It was Sallah and the chicken was laughing at the ram as he was being led to the slaughter. But the ram turned to the chicken, noted his delirious, mocking laughter and told him: “Christmas will soon be here.”
- By Ikem Okuhu
I must have been away for the Easter break when the tiff between the Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria and the Finance Minister unraveled. I therefore did not follow the conversations until I went through my mails and saw an article from a reader, asking that we publish.
This reader, just to prep me on what his article was about, also added two links to a publication in Marketing Edge and The Punch. On opening one of the links, I discovered it to be a news item made out of a press statement from PRCAN condemning the Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun for giving a PR brief to a foreign agency by the name of Africa Practice.
The second link was also opened and I also discovered that to be a response from the Minister, justifying the brief her ministry had given to Africa Practice.
It was then I made up my mind to publish the article sent exclusively to us. I had my views on the issues PRCAN was (still is) challenging but I refrained from adding my voice to the conversation at the time for one reason.
I had written a couple of articles of recent that did not sit well with elements at PRCAN. In fact, while a number of members of the PR consultancy body called us to agree and commend our position on the issue at the time, some people in PRCAN executive were not happy with our position.
One of them made a post on the Social Media, accusing “some members” of the Association of fueling the conversation we were pushing while also not failing to claim, I was an attention seeker.
So given this circumstance, I decided to refrain from any commentary that clearly was going to be misinterpreted to be an agenda we were pushing for “some interests.”
But the rejoinder from no less a person than a former President of PRCAN, Chido Nwakanma reawakened our interest in the conversation and that is why you are reading this.
In his article, Chido held that it was wrong for the Finance Minister to farm out businesses and briefs to foreign agencies when there are PR firms in the country capable of doing the same job. For him, this was clear economic sabotage, especially, as also pointed out by PRCAN in their press statement, given the grim economic circumstances the Nigerian economy was facing.
While I agree with the original instigator that there are serious issues of professionalism that the Nigerian PR industry must have to overcome, it may surprise many readers that the position of Chido Nwakanma – that PR briefs for and from Nigeria should not be farmed out to foeign consultancies – is what we have used this platform to advance since 2012.
Sadly the greatest enemies to this battle at the time were coming from the Nigerian PR industry, the same people complaining today.
Just to refresh memories, the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) had during the period just mentioned, reformed advertising practice in Nigeria, producing the 5th Code of Advertising which limited the ownership of advertising agencies in Nigeria to just 25%. It also prescribed that foreign agencies would only handle briefs where it involved communications between Nigeria and the international community.
It then so happened that a foreign agency, Scanad, in breach of that Code, set up shop in Nigeria, against an affiliation agreement it had with a Nigerian agency, Prima Garnet.
Scanad had Nigerian collaborators to ensure a Nigerian law was violated. Scanad employed the services of at least three well-known PR agencies in Nigeria to fight a Nigerian advertising agency in this matter. Scanad till date, is still hiring more Nigerian collaborators and Nigerian PR agencies to clear the way for it to set up shop in the country in violation of a law and a pending injunction by a competent Nigerian court.
And that is the problem with most of us in Nigeria – we often do not understand the enormity of a problem unless it begins to happen to us. And that is why I wonder about the moral conscience with which PRCAN is making its demands of the Finance Minister when just a few years ago, it refused to appreciate the fight the advertising industry was waging against foreign takeover of jobs in Nigeria.
Interestingly, it is the same Prima Garnet that has risen in defence of PRCAN. Its Managing Director, Lolu Akinwunmi, had written an elaborate article in support of PRCAN, making it clear that the Minister should have given the brief to a Nigerian PR consultancy.
Let us read Lolu below:
“Quite a few people have sought my opinion on this. I have read what the PR Practitioners’ displeasure is and the purported response of the Federal Ministry of Finance. This is not a full response, but a brief comment.
Without mincing words, the government should have gotten a competent Nigerian PR agency involved in the process even if the campaign target was outside Nigeria.
One, it is doubtful if anyone in the Ministry of Finance adequately understands what it means and how to engage foreign PR agencies. A Nigerian agency would have consulted for them to help the ministry navigate the road.
Two, the Nigerian agency would also have served the purpose of helping pick the right offshore agency and helped to manage the process and ensuring compliance and effectiveness.
Three, it would have been very good learning for the Nigerian agency and the experience would have been valuable.
Four, globally, most countries first give such briefs to their nationals who then manage the engagement of the foreign agency. This also would have been in line with the requirements of the local content act.
If the Ministry continues to argue that it went directly to a European or American agency because the required skills were not locally available, then how does it want to help develop local capacity? This is an area where the Chinese have helped develop the skills of their people. The Chinese would first give such a brief to one of their own which would then line up a competent local agency in the area of engagement.
The Minister of Finance at the start of her tenure did not have any foreign experience and yet took on many key assignments, learning along the way. If what her ministry is doing were to be duplicated, then the Federal Government would have assigned many of her functions to financial agencies in Europe or America because of her limited international exposure and competence. If today she does a better job, it’s simply because she learned on the job.
The government must support local skills development by a deliberate policy.”
This is exactly how an industry should work – everyone for everyone. A situation where an entire industry either sits on the fence or connives with extraneous interests to take briefs away only to cry wolf when it gets at the receiving end of a similar circumstance speaks of lack of sincerity.
It was Sallah and the chicken was laughing at the ram as he was led to the slaughter. But the ram turned to the chicken, noted his delirious, mocking laughter and told him: “Christmas will soon be here.”