This piece could have been titled the failure of money or the collapse of falsehood, or better still the battle of facts and fiction; any of the titles would best have described the running battle between public relations and raw propaganda in the run-up to the recently concluded Elections in Nigeria.
And I can bet many aspiring politicians not only in Nigeria or Africa but the world over have a lot of lessons to learn from the way and manner media was deployed to guarantee success or to guarantee failure.
Most of the so-called media managers had no clue whatsoever about what media management was all about. In fact the simple rudiments of communication were lost on most of them. Quite a number of those who were paid huge sums of money to launder the image of their employers hardly understood what constituted image talk less of what constituted laundering.
Many people assumed, erroneously though, that once you can speak fluent English, or Hausa or Igbo or Yoruba you are home and dry with communication. There is a gulf of difference between a mastery of language and the art of communication. That one speaks good English does not mean that one knows the art and science of persuasion or that one knows what to say at appropriate times.
It should also be realised that pure mastery of language does not imply that whoever has that mastery is also adept at public and human relations. Yet human and media relations are very critical in the art and science of public relations practice.
What happened in several quarters in the build up to the Elections was the false notion that a sharp cutlass is all that is needed to weed the grass without considering the state of the mind of the handler of the cutlass or his expertise in cutting grass.
So many characters that have had the opportunity of being published once or twice in some newspapers started parading the corridors of politicians brandishing their so-called portfolio and because of the limited knowledge of their clients they cornered fat contracts. This was more so with clients that had more cash than sense, and were hell bent to win elections by hook and crook.
It may not be necessary to mention which political party did what or which politician wasted dollars on propaganda, but attempt will be made to speak on the different approaches employed by different parties.
What was clear and what informed the title of this piece was that while a political parry employed public relations strategy and astute media management, another party relied heavily on propaganda, trouble shooting and outright falsehood. In electioneering, what matters most to the electorate is visibility. Your facts and claims must be visible and verifiable. Outright lies will achieve opposite result from what is intended.
There should also be consistency. A party hinged its claim to purposefulness on simple cardinal points. And as we do in Public Relations; the Party remained consistent and focused harping on the cardinal points which in no time became a sing song.
And where it attacked its major opponent, it chose only three or four of the opponent’s failings and harped on such failings to no end. As a result, its opponent was identified with only the failings it was branded with.
Party A also chose symbol, an arrow head. The symbol was well packaged, refined and corporately branded such that the symbol became a towering figure to be trusted and believed.
Party B spent the whole world oozing out raw propaganda, creating falsehoods and spent a hell of time not on what it could or would do if voted into power, but throwing punches like a blindfolded boxer. In the end, Party B became odious and nauseating simply on the strength of the stench coming out from the belly of its chief propagandists.
Insults do not win an argument. And throwing tantrums at one’s opponent is not the best way to win sympathy from observers. In a society where respect for elders is mandatory, any propagandist that disrespects the norm in the name of electioneering will only succeed in losing the love and affection of the generality of the society that upholds the norm of respect for elders.
It is also important to mention that media communicators for a political party must speak with same voice and in the same language. But where you have a cacophony of voices with unrhymed tunes there is always the danger of confusing the listeners and the electorate.
All in all, it was a colossal waste of resources, especially money and materials because propaganda does not come cheap. Of all the forms of relevant communication genres; marketing, advertising, public relations, propaganda is the most expensive. And apart from in battle, propaganda does not actually achieve much. Those who therefore expended all their resources on cheap propaganda have now learnt to their chagrin that outright lies and mischief do not win elections.
For the purpose of those who may be seeking to learn a lesson or two from this piece, anyone wishing to handle media campaigns either for politicians or political parties must first and foremost recognise the symbol of his campaign and package the symbol properly before setting out to market the symbol or object/subject.
If the arrow head of the campaign especially in political matters is rotten, no amount of propaganda can wash it clean. The first thing to do in the circumstance is to use what is called silent persuasion to make the symbol a bit acceptable before you can market it with extensive public relations and defence.
Unfortunately, everybody thinks he or she is a communication expert or public relations guru, and many patrons do not know the difference. It is now hoped that with the recent experience as an eye opener Nigerians and all those seeking g public office in the future will be more guided in their choice of who can best help them put their message across and who can win them friends as opposed to those whose tantrums will garner enemies in droves.
It can be said without fear of contradiction that the recent electoral battle was fought, won and lost as media management dictated.
It was not all about money. As a two-term Chairman of Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, I should know.