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1.1 Background of the Study
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. It has a population of 140,033,542 million people. It accounts for a quarter of the total population of the African continent. It is richly endowed with diverse natural resources which include a land area of 92400 sq km for agriculture, industry, and mineral resources extraction including oil and gas (Ogumola, 2006).
Past attempts at national development in Nigeria divided the country into two very distinct economic sectors namely: the urban and the rural sectors. The rural sector accounts for 70% of the nation’s population (FMARD, 2000). The major occupation in the rural sector is agriculture.
Before independence, the Nigerian economy was agro-based. Then, millions of small and large scale farmers in the rural areas were mobilized and supported by the government for agricultural production. The support got from the government by the rural area ranges from provision of infrastructures (roads, water, housing etc) to granting of subsidy on farm inputs such as fertilizer, chemicals, tractor services etc; granting of soft loans, and extension services etc. all aimed at encouraging farming in the rural areas . These supports attracted all classes of people to the rural areas with farming as the main source of income. Very few people were interested in living in urban areas. This action of the government was beneficial to the system as over 80% of the nation’s GDP came from agriculture based in the rural areas. To enhance the trend, the post independence constitution placed agriculture on the residual list and 13% of her earnings was devoted to agricultural development.
In the rural areas, the people and government devised various means of communication. Communication between the people was by use of town criers,
siren, opinion leaders, house to house mobilization etc. On the other hand, the government was reaching the people through the extension agents/officers. These officers were posted to farm centres, villages, wards and town. Their duty was to provide information to the rural areas. Such information include those on research findings, farming methods, use of facilities provided by the government, etc.
Also, officers called secretaries were employed and posted to rural communities for other developmental activities not related to agriculture. These secretaries relate with village heads to discuss such issues as taxation, community development projects, security and peace. There were sanitary inspectors and health officers who carried information on these sectors to the rural areas. They also educate the people on how to implement the policies These officers,(extension agents, town secretary, town criers, etc) though not professional public relations officers, partly played some roles of public relations officers then. The above descriptions give the status of rural development and public relations in those periods and these functions include what today’s trained communications refer to as public relations functions. Then, there were almost no privately owned corporate organizations. All development projects were initiated, financed and executed by the government. In some cases, the government incorporated companies to help carry out certain activities and projects. Some of these companies include; the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN) now Power Holding Company of Nigeria, Palm Produce Board, Cocoa Board, Cotton Board, the Nigeria Railway Corporation, the Posts and Telecommunication (P&T) the River Basin Development Authority, Golden Guinea Breweries, etc. The corporate headquarters of these organizations were located in the urban areas but greater parts of their services are extended to the rural areas directly or indirectly. Then everybody was at peace with his neighbour, the government and the environment.
Establishment of these organizations and other government activities were financed with proceeds from agriculture generated from the rural area.
In the 70s, oil was discovered in our land and huge sums of money started coming from the sector. For instance, in 2008 alone, 2.435 trillions naira was earned from excess crude. This made government to abandon all other revenue earning sectors and focused on oil. At the same time the revenue from these other sectors started to dwindle.
For instance, the share of agriculture to export fell from 80% in 1960 to a disappointing 3.7% in 1980 as against oil and mining which rose from 15% in 1970 to 92% in 1980 (Odigboh and Onwualu, 1994). The implications of this situation are: low standard of living for greater majority of Nigeria (FMARD, 2004), high poverty level, shortage of food for local consumption, reduced foreign exchange, collapse of rural infrastructure and amenities, increased unemployment, increased rural to urban migration in search of white collar job, etc (Ijere, 1991, Anazodo, 1980, FMARD 2004).
