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Development is simply a shift from the conditions which are no longer
conducive to those considered to be conducive to society, according to
Prof. Andrew Moemka. Since it is the duty of the government to make life
more meaningful for its citizens, government should ensure adequate
communication of its movement from a bad situation to a good one. This
is because development is not half way but a complete paradigm shift
which must bring about a better condition of life not a worst one. No same
human being sees a better prospect and look elsewhere!
Development communication is the application of communication
principles to the development process. Nigerians want a better way of life
as promised by the government in the Subsidy Reinvestment and
Empowerment (SURE) Programme which the government promised will be
funded by the gained fund from the removed subsidy from the downstream
sector of the petroleum industry. The question is: did the government
manage the communication of the subsidy removal very well? The obvious
answer from most Nigerians including the labour, civil society and the
generality of the masses is that the communication was poor.
Then what should have been the action of government?
Since development communication smoothens the path to arrive at
development, development communication makes use of message with
every message having a basic outcome. The outcome can be ineffective,
effective or effected. The desire of development communication is
‘effected’ outcome but this can only be achieved when it reaches effective
stage; and when the government talks with and not by talking to or at the
Effectiveness even has three levels of success. These are whether the
communication is meant for awareness, comprehension/understanding,
and action/behavioural levels. One can say that the Nigerian government
does not aim for awareness as people were already aware of the issue of
subsidy over the years. So the government aims for comprehension and
positive action levels for the success of its action. But this is not the case.
Obviously, the approach adopted by government may not be faulty but
was over relied upon to achieve a positive action for the government. The
mass media which appeared as what government relied on could not
achieve the desired result because it only transmit information very fast
but do not change people’s way of life whereas interpersonal
communication changes people’s way of life only that it does not work as
fast as the mass media.
In this way, government should adopt oramedia as lead vehicle of reaching
the people and the various stakeholders as against the mass media
playing the leadership role. According to Frank Ugboajah unlike the mass
media which reach many people at a time but have only cognitive
influence (knowledge, awareness and interest), oramedia can only reach
few people at a time, but can be affective relay chain to the mass media.
This ensures a multi-step flow of information dissemination. This multi-
step flow from influential oramedia makes positive behavioural change, the
desire or objective of government, achievable.
What is oramedia? Simply defined, it is talking to the people in the
language they understand using familiar structures. In this way,
government can use other people’s influence including traditional leaders,
religious leaders, opinion leaders, market leaders, amongst others.
The advantages of this model is underlined by the “knowing the audience”
concept with its main advantage of the people seeing government as one
of them as against the current vehicle that distanced the government from
We have had cases in this country where some politicians won election
without directly campaigning. People campaigned for them. Even
President Goodluck Jonathan benefited from this. The same for Bola
Tinubu in his first gubernatorial election in Lagos State.
In this case of using the vehicle of oramedia, government plays the role of
“leading from behind” with the advantages of having the people
championing government’s course without the government even knowing
them or that they are doing that. Mass media will be used in this model
as a supportive and a reminder copy! These are the elements that improve
the popularity ratings of any government. Please note that development
communication is not saying that government should do for the people
what they want at the expense of what is better for them, but that in doing
what is better for them, the people must be talk with not talk to or talk at.
Leading from behind also has advantages like making the people and the
government to be more bonded, intact, and the fact that it will make the
government to be more confident that it is doing the will of the people.
For development communication to be effective, there are very important
enhancing characteristics. These are relative advantage, compatibility,
trialability, simplification, communicability and observability.
Relative advantage is better than comparative advantage in development
communication; compatibility says the new idea must be compatible with
the culture of the people, it must be compatible not just with what the
people want but what they need. Trialability means the new development
must be pragmatic. Simplification says the process and the message of
government should be simple enough so that they can be understood.
Here, Professor Jenkeri Zakari Okwori’s noted seven Cs of effective
communication become handy. The seven Cs are Command attention,
Cater to the heart and head, Clarify the message, Communicate a benefit,
Create trust, Convey a consistent message, and Call for action.
Communicability says people should be free to talk about the issue at
hand. Observability is a trait of communicability. It says the result of
development should be what can be seen so that other people can follow
This leads to radiation effect. What is radiation effect? It is when people
do good things others are doing
when they were not even part of the process at the beginning or not part of
the awareness level.
In employing development communication in the present case of removal
of subsidy for the SURE programme, government should marry it with
issues management principles. What is issues management?
Issues management is a pro-active approach to identifying concerns or
issues that currently face an organisation (country) or will be faced in the
near future, say in the next one to three years. Issues management
encompasses dealing with the issues identified with the intention of
enhancing the image, credibility and reputation as well as operations of
the organisation (country) and preserving the markets (integrity of the
Donald K. Wright (1991) said W. Howard Chase coined the term, issues
management. To Chase, issues management is the capacity to
understand, mobilize, coordinate, and direct all strategic policy planning
functions and all public affairs/public relations skills, toward achievement
of one objective: meaningful participation in the creation of public policy
that affects personal and institutional destiny which will make the people
to accept the government’s message without force.
By managing issues, government will check crisis which is the case with
the labour strike as a situation of strike is not normal and any abnormal
case in management or governance is a crisis.
When the issues are well managed, as said above, crisis is checked.
People will be on the same page with government without force. That is,
the government’s message is effected by being effective which makes the
people to accept the government’s message and do what the message
expects of them without government using any force. That is development
communication and the outcome will be a win-win situation for all as the
CBN Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi hope for. The win-win
situation will bring about development for all by reforming the society,
reorganizing it on the path of economic growth and development,
accelerate development, mobilizes the people for government’s
transformation agenda by informing and educating all and sundry for the
progress of Nigeria towards achieving the Vision 20 2020 in eight years
Ogedengbe is the Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Institute of Public
Relations, Lagos State Chapter. He could be reached at
Development communication strategy for
government’s oil subsidy removal
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By Kunle Ogedengbe
Saturday, January 21, 2012