civil society see their mandate as one of creating alternative or parallel governments to replace the formal political apparatus in the public consciousness. They also rightly see their role as policing and checking governments in the interest of the common good. The problem is that many activists cannot perceive the relationship between civil society and the government in anything other than adversarial terms. However, the state versus civil society dynamic is a false dichotomy. The government and civil society share similar goals. We want a sustainable collective prosperity in an environment that promotes human dignity. Therefore, the relationship between the state and civil society is best cast not in terms of conflict but in terms of a strategic synergy. It goes without saying that the fact that we share the same goals does not mean that there can be no differences of opinion. But these are largely debates over means not ends.

We can have heated debates over priorities, instruments, ways and means even though we share a broad consensus as to where we want our community to be. These differences exist and they must be entertained because they enrich the relationship between the state and civil society and make it more authentic. But we must reject an adversarial perspective that revels in a tension based on chronic disputation for its own sake. This is not a productive tension that generates solutions but a needless rancour that stalls progress.

In Ekiti, we have sought to bring the participatory ethos of consultation and consensus to bear upon governance. It is noteworthy that Ekiti State is the first in the Federation to domesticate the Freedom of Information Act. We have made Democratic Governance a central point in our 8-Point Agenda and institutionalised inclusiveness, transparency and accountability in the initiation and implementation of our programmes and policies. We have done this by establishing and maintaining open lines of both traditional and contemporary channels of communication with our people.
Let me at this point establish that the people of Ekiti State have a long heritage of Collectivism. We have come out stronger from every generational challenge because our culture emphasizes the interdependence of every member of the society, and the celebration of the common good over parochial interests. In Ekiti State, no matter the good intentions, no substantive or aspiring leader can work for the people successfully; you would face stiff opposition until you give up or you are rejected outrightly. This has occasioned hasty assumptions and perceptions of Ekiti people as being stubborn and ungrateful; nothing can be farther from the truth. Ekiti people simply want to be carried along. They want you to work with them and not for them. We are not arrogant but honourable. We hold ourselves to high standards of personal discipline and accountability and therefore expect even more from our leaders. Our assessment of performance transcends what you have done to how you have done it. Our people down to the grassroots have devised their own native governance tracking models, with frequent loosely structured ‘policy dialogues’ in every nook and cranny of the state as their own way of holding leaders accountable. Therefore in Ekiti State, it is imperative to provide avenues for seeking the input of all stakeholders in the development and implementation of any program or policy as a means of towing the line of least resistance towards success.

This is why my administration carries out frequent town hall meetings to give account of our stewardship. We also devote considerable time to touring all communities in the state to engage our people and seek their input into the development of our annual budget. We devote a percentage of our capital expenditure to funding projects identified by the communities themselves, who in turn choose their own contractors and supervise the projects to conclusion. Through this initiative, we have gotten more projects done with quicker turn-around-time and better quality because it is supported in every way possible by the community. We have realized that contractors fear the wrath of the community far more than they fear government in spite of all the instruments of enforcement at our disposal.

?As part of my administration’s extensive policy communications strategies, we also have some of the most vibrant online media platforms. Our official website has been adjudged the most visited state government website and one of the most visited public sector websites in Nigeria. We also frequently publish milestone accountability materials in which our achievements are clearly stated to be assessed by all and sundry. The foregoing accounts for the phenomenal success we have been achieving in developing our state.


Let me give a practical example of how we resolved an otherwise contentious issue and achieved success with the application of Policy Communication strategies and tactics. When my administration resumed in October 2010, there were three higher institutions in the state as follows: University of Ado-Ekiti, located in the state capital; the University of Science and Technology, Ifaki-Ekiti and the University of Education, Ikere-Ekiti. Each of the institutions had major issues of underfunding, infrastructure deficits and incapacity to manage the hydra-headed complexities associated with higher institutions. The quality of learning in these institutions was sub-optimal with the attendant frequent squabbles with the authorities over accreditation of courses of study. It was obvious to us that these institutions were neither functional nor sustainable. It was therefore imperative on us to intervene decisively in rescuing the education sector from total collapse.