Rural development has been defined by many authors as:
Development of the rural people in such a continuous manner as to enable them to effectively and efficiently utilize their intellect, technology and other resources for further development of both themselves and their resources (Olatubonsun, 1975). A strategy and process designed to improve the economic and social life of the rural people (Anazodo, 1980). On the other hand public relations is defined as the promotion of rapport and goodwill between a person, firm or institution and other persons, especially the public or community at large, through the distribution of interpretative material, the development of neighbourly interchange and the assessment of public reaction and as a management function that identifies the needs, interest, wants and expectation of the internal and external publics of the organization (Nwosu, 2006)
Although, the government abandoned agriculture, which is the main rural based source of income to both the government and individuals then, oil the new found source of revenue is also rural based. Though rural based, income from oil is being used to develop the urban areas neglecting the rural areas and the people therein.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The neglect of the rural areas and the inhabitants which are the main sources of income for both the government and individuals is associated with a number of problems. These problems are:
· Collapse of existing infrastructure
· Mass movement of people from the rural to urban area in search of white collar jobs
· Over population of the urban areas
· Increased crime and starvation in both sectors (urban and rural)
· Rancor and hatred between the rural people on one hand, and government and corporate organizations on the other hand.
More often than not, the situation degenerates into loss of lives and property. A case in point is the militancy in the Niger Delta. Recently there was demonstration by the indegenes at Eleme Petro-Chemical Industries, Rivers state over non provision of amenities to the community by the industries, Similar cases are being reported in quarrying sites at Ishiagu Ebony state and Lokpanta in Abia state. Also at Umudike the operational base of National Roots Crops Research Institute there has been reported cases of quarrels between the indigenes and the management of the institute. The case between oil companies in the Niger Delta and the host communities is no longer news. It is also being rumored that the bombings in the northern part of the country were remotely
caused by long time neglect of the rural people. While accepting that the neglect of the rural areas is contributory to a number of these problems, it is also strongly believed that the situation could be managed to reduce, if not removing it by nipping it in the bud. This could be achieved by establishing and operating a good public relations network by both the government and corporate organizations. However, the government and corporate organizations have made some efforts aimed at addressing these problems to an extent. Some of these efforts include establishment of such agencies as Department or Ministry of Rural Development, National Orientation Agency, radio stations, public relations units in government and private establishments, etc.
1.3 Justifications of the study
A number of researchers have carried out studies on rural development public relations. However, a number of these works were conducted on the two (rural development and public relations) fields of study independently. That is, except for the works of Nwosu and Uffoh, 2005, the previous researches did not link or critically examine the roles and/ or the impacts of public relations on rural development programmes of the country even though the roles of public relations form integral parts of the nation’s National Policy on Rural Development. These roles which were referred to as public relations functions as reviewed elsewhere in this report are also contained in the policy objectives of many ministries, agencies, parastastals, private companies and statutory organizations including non governmental organizations. The authors that attempted to link public relations with rural development were not critical and exhaustive. This gap justifies this research.
1.4 Objectives of the Study
The objectives of this study are, to:
1. Review rural development and public relations activities and programmes in Nigeria.
2. Indentify the role of public relations in rural development in Nigeria.
3. Determine the impact of public relations in rural development in Nigeria.
1.5 Scope and Limitation of the Study
This study is designed to cover the whole Nigeria as the issues of rural development are both national and international. Hence, the background, statement of the research problem, and the literature review were drawn from the experience in Nigeria. But due to cost and time constraints, the field investigation will be limited to selected government agencies, non governmental organizations and private organizations located in Enugu state.
The following questions were posed some of which formed the bases for formulating the hypotheses (for field data collection for this study). They are;
1. Does public relations play a role or roles in rural development in Nigeria?
2. Does the role or roles played by public relations in rural development in Nigeria have impacts?
4. Are the roles played by public relations in rural development in Nigeria effective?
4. Are there constraints to the smooth delivery of rural development programme?
1.7 Research Hypotheses
Hypotheses were formulated based on a number of the above questions. The formulation was done with a view to providing answers to the questions above. They were formulated with respect to;
(a) The roles of public relations in rural development in Nigeria
(b) The impact of public relations in rural development in Nigeria
(c) Effectiveness of public relations in rural development in Nigeria
(d) Constraints to the smooth delivery of rural development programme The hypotheses H0 and the alternatives H1
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