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OPINION : In Ogun, NIPR Leads The Charge Against Climate Crisis

By Kunle Olayeni

On the bright morning of Saturday, June 1, 2024, members of the Ogun State Chapter of Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) set out to make a bold statement. Decked in branded red shirts, with fitting green Fez caps, and armed with a shared vision, they spiritedly spread the word about creating a greener, sustainable environment.

The public relations professionals were apparently concerned about the state of the environment which, from all indications, has been negatively impacted by climate change, and were determined to lead efforts towards mitigating the attendant challenges.

Of late, climate change has emerged as one of the biggest threats facing humanity. The existential crisis appears to have reached its apogee, resulting in enormous disruptions in ecosystems and posing numerous risks to lives and livelihoods. Yet, the level of awareness about the lurking dangers is believed to be at the lowest ebb within the contemporary Nigerian society.

Therefore, on the day set aside to commemorate the 60th anniversary of NIPR, members in Ogun State went all out to make a difference in advocacy. They showed class while carrying out the mandate given to state chapters to organise street walk simultaneously and plant 60 economic trees to sensitise the public on tree planting and preservation as well as reduction of the impact of global warming.

From the precincts of their State Secretariat in Oke-Ilewo, Abeokuta, the members filed out as early as 7:00am for the “Diamond Walk for Economic Transformation” and marched through the IBB Boulevard, Omida, Ibara Roundabout and Panseke, which was the endpoint of the road walk.

Accompanied by a live band and traffic control personnel, the campaigners made the procession quite spectacular and fun-filled as they sang sundry songs and displayed elegant dance skills to the admiration of onlookers. They also made few stops along the way to enlighten people about the importance of tree planting and environmental conservation.

From the Panseke area, the train moved to the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta where the second leg of the Diamond Anniversary celebration was scheduled. As a major partner of Ogun NIPR, the polytechnic had agreed to host the NIPR Diamond Anniversary Green Park and designated a specific location for the purpose.

The choice of MAPOLY was in recognition of the significant role being played by the institution in the training and production of highly qualified mass communication graduates over the years, some of whom formed the fulcrum of the public relations profession in Nigeria and beyond.

While welcoming guests to the flag-off ceremony of the tree planting campaign, the Ogun NIPR Chairman, Mrs Oluwaseun Boye, highlighted the significance of the event. Boye, represented by the Chapter’s Vice Chairman who also chaired the 60th Anniversary Planning Committee, Mr Waheed Ogunjobi, said the professional body understood the importance of promoting a sustainable environment as part of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

She explained, “The tree planting initiative is part of the NIPR corporate social responsibility and direct commitment to a green Nigeria, in line with the policy of the Federal Government of Nigeria.”

“We have earlier embarked on a street walk to educate and sensitise members of the public. The National Secretariat of NIPR directed that, today, colourful street walk should hold across the 36 states’ capitals in Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. It is tagged, ‘Walk for Economic Transformation’ and is in consonance with the NIPR concern for Nigeria to transform from the prevailing challenges facing our economy to a period of economic prosperity and sustainability.”

“The Green Park will serve as a garden and a hub for our Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, which are a hallmark of public relations. I believe that sustainable development means living today to preserve the environment for future generations. We must not be a prodigal generation that focuses on deforestation without corresponding afforestation,” Boye remarked.

The Chairman pointed out that the 1st of June was symbolic for the NIPR, as the Institute was established on June 1, 1963 before it eventually became chartered via Decree 16 of 1990. She thanked the MAPOLY management led by the Rector, Dr Adeoye Odedeji, for collaborating with the NIPR on its historic mission.

The Minister of State for Environment, Dr Iziaq Kunle Salako, who was the special guest of honour at the event, advocated the need to support initiatives that drive green energy, sustainable agriculture and conservation efforts across the country. He said the theme for the NIPR Diamond Anniversary “Green Nigeria” was quite apt. He commended members of the professional body for promoting an environmentally conscious nation by incorporating the idea of tree planting in their 60th anniversary celebration.

Salako, who was represented by the Director-General and Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN), Professor Zacharia Yaduma, called for collective commitment in fostering a sustainable environment in Nigeria. He pointed out that the Federal Government requires strong stakeholders’ support to combat the challenges of climate change.

He said, “It is with great joy and a profound sense of honour that I stand before you today to celebrate the Diamond Anniversary of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations. This milestone is not only a testament to the enduring spirit and resilience of the organisation but also a beacon of hope for our shared future.

“The theme for this year’s occasion, ‘Green Nigeria’ holds special significance. However, if you permit me, I will like to change that to ‘Greener Nigeria’ so that we clearly convey the concept of acknowledging that Nigeria is green but a continuous and unending commitment is needed to continue in the path of progress. The theme underscores our collective commitment to fostering a sustainable and environmentally conscious nation.”

The minister stated that it was possible to create a new Nigeria that not only thrives today but also flourishes for the coming generations. This, he added, would require concerted efforts.

