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Opinions of Monday, 8 June 2009

Columnist: Akumey-Affizie, Nunya

Questions!!!! - Who speaks for the BNI?

Exactly twenty three(23) years ago today, the Nigerian State Security Service (SSS) was formed with the primary responsibility of protecting and defending the Federal Republic of Nigeria against domestic threats, to uphold and enforce the criminal laws of Nigeria, and to provide leadership and criminal justice services to both federal and state law-enforcement organs.

The SSS is also charged with the protection of the President, Vice President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, State Governors, their immediate families, other high ranking government officials, past presidents and their spouses, certain candidates for the offices of President and Vice President, and visiting foreign heads of state and government. The SSS serves as the Nigerian secrete service just as we have the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) in Ghana.

The SSS has various departments which include a public affairs outfit where the service interfaces with the public in explaining issues of public interest. It is not for arbitrariness that President Mills appointed Mahama Ayariga to be his Spokesperson just as President Yar’dua appointed Olusegun Adeyini as his Special assistant on communication. Robert Gibbs speaks for the US President, Barrack Obama.

While Mr. Kene chukwu speaks for the Nigerian State Security Service, we are yet to know who speaks for the BNI. This is the biggest public relation flaw I have witnessed in the history of this country.

The essence of a Public relations officer (P.R.O) is to manage the flow of information between an organization and its public. Because a public relations places exposure in third party outlets, it offers a third party legitimacy. PR can be used to build rapport with employees, clients and the general public. Almost any organization that has a stake in how it is portrayed in the public arena employs some level of public relations

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) claimed: “Public relations help an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other. According to the PRSA, the essential functions of public relations include research, planning, communications dialogue and evaluation. Mr. Edward Louis