Public Relations As A Tool For Eradicating Cultism In Nigerian Tertiary Institutions

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Public Relations As A Tool For Eradicating Cultism In Nigerian Tertiary Institutions


Abstract


Cultism activities have turn most of the school into citadel of violence as many lives and property have lost and damaged. Realizing the havoc which cultism has wrecked on both members and non-members of the academic community, all hands must be on deck to combat the menace. It is on this notion that the research examines the role of public relations as a veritable tool for eradicating cultism in tertiary institution in Nigeria using ObafemiAwolowo University Ile-Ife as a case study. In this research the Four Models of Grunig’s and Hunt’s PR Theories was used. The research design for the research was quantitative method with survey research method chosen. Multistage sampling was used to select respondents within OAU with 100 copies of questionnaires were administered to respondents while 90 copies were retrieved. The data collected were analysed and interpreted using simple percentage and table (Descriptive Statistics). Findings show that Public relations play its part in curbing cultism by organizing anti-cultism workshops and lectures on campus, erection of anti-cultism billboard in order to inform students of dangers of being a member. It was recommended that more punishment and sanctions should be implemented on students so as to reduce or cub the menace.


Chapter One


Introduction

1.1 Background of the Study

Tertiary institutions in Nigeria are expected to play a major role in the country’s human resources development and to serve as vibrant centers of productive research and academic excellence. In recent times, cult violence has become a serious bane among tertiary institutions in Nigeria; and intensely so in the last two decades. Quite unfortunately too, tertiary institutions in Nigeria are the major critical target point where the bulk of adolescent offenders are either students or stakeholders who constitute the high risks and also pose challenges to institutional managers who are at the receiving ends of youth violence and psycho-pathological carnage in university campuses (Austin, 2009). Most of the extant literatures that have ventured to study the phenomenon have been preoccupied mainly with magnifying the implications of secret cult activities in Nigerian universities which includes youth carnage on campuses commonly referred to as cult wars, thuggery at political events/activities, motor parks “overthrows”, rivalry for the same girl/woman referred to as macho-violence, gang rape, drug-related violence, assault on lives and property, indiscriminate use of light weapons, dangerous arms, and the resultant disruption of academic calendar (Austin, 2009). According to Austin (2009, p.1) “a major factor working in the favour of cult groups is mass ignorance on the part of students especially the new students who are hoodwinked and deceived in joining their dead cemeteries”. Secret cult activities have and are still causing hindrance in the smooth flow of academic curricula in Nigerian tertiary institutions. There is no doubt that the phenomenon of campus secret cults is negative development in tertiary campus secret cults is negative development in tertiary institutions and has destroyed and still destroying the value of academic life, meaningful co-existence, the pursuit of academic excellence and inter-personal relations required in academic community. However, students are not prevented from forming social groups like clubs and other social gatherings but when the groups turn into culture of violence; posing as factors detrimental to democracy and inimical to the development of manpower required for the emancipation of Nigeria, then they should be discouraged. It is against this note that this research study is anchored on investigating how public relations management of conference could be used to eradicate cultism in order to create acceptable social order in Nigerian tertiary institutions with a focus on Nasarawa State University, Keffi.In doing this, the researcher drew inspiration from George Santayama’s quotation that “those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it”. For the purposes of empirical analyses in the later part of this study, a secondary survey of the history of public relations, cultism, and its various names, mode of operations, objectives and modes of initiation has been conducted.