He further said, “As we reflect on our journey as a nation, we are reminded of the vital importance of sustainable development. Greener Nigeria is not just a slogan; it is a call to action. It urges us to embrace practices that promote environmental stewardship, to innovate in ways that reduce our carbon footprint, and to invest in the health of our ecosystems.

“Today, as we celebrate this Diamond Anniversary, let us renew our pledge to protect and enhance our natural heritage. Let us work together to ensure that our forests remain lush, our rivers flow clean, our gutters waste free and our air stays pure. Let us support initiatives that drive green energy, sustainable agriculture and conservation efforts across our beloved nation.”

Salako applauded the organisers of the event for their “vision and dedication in highlighting the importance of a green and sustainable Nigeria.” He also urged the reputation managers to undertake more climate actions at the collective and personal levels.

“Your efforts are inspiring and your leadership is crucial as we strive to build a brighter, greener future,” the minister remarked while congratulating the NIPR for reaching a remarkable milestone.

While assuring that the Federal Government would welcome collaborations aimed at sustainability and environmental stewardship, Salako announced the donation of 1,000 seedlings to support the tree planting campaign of the Ogun NIPR.

Also speaking, the Governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun, lauded the NIPR for contributing to the wellness and well-being of the Nigerian society through the tree planting campaign. The governor, who was represented by the Head of Service, Mr Kehinde Onasanya, noted that the NIPR was planting for posterity as the trees would outlive the current generation.

His words: “During the process of photosynthesis, trees will take in carbon dioxide and give out oxygen. Oxygen is life. So, by what we are doing today, we are relating to our environment by contributing to the wellness and well-being of our society. Let us applaud the NIPR. Tree planting is very important and as we are planting 60 economic trees today, I want to call it trees of life, which will outlive our generation.

“So, Ogun State Government will continue to partner with NIPR towards advancing the cause of public relations in our society and in our state. Public relations is very important; it is about strategic communication, it is about image, it is about perception and it is about fostering strategic partnerships with various bodies.”

The governor promised that his administration will continue to enhance the capacity of Information/Public Relations Officers in the state’s civil service towards discharging their onerous responsibilities effectively for the good of the state.

In his remarks, the MAPOLY Rector, Dr Adeoye Odedeji, said the polytechnic, which he described as the citadel of public relations, was excited to partner with the NIPR on the tree planting exercise. He assured that the Diamond Anniversary Green Park would be nurtured as a unit in the institution for both present and future generations.

The Rector said, “What we are witnessing today is a product of payback because when you look at those who make up NIPR Ogun State, they are products of MAPOLY or individuals that have had one thing or the other to do with MAPOLY. They have been critical stakeholders and want to appreciate the NIPR for giving us this opportunity.”

“I can assure you: we will treat this Green Park as one of our units in the Polytechnic. We will care for it, we will nurture it. Perhaps, all of us will not be here in the next 60 years but people would know that some people sat down here today and planted these trees,” he added.

Notable among dignitaries who delivered goodwill messages were the state Chairman, Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria, Alhaji Ebun Atinuke; Chairman, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr Kunle Ashimi; Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Comrade Wale Olanrewaju; and National President, Landscape Horticulturists Association of Nigeria (LAHORAN), Mr Sanya Falemu.

On his part, Atinuke said the APBN, which coordinates the activities of all professional bodies in the state, was proud to be associated with the laudable and wonderful gesture of Ogun NIPR. Since his assumption of office as APBN chairman, he declared that the public relations professionals had continued to set the pace in making positive impact.

“So, on behalf of APBN, I want to congratulate NIPR for this giant stride again and to say that we are going to note all these records and by the time there is need for us to accord due recognition, honour and award, definitely this is going to be part of it,” he said.

Similarly, Dr Ashimi conveyed the felicitations of the NMA and said his association was pleased to identify with the landmark initiative of the NIPR. He was of the view that the tree planting campaign would result in better health outcomes for the local communities.

Speaking in the same vein, Comrade Wale Olanrewaju said the Ogun State Council of NUJ was strongly in support of the NIPR in its current advocacy. He pledged the readiness of the union to establish a stronger synergy with the public relations body going forward.

While giving his own remarks, Falemu submitted that the Ogun NIPR has upped the ante in bringing the core values of public relations practice to bear on the larger society through strategic collaborations. He said LAHORAN was happy with the decisive step taken to focus attention on the environment.

Falemu said, “If we observe the volume of carbon that are emitted daily either from the trucks or from the industries, and even from our generators, they are just too massive. Without the trees trapping those carbons, you can imagine how we would have got ourselves into extinction.

“So, tree planting as being done today, is a plus for the environment and it will go a long way to help us. Whatever we do to the environment, either we abuse it or conserve it or we protect it, we are doing that to ourselves because we all belong to the environment.”

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• *Kunle Olayeni* is the Secretary, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), Ogun State Chapter and can be reached via kunleolayeni@gmail.com

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