Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo’s recent letter to President Muhammadu Buhari over the present administration’s alleged poor performance, is generating discussions in various quarters. Also topical is the appointment of the board of Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, APCON, an action which has received criticism as it did not follow the APCON law.
The current government had dissolved APCON council alongside parastatals’ boards in July 2015. In December, 2017 it announced names of politicians and non-advertising professionals as members of the council, in contrast to APCON law. Between July 2015 and December, 2017, exactly 30 months APCON did not have a council which has dire consequences on the over N150 billion advertising industry.
Those appointed are Jacob Sunday (Chairman), Dayo Abatan, Aloysius Okafor, Sani Tulu, Akor Sunday, Ismaila Umar Sifawa and Murtala Adamu Atiku as members. Advertising practitioners who kicked against the appointment said the action is contrary to the APCON law which demands that council members must be fellows of the regulatory body.
Is the action a mistake?
Though, advertising practitioners have flayed government decision but an analyst who spoke to BusinessDay said incessant flouting of APCON rule is a deliberate action by the government.
On one hand, government sees some actions and appointments from political perspective. On the other hand, “government appoints people it would be comfortable with”, especially when such institution draws subvention from government purse, says Dare Ogunyombo of Brooks and Blake, a media agency.
It will be recalled that in 2014, government under former President Goodluck Jonathan appointed Prince Ngozi Enioma, a non-advertiser as APCON Chairman. There was uproar in the industry, as it is now, and Jonathan reversed the decision, replacing the rejected council with another one headed by Udeme Ufot.
Unfortunately, the Udeme Ufot led-board lasted for only three months when Buhari terminated boards of various establishments.
Lack of understanding
Such actions by government not only indicate desperation to be in control irrespective of the law establishing such organisation, it also indicates lack of understanding and the importance such organisation has on nation building.
According to a report, Biodun Shobanjo who was reacting to the recent appointment of politicians into APCON council believed that government has no understanding of what APCON represents.
Sharing the same view, Lanre Adisa, CEO of Noah’s Ark who was responding to BusinessDay question recently on his concerns about the industry operating for almost three years without the regulator having a board, said he was concerned not only for advertising industry but more for the country.
“If anybody knows the value of communication, then you would know the lack of understanding of not having APCON council. There is a big role on how we relate to people. We are a very key player in the life of this economy. People in government need to understand that and they don’t need to be told what needs to be done. On the lack of council, perhaps there are people whose interests are clashing with our own interest”.
According to analysts, such appointment against specified rule of law is capable of weakening or destroying such institutions and making it ineffective.
It is said that the appointment of non-advertising and marketing professionals into APCON council is likely to weaken the body and create confusion in the industry.
Side-lining Minister of Information
A report said the Minister of Information who oversees APCON must have been side-lined in the compilation and announcement of the names as the announcement of the politicians names instead of Admen would appear as if the minister is not protecting his constituency.
“The Minister was said to have been particularly saddened for being side-lined on an issue that falls exclusively within the purview of his ministerial jurisdiction”.
Advertising stakeholders consulting
A top industry source told BusinessDay that industry stakeholders are meeting to make government see reason to reverse itself on the appointment as it is not healthy for the industry.
The source said the stakeholders met last Tuesday to influence government to obey the rule of law establishing APCON by appointing advertising practitioners into APCON council.
The last option on their agenda is to see how the industry could wrestle APCON from the hands of government for autonomy and self-financing of the body to check such unsavoury development of appointment of politicians in to the council.
For instance, Steve Omojafor, former Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, who assessed the development in a report echoed other stakeholders believe that as long as APCON collects yearly subvention from the government, it shall continue to remain a lackey on government political chess board.