The development of public relations practice in Nigeria originated from the British colonial government. As a result of the unpopularity of government policies and measures (conscription, taxation, scarcity of essential goods, etc.) and growing tension among the populace, the British colonial government felt the need for an organ to create a favourable local image for its war efforts. During the colonial period, a lot of government activities were shrouded in secrecy, which made the words and actions of the government very suspicious. Consequently, it established the first information office in Lagos in 1942 with the aim of disseminating war messages in which many Nigerian service men were involved. As a result, the colonial government deemed it fit to establish public relations unit known as War Information Office. In 1944, the Information Office was renamed Public Relations Office under the leadership of D.C. Fletcher. In 1947, the Public Relations Office was renamed Public Relations Department under the leadership of Harold Cooper. The Public Relations Department introduced regular press briefings and issued news releases frequently. It also published magazines such as the Nigerian Review, etc. According to Asemah (2011), the public relations department established branch offices in the regional capitals of Ibadan, Kaduna, and Enugu in line with the regional set-up brought about by the Richards constitution. The aim of the public relations department was to calm the tension of Nigerians and to create an atmosphere where British colonial policies could face no resistance. During this period, 64 Nigerians (most of whom were former journalists) including Cyprian Ekwensi, Peter Enahoro, Ayo Lijadu, and Sam Epelle were employed as publicity officers. In 1954, the public relations department was also renamed to Nigerian Information Service and this was the predecessor of the present day Nigerian Ministry of Information.British colonial government led the way in setting up public relations practice in Nigeria. This was closely followed by statutory corporations and agencies, The Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN) now Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) was one of the first government parastatals and agencies to establish a public relations unit when in 1950 it established public relations department to carry out its mutual relationship with customers. The Nigerian Railway Corporation set up a public relations department with late Sam Epelle as the public relations officer. Other government institutions that contributed to the development of public relations in Nigeria included the University College Hospital, Ibadan (1956) with Scott Emuakpor as the first PRO, the Customs and Excise (1960) with Alex Akinyele as the PRO (Asemah, 2011).

Within the private sector, the United Africa Company (UAC) played the pioneering role in establishing public relations department in 1949. The department was located at the old Niger house, Marina Lagos, and from there, it spread out to other branches of the company at Kaduna and Enugu. Contributions of UAC to the growth of public relations is reflected in the fact that most of the public relations experts in Nigeria and who can be referred to as the foundation members of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations once worked for UAC (National Open University of Nigeria, 2010).

Asemah (2011) posited that the enviable position that public relations has attained in Nigeria today can be ascribed to the efforts of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR). To help create ethical standards in the fledging profession, Sam Epelle, one-time director of information in Nigeria, Tonye Willie-Harry, IlhazYakubu, H.K Offonry and Bob Ogbuagu founded the Public Relations Association of Nigeria (PRAN). With the formation of PRAN, public relations developed and assumed professional status (Asemah, 2011). After PRAN was launched in Lagos in 1963, it gradually spread to regional headquarters beginning with Enugu and Port Harcourt. The effort put in place by Sam Epelle in 1961 when he initiated the formation of a body that would “professionally think, plan, practice and live public relations in Nigeria” finally bore fruit with Sam Epelle as the Coordinator of PRAN. As the number of practitioners increased with better objectives, PRAN widened and developed into the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations in 1972, again with Sam Epelle as the first president. The promulgation of the institution’s decree No. 16 of 1990 under the leadership of Mike Okereke placed public relations on a higher status. The practice of public relations is so important that every corporate social responsible institution now take the operation of public relations seriously including tertiary institutions (Asemah, 2011).


1.2 Statement of the Problem

The Ritualistic tendencies, display of acts of terrorism and the wanton destruction of lives and property perpetrated by members of secret cults have become grave social malady on and outside university campuses. According to Hamza (2012) cited in Egwu (2003, p.4) the phenomenon of campus cult is negative development in tertiary institutions and has destroyed the value of academic life, meaningful co-existence, pursuit of academic excellence and inter-personal relations required in academic community.Cultism has created a dangerous sense of insecurity due to destruction of lives and property in Nigerian tertiary institutions.Secret cult activities in Nigerian universities are creating fears in the social interactions among students and lecturers. Many researchers have suggested ways in which cultism can be eliminated in tertiary institutions and the society at large but the problem of cultism keeps increasing. Therefore, the problem this study seeks to resolve is that how can public relations management of conference be used as a tool for eradicating cultism in Nigerian tertiary institutions especially Nasarawa State University, Keffi?


1.3 Objectives of the Study

The aim of this research study is to use public relations management of conference to eradicate cultism and its activities in Nigerian tertiary institutions especially in Nasarawa State University, Keffi. In order to achieve this aim, the following objectives were formulated to:

  1. Investigate how public relations management of conference can be used to eradicate cultism in Nasarawa State University, Keffi.
  2. Find out the extent to which public relations has been used in eradicating cultism in Nasarawa State University.
  3. Investigate the factors that can hinder public relations management of conference as a veritable tool for eradicating cultism in Nasarawa State University, Keffi.
  4. Ascertain other means in which cultism can be eradicated in Nasarawa State University, Keffi.

1.4 Research Questions

To guide this research study, the following questions were used:

  1. How can public relations management of conference be used to eradicate cultism in Nasarawa State University?
  2. To what extent has public relations been used as a veritable tool for eradicating cultism in Nasarawa State University?
  3. What are the factors that could hinder public relations management of conference as a veritable tool for eradicating cultism in Nasarawa State University, Keffi?
  4. What other PR strategy could be used to eradicate cultism in Nasarawa State University, Keffi?