However, our impulse to act quickly was tempered by the need to carry all stakeholders along in deciding the course of action to be taken. We extensively engaged our experts in the education sector and set up a Visitation Panel to tour these institutions. Following the conclusion of the panel’s assignment, we also convened an Education Summit that had in attendance stakeholders from the academia, civil society, student bodies, traditional institution e.t.c. The Visitation Panel and the Education Summit made far reaching recommendations one of which was that the three higher institutions should be consolidated into one, thereby streamlining Government’s focus.
Carrying out the decision promised to be a tough challenge. We nonetheless proceeded with a range of Policy Communications strategies aimed at explaining the reasons behind our position and the details of how the policy would be implemented. We had to break down the entire technical lingo in the respective White Papers for our people to understand. We had to secure the buy-in and support of all stakeholders at the grassroots particularly the traditional rulers of the communities that played host to the legacy institutions. It was an interesting season.

The result of our strategy was that we successfully consolidated the three legacy institutions into one, now known as Ekiti State University. We did this while retaining our goodwill and political capital with all stakeholders. The Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) commended my administration for our ingenuity while urging other State Governments that had similar challenges to take a cue from us. It is noteworthy that Ekiti State University is among the very few universities in Nigeria that recently had 100% of the courses of study accredited by the Nigerian Universities Commission.

On the other hand, another tough recommendation of the Education Summit did not enjoy the positive nod that the University Consolidation did; this had to do with our determination to improve teacher quality in our Basic and Secondary Schools. Indeed, we have had few instances in which the sub-optimal application of Policy Communications has given us avoidable challenges in the implementation of necessary reforms. I would share an example also from the Education Sector which many of you here might be familiar with – my administration’s Teachers Development Needs Assessment (TDNA) tests.

The TDNA test was designed to address the issue of capacity deficits on the part of teachers in our public schools, and forms a part of a holistic Education Sector Reform strategy. You would agree with me that all efforts at reform in the Education sector, particularly at the primary and secondary school levels, would come to naught if capacity building of teachers is not prioritised. The needs assessment test was thus a necessary first step for our administration to know exactly the areas we should exert our focus in meeting the needs of the teachers individually and collectively. I must however admit that while we devoted great attention to the technical details of this policy, we could have given more attention to the management of communications with stakeholders particularly the teachers who were to be the main beneficiaries. The resistance to the policy was stiff and highly inimical to the success of the policy and the goodwill enjoyed with this critical segment of the society.


We have since addressed this by improving the capacity of the Ministry of Information while also establishing a Bureau of Strategic Communications to complement the efforts of the ministry.
With enhanced Policy Communications in place, the mutual antipathy of government and Civil Society will come to an end. Civil Society will continue to express the communal instinct to regulate power but the chronic antagonism that poisons relations between the state and civil society will be replaced by mutual respect and positive tension. Civic engagement means that the state can access a much larger pool of wisdom and knowledge made available by a new rapport with critical stakeholders, role players and beneficiaries alike. In return, the sanctums of governance will become much more accessible to the people. The idea at the heart of this discourse is that governance is a burden shared by all the stakeholders in the society. In this context, PR practitioners have a critical role to play in supporting government at the national and sub-national levels to advance development – not as propagandists but as purveyors of goodwill.
The way to excel is first to ensure that the product being sold is worth selling, not to believe that everything can be sold and that fancy packaging is what matters. Practitioners must always remember, and speak truth to their public sector clients, that the product is often the message, not the packaging. Yet, communications is the key that unlocks a good but hidden product.

Thank you for listening.

Dr. Kayode Fayemi
Governor, Ekiti State, Nigeria
Thursday, September 19, 2013

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.