By Efosa Aiyevbomwan

Governance and communications have always gone hand in hand. The famous – and not so famous – leaders in world history have all relied on oratory and literary dexterity in galvanizing and leading their people during trying times – Winston Churchill, the legendary British Prime Minister, mobilized his people during World War two through inspiring newspaper commentary and trend-setting radio broadcasts. In this same vein, Churchill’s arch-nemesis and war time rival, Adolf Hitler, had inspired the German nation with his twisted ideology of world domination principally through his charisma and his published book, Mein Kampf.

This all goes to show how important communication is in managing the people of a nation, either for good or for bad. In Nigeria, for instance, we have had a history of leaders with slightly below par communication skills. That is not to say that we haven’t had it good too, though – the golden era of leaders at the federal and regional levels saw the likes of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo and the late Cicero of EsaOke, Bola Ige, widely renowned as the country’s best political orator in his life time. In recent times, however, we have witnessed a significant dwindling of leaders with the ability to draw a following, either through sheer oratorical prowess, or clearly and well-articulated policies.

This is where the art and practice of Public Relations comes to play.

PR indeed has many definitions and thus is subject to different interpretations. However for the sake of this article we will stick to one such definition: PR as the Lawyer in the court of public opinion. Oratory and charisma serve to help win people to a leader’s side particularly in the face of drastic policy introductions or overhauls i.e the fuel subsidy removal saga of January 2012, but in the absence of these, is leadership doomed to fail? PR assures that this is not the case as by employing certain strategies and tools, a leader can subtly overcome his inadequacies or at least divert attention from them.

Honesty – whilst charisma and oratory are certainly appealing in the context of governance, dishonesty goes a long way in discrediting a leader’s persona. When a leader is honest and forthright, he immediately endears himself to his people. This is particularly important in trying times, as the people’s goodwill remains the most important factor in overcoming difficulty.

Openness – Very much similar to honesty, openness refers to when a leader has no unhealthy secrets; his administration can be trusted to tell the people the true state of things. Are things dire, or are they relatively okay? Do we need to brace for tougher times, or is the government truly “on top” of things? When the people know that they can trust the information coming from their government, that information is certainly going to be accorded significant respect and attention.

Fairness – Often overlooked in the Nigerian context or do or die politicking, fairness is indeed a very important element in the success of any administration. How fair are you, in your communication, to members of the opposition and generally critics of your administration? A fair approach in passing across information ensures that your audience sees you as balanced and nuanced, accepting the opinions of your opposition and the merits of their arguments, whilst firmly presenting your case. After all, it is as they say: “all is fair in love and war.”

Constant Communication – This is perhaps the most fundamental of all the factors. When you have decided to be fair, honest and open in your communication with your audience or people, ensure that you communicate constantly. Do not leave room for a dearth in communication; engage with your people all the time. Never stop.

So there you have it. These steps are not just for leaders in government; business owners, community leaders, industry stakeholders and social influencers, particularly those without the gift of the gab, can readily practice these tips and see the positive impact they have.

So try these tips today. Learn them irrespective of your present position – you might just become President someday.