1.5 Scope of the Study

According to Asemah, Gujbawu, Ekareafo and Okpanachi (2012) there are two types of scope of study. The first scope of study in any research work is content scope while the second scope is the geographical scope. Thus, this research study has public relations conference and cultism as its content scope while Nasarawa State University stands as the geographical scope.This study is anchored on Nasarawa State University as a scope because cases of cultism have been seen around High-Court and Angwan-Lambu residential areas of the institution.


1.6 Significance of the Study

According to Asemah (2011) knowledge is gained in every research work because researchers in no small measure add value to existing knowledge in different fields of studies. As the study investigated how public relations can be used to eradicate cultism in tertiary institutions, the results of the study are of significance to the myriad of groups and individuals whom are exposed to these activities and practices. The implications for education and human resource development in tertiary institutions, their communities, the law enforcement agencies, policy makers are that the cult activities and practices undermine the functions and activities of these institutions and policy makers would be in better position to formulate and enforce preventive measures to cultic activities.

For tertiary institutions especially Nasarawa State University, the findings provide information on cultism and violence which they may need to come up with informed policies to address the issue of cultism on their campuses.
Further, the findings bring out the ills of cultism and its effect on students, the learning process and the communities, thus creating awareness in the minds of all stakeholders in education and galvanizing them for positive action to end the menace and create awareness for change of attitude and behaviour.

The study also provides information for law enforcement agencies in order to improve existing laws, rules and regulations regarding students engaged in cultism and violence on tertiary institutions and the public.
Also, the study is significant because it provides suggestions on how to combat the problem of cultism on campuses and engender and inject good values and practices into the minds of those students who might be supporting cultism on tertiary campuses.

Communities associated with cultism will find significance in the results of the study because it will create awareness about the ills of the menace and collective effort will be made to end it. Students, lecturers and other researchers may find this study useful in the area of research.


1.7 Operational Definitions of Terms

The following terms are defined as applied in the study:

i. Public Relations:

A communication practice that establishes and maintains mutual understanding and relationship between two parties in order to have a peaceful co-existence.

ii. Management:

This refers to a combination of human and material resources in order to achieve either a self or institutional goal

iii. Conference:

This is a well-planned and organised discussion in a particular place between or among two or more parties for the purpose of arriving to an agreement on how to live a better life.

iv. Veritable:

This refers to something that is special.

v. Tool:

An instrument or implement either real or abstract that can be used to achieve a goal

vi. Eradicating:

Literarily, this means putting an end to something such as cultism

vii. Cultism:

Cultism refers to a group of people who indulge in worship activities that is not part of any established religion. Their activities include occult practices such as initiations, blood covenant, oath taking, and stealing, killing, raping and other demonic activities.

viii. Tertiary:

This refers to an advanced level of a practice or course.

ix. Institution:

A large important organization that has a particular purpose, for example, a university or bank.


Chapter Five


Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations

5.1 Introduction

This chapter summarises, concludes and recommends the research findings on public relations management of conference as a tool for eradicating cultism in Nigerian tertiary institutions especially Nasarawa State University.


5.2 Summary of Findings

The findings of this research study showed that there are cases of cultism in Nasarawa State University. The researcher used the research questions to find out the nature of cultism on the institution’s campus and outside the campus and how public relations management of conference can be used to eradicate it in the institution. From the findings, some of the causes of cultism in the institution are: peer group influence, inadequate welfare programme for students, inadequate religious or moral education and the search for security or popularity. The study also found out that the effects of cultism on students of the institution comprise the following: loss of lives and property, expulsion of students, stealing, raping, maiming and closure of the institution. Therefore, the study investigated that conference should be organized twice in a semester to discuss issues bordering on cultism between students of Nasarawa State University and its management in order to eradicate cultism on and outside the institutions’ campuses.


