Mallam Mukhtar Zubairu Sirajo is the President of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR). A graduate of mass communication, he had served as the spokesperson to six governors in Kaduna State. The Managing Director of Amax Media, a reputable PR outfit speaks to the Isah Ismail of the Spokesperson Digest (https://spokespersonsdigest.com/) in this interview. Excerpts:
How do you intend to reposition NIPR?
My dream was to see the institute compete on an even scale with other sister institutes across the globe. A lot of effort has gone into repositioning it. I have done a lot into repositioning it even before I became president and I have been part of the repositioning process both as a member of the governing council and subsequently, as vice president. By time I became president, I was already familiar with the processes that led to laying of the foundation for the repositioning process. So, I am just trying to see how I can contribute my quota by laying the blocks on the already built foundation. By so doing, we want to see improvement and better NIPR than we met and inherited. As we are working towards that, by the grace of God, we will achieve it.
What are you doing towards ensuring that professional and certified PR persons are involved in image management?
Well, we are bringing the institute back to the consciousness of the country by giving the public relations profession more visibility to make it more respected. We are also ensuring that due processes are being applied using silent and not so silent advocacy- in both public and private sectors of our economy. This will ensure that, only qualified public relations professionals are assigned with public relations responsibilities. PR is not and oldcomers job. We have tried to encourage and remind employers both in the public and private sectors of the legal provision which criminalize the practice of the profession without required licensing by the institute which we have been making modest progress in respect to this. But it is not something we can do overnight. It’s something that requires time, patience and a lot of consistencies. But we are assuring that, this institute is on a higher level now than where we found it.
What is the membership of NIPR?
Well, I can’t give you a precise figure now because we are currently undergoing a recertification process. But of course, we are in our hundreds of thousands if not millions and people are recertifying by the day. Part of the mandate by the law which gave birth to the council gives us the power to ensure the production of the membership register which, unfortunately, had not been done in a very long while. Notwithstanding, we are trying to ensure that it is created before we leave office. By then, every member of the institute will have their names in the registers of members very soon.
Do you have relationships with higher institutions of learning in promoting the study of PR?
Firstly, we are reviving our collaborations with several institutions in running public relations courses leading to awards of certificate ranging from normal certificate, diploma, degrees up to post-graduate levels. Part of the revival process is the professional endowment in some higher institutions. Right now, we have reached out to Bayero University kano, to revive the Muhammad Sabo Prize for the best graduating public relations student. Similarly, we are also talking to other institutions of learning with whom we have collaborations so that we can also institute prizes to encourage the study of public relations in higher institutions.
We learnt that you intend to revive the annual PR Awards at the national level. When will it take place?
I don’t want to give a timeline but, the objective is to recognize excellence, to encourage people to strive for excellence not necessarily in the field of PR. The award is a PR award but not only meant for PR professionals, but the effort is to identify individuals and organizations who have excelled in various areas of endeavor. The award in different categories is to reward excellence, professionalism and outstanding contributions to PR practice and national development. It’s not going to be like other regional awards in other countries. The NIPR National Awards will be better and bigger than what is seen in other climes.
How do you intend to deal with unregistered members and charlatans claiming to be PR people?
We as an institute don’t have the power to prosecute. The law says it is a criminal offence to practice the profession without being a member of the institute. firstly, what we are doing is trying as much as possible to enlighten the people about the existence of the law and give them the opportunity to come and register with the institute if they are qualified. But if they are not qualified, we will put them through the processes which will qualify them for membership. The essence is not to punish or embarrass people; the essence is to make people comply with the law. If they can do that without ruffling feathers, they do it but, that does not mean that if ruffling feathers becomes necessary, they will not do it! Secondly, we intend to take the advocacy program to the office of the Attorney General of the Federation who is mandated by the law to establish the institute, to establish a tribunal to trial those found practicing without being certified. There are fraudsters who scam and run programs in the name of the institute, but with all intent and purposes we don’t even know them. But we are carrying out our intelligence gathering and right now, we are in court with those we have caught purportedly running our training programs.
What is your advice to PR Practitioners?
Brace up for a very challenging but exciting profession which is premised on excellence and truth. This is a profession that involves relationship building and as well concerned about reputation building, and reputation is the totality of an individual: when you don’t have it, your existence too is in question. They should prepare their minds and be themselves, they should be honest and see things from a broader perspective because as a PR professional, you are to deal with different perspective and the only way to succeed is to be versatile.