It was both colourful and mind-blowing as Cross River State Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade; Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Ita Enang; Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and other prominent Nigerians gathered in Calabar, Cross River State, to grace the occasion of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR).
Relishing the intellectual assemblage of the 3-Day Workshop on “Lobbying and Social Change in Nigeria”, dignitaries and participants, during the opening ceremony on Thursday, at Transcorp Hotels, gave windows into their views of the intricacies and processes involved in lobbying.
Speaking as Special Guest of Honour, Governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade defined Lobbying as “persuasive engineering”, which uses “most convenient instruments for persuasion”.
Ayade who called for deliberate efforts in separating lobbying from ‘cleavages’ of corruption, noted that it “would be a herculean task” to draft lobbying regulatory laws, which he said, must be carried out by “very distinguished legal authorities.”
Recalling his partnership experience in the establishment of ‘Calachika’, the Cross River Chicken Processing Plant and the Garment Plant, Ayade raised concerns that the task of lobbying could expose people to dubious partners who could choose to sideline them, even while adopting their ideas.
While proposing incorporation of lobbying as a full programme in the Mass Communication Department, Ben Ayade stated that in the Faculty of Management Sciences, Department of Businesses Administration, lobbying must be introduced at the PhD level, to afford him the opportunity to pursue a PhD in Lobbying, having previously secured Masters degree in Businesses Administration.
In his remarks, Chairman on the occasion and Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed who spoke through the General Manager of NTA Calabar, Engr Samuel Olalude pointed out that lobbying was crucial to government, because it must engage the services of lobbyist for effective policies formulation and implementation.
Speaking earlier at the event, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Ita Enang viewed lobbying as “an act of persuasive communication to make other persons accept another’s point of view.”
Enang explained that Governor Ben Ayade was a good example of a lobbyist who though receives one of the lowest monthly allocations from the federation account, engages relevant agencies to obtain loans for state development.
Delivering his paper, “Best Lobbying Practices in Nigeria”, Ita Enang, during a technical session, said it wasn’t easy to set up a template for lobbying, as people must always adopt most convenient measures, depending on a given situation.
Ita Enang who took participants round his 24 years of legislative engagements and 36 years of active legal practice, narrated his episodes of lobbying, especially during the legislative progressions of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), Electoral Amendment Act, the Act establishing the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the Self Sufficiency Bill in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, among many others.
He emphasized that lobbyist must keep their hands clean, keep their eyes on the ball and stay on the issue, to be able to undertake effective lobbying.
Also speaking at the event, the NIPR President and Chief Host, Malam Mukhtar Zubairu Sirajo, reasoned that lobbying was “an advocacy to pursue interest, a vehicle deployed by professionals to gain penetration into people’s minds, and a specialized part of Public Relations which connects state actors with the decision making processes.”
Delivering an Address on the theme, “Institutionalizing Lobbying in Nigeria as Catalyst for National Development”, the Keynote Speaker, Brigadier General S. A. Usman (rtd), posited that lobbying was significant in public policy engagements.
Usman who established the need for proper legislative framework for better lobbying enforcement, recommended that NIPR must push for official establishment of “Lobbying” as an essential part of PR.
S. A. Usman who called on the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture to develop a framework for lobbying as a PR function and develop a legal framework for practice of lobbying in Nigeria, advised NIPR to begin a campaign for the establishment of Code of Conduct Bureau for lobbying.
High point of the event was the presentation of a commendation award plaque to Governor Ben Ayade in recognition of his industrialization strides in Cross River State.