Evolution of Public Relation in Nigeria

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Nigeria gained its independence on October 1, 1960. In 1963 it became a Federal Republic and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, with about 140 million people (2006 national census) and the largest concentration of Black people in the world. One in five Africans is a Nigerian. There are about 250 ethnic groups, with three major tribes constituting over 40 percent of the population: the Hausa, Ibo and Yoruba. Other major ethnic/linguistic groups include the Tiv, Ibibio, Ijaw, Kanuri, Nupe, Gwari, Igala, Jukun, Igbira, Idoma, Fulani, Itsekiri, Edo, Urhobo and the Anang, and there are approximately 374 dialects within these ethnic groups. The official language is English, but indigenous languages are also commonly used, and most Nigerians understand and speak the “broken English” (Pidgin English). The most popular religions in Nigeria include Islam, Christianity and the worship of several indigenous deities.

Formal public relations practice in Nigeria can be traced back to January 1, 1944 when the British colonial administrators established the first Public Relations Department.2
The department was headed by Mr D.C. Fletcher, as the leader of a group of staff, which included a public relations officer, an assistant public relations officer, a process engraver, a press officer, a publicity artist, an antiquities officer, a photographer, a films officer, a radio officer and a confidential secretary. The function of the department was mainly to carry out “public enlightenment” programs relating to government activities. The colonial administrators targeted selected publics, such as Nigerian soldiers who participated in World War II as part of the British Army. After Nigeria gained its independence in 1960, the public relations department was transferred to the newly created Federal Ministry of Information (FMI) where it continued with information activities for its various publics. Typical information and public health campaigns focused on the eradication of communicable diseases such as yaws, yellow fever, and tuberculosis, and were often at the request of the WHO (World Health Organization). The FMI was also used to campaign for the success of government education programs through the cinema and open air film shows which encouraged parents to send their children to school.

The first public relations professional body, the Public Relations Association of Nigeria (PRAN), was founded by Dr Samuel Epelle, Director of PR at FMI. Epelle was influential for the development of public relations practice in Nigeria and in 1967, he published the first authoritative book on PR in Nigeria, Essentials of Public Relations. Epelle, as PRAN’s founder, became its coordinator and chairman and worked to recruit colleagues from other governmental departments and private industries to join him in enlarging PRAN’s membership (Oyekan, 1993). In 1969 PRAN was renamed the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) and several years later, it organized the annual Sam Epelle gold medal in his honour, which in 2008 still continues to be awarded.

Public relation started in Nigeria during the colonial era which was before independence during the establishment of the first newspaper in 1854 namely ‘iwe irohin published by henry Townsend (a British missionary). Through the establishment of the first newspaper in Nigeria which was 'iwe irohin' by the late Reverend Henry Townsend in the year 1859.The 'iwe irohin' was initially used to announce deaths, births, and marriages. It only had few or no advert in it. The British seized the opportunity to use the newspaper as a propaganda instrument. They were using the newspaper to their own advantage. They did not want Nigeria to become an independent state. The founding contributor to the advancement of public relation in Nigeria was Dr. Samuel Epelle. He was the founder of Public Relations Nigeria (PRAN) in 1990. The institute of Public Relations Nigeria was established...
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