I must say that I feel highly honoured to have been asked to give a brief history of the growth of Public Relations in Nigeria. I say this because I do not think I am the only Public Relations veteran around and I feel there are more veterans who are more qualified to handle the subject than myself.
However, I shall try to lead you into how our Institute became what it is today.
Sometime in 1961, a group of men and women, mostly in the multinational companies in Lagos and in public sector practicing Public Relations, gathered and started discussing the possibility of forming a sort of an association. This was without much progress, but they refused to give up and by 1962, their efforts began to yield results.
Information officers in the Federal Ministries were invited and regular meetings were held at the rooftop of the Mobil Oil Company along Broad Street, Lagos.
Some of the early pioneers included: Mrs. Aduke Moore, Chief Kanu Offonry, Chief Dotun Okubanjo, Ogbuefi Alex Nwokedi, Dr. Sam. Epele of blessed memory, Mr. Willy Harry, Miss Akingbehin, Chief Kunle Ojora, Mr. Hospidales, Mr. Pen Malaf and a host of others.
In July 1963, the Junior Minister in the Federal Ministry of Information, Hon. Yerokun formally inaugurated the Institute, which was then known as the Public Relations Association of the Nigeria (PRAN). It is of interest to know that a strong and powerful member of this Chapter was the First Secretary of the Association; Ogbuefi Alex Nwokedi, while late Dr. Sam Epele was the first President (he was then with the Nigerian Railways), and Chief Dotun Okubanjo was the first Treasurer. They held their post for some years.
There used to be regular monthly Luncheon meetings at which important personalities were invited to give talks. At that time also, there were only two main places in the whole country where practitioners could be found; Lagos and Enugu. Among those who held the fort in Enugu then included Chief Bob Ogbuagu and Mike Okereke; two past Presidents of the Institute.
Lagos Branch was not actually a branch then; it was recognized for its geographical position as the nucleus of the National body because it constituted the bulk of members for elections for national offices.
I must say here that the position of Lagos members as being the pivot of the National body notwithstanding, Enugu branch was very active and I can say that they contributed more to the propagation of the existence of Public Relations in the country. It was Enugu branch that would organise seminars and invite those of us in Lagos to such seminars and we would all troop there to attend. The so called National body was not doing anything of such.
It was at one of such seminars in 1978 that Mr. P. E. N Malafa and I started to discuss forming a real Lagos Branch because Enugu was really stealing the show and Lagos had not the qualification of a National body and it had no platform to organise such seminars. On our return from Enugu, we started talking to members and holding meetings at UNILIFE office offered to us by Mr. Ted Oviosu who was the Protem Secretary while I became Protem Chairman. Later, elections were held and I became the first Chairman of Lagos State Chapter while Mr. Oviosu was elected the first Secretary.
Then came Benin branch, it was a strong branch; too did organize seminars which we in Lagos and those in Enugu attended.
There had been many dedicated members since then and many were found to be fellow travellers. I do not intend to go into details. However, I feel very happy at the present state of affairs in the Institute as of today.
Among the past President were late Dr. Sam Epele, Chief Kalu Offony, Mr. Willie Harry, Mr. Ikhaz Yakubu, Chief Bob Ogbuagu, Sir Chief Alex Akinyele and Mike Okereke.
Among the important event in the life history of the Institute were the participation at the famous Kenya Conference in 1975 at which the Federation of African Public Relations Association (AFRA) was born. Nigeria hosted that body in 1978 and it was a very successful event.
In 1981, Nigeria attended IPRA conference in London and another one in Holland. In 1981, Nigeria also attended FAPRA conference in Accra and there we were elected the President and Treasurer respectively. Two other Nigerians including my humble self were elected council members.
The brief history I have given cannot be regarded as being complete because my premise was from the head and not so much from the records.