5.3 Conclusion

In solving the problem this research study identified on how can public relations management of conference be used to eradicate cultism in Nasarawa State University, Keffi, majority of the respondents said that conference should be organised two times in a semester based on the findings for the purpose of eradicating cultism in Nigerian tertiary institutions especially Nasarawa State University, Keffi thereby creating mutual understanding and relationship between the students and management. There is right of association. Students are never discouraged to form social groups for the purpose of fostering unity. But when they resort to unhealthy activities such as killing, stealing, raping, maiming, destruction of property then they should be discouraged. In doing this, violence should not be the means rather dialogue should be employed by organizing conference twice in a semester. Besides, there may be certain factors that can hinder public relations management of conference in eradicating cultism in Nasarawa State University which include: lack of clear definition on conference central theme, lack of attendance by the students, negligence on the part of conference organizer to follow up on progress report and incapability of the public relations department to evaluate its weakness or strength.


5.4 Recommendations

It is clear from the findings that public relations management of conference can be used to eradicate cultism in Nigerian tertiary institutions especially Nasarawa State University, Keffi. From the research questions:
How can public relations management of conference be used to eradicate cultism Nasarawa State University? It is hereby recommended that the following Frank Jefkings public relations planning model cited in Ogande (2015) be used by public relations officer in Nasarawa State University:

  1. Appreciation of the situation.
  2. Definitions of objectives.
  3. Definitions of publics.
  4. Selections of media and techniques.
  5. Planning of budget.
  6. Assessment of results and feedback.
Appreciation of the Situation:

Public relations department is not only established to bridge the information gap between the management and their students in tertiary institutions. It is also important to note that it is the duty of public relations department to regularly conduct research by scanning the university’s environment in order to appreciate situations that could hinder smooth running of academic activities such as cultism. To do this, public relations department should be funded and be free to make decisions on the best means to conduct the research. Therefore, the public relations officer in Nasarawa State University, Keffi should appreciate that cultism is a situation that needs to be eradicated.

Definition of Objectives:

Jefkings (1989) says the objectives of carrying out research on public relations are related to the situation or problem identified. In the case of cultism and its activities, the objectives of managing cultism through conferencing should be to have a conducive and danger free learning environment and to enhance the relationship and understanding between the institution’s management and the students. It is the duty of public relations officer in Nasarawa State University, Keffi to organise conference; bringing the management, students, lecturers, non-academic staff, community leaders, media practitioners and education researchers together to discuss issues bordering cultism.

Definition of Publics:

Odozi (2007) defines publics as that group of people or individuals whose activities can hinder or facilitate what an organization or institution does. They could be primary and secondary publics or internal and external publics. In this case, the internal publics are the institution’s authority, lecturers, students, and non-academic staff while the external publics are Keffi community leaders, media practitioners, state governor, Emir of Keffi and Lafia, concerned government officials, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other education researchers.

Selection of Media and Technique:

For the sake of creating awareness when planning a conference, internal house journal or memoir is very necessary. Posters should be designed showing the conference central theme and should be placed in strategic locations for students, lecturers and non-academic staff to see. Also, invitation cards should be printed and sent to respective external publics. The posters and invitation cards should contain the following items; name of institution, tittle or theme of the conference, target audience to be invited, venue of the event, time and date.

Budgeting:

Setting aside the fund that will make the conference a success from beginning till the end is very important. This should be estimated by the public relations officer of the institution. Authorities should not be in the position to determine the exact amount to be used. Let the PR officer do his researches and know exactly the amount he needs to execute the conference programme for the purpose of eradicating cultism.

Evaluation and Assessment of Feedback:

The public relations department should be capable to follow up the progress of the conference. Recommendations reached at the conference should be implemented. The report should not be allowed to die as this is one major problem often experienced in tertiary institutions where programmes are not well or not implemented at all.

  1. It is also recommended that public relations activities should be taken very serious in Nasarawa State University, Keffi. Apart from matriculation day, Nasarawa State University has no public relations social event which brings the management and the students together to discuss issues that border the students. Every institution is built on public trust and goodwill therefore, the activities of public relations in Nasarawa State University should be taken serious.
  2. There are the factors that could hinder management of conference in eradicating cultism in tertiary institutions. It is therefore recommended that there should be clear definition on conference central theme, students should be encouraged to attend conference meetings that affect their safety and academic wellbeing and the organiser of such conference should follow up on progress report to ensure implementation. The public relations unit in Nasarawa State University should be abolished and a department be created so that the public relations officer would be independent in decision making. He should counsel the institution’s authorities and implement plan programmes of actions that will serve the interest of both the management and the students.
  3. In addition, public relations officers in Nigerian tertiary institutions especially Nasarawa State University should also consider other public relations strategies such as publicity, press release, seminar and social events in ensuring peace on campuses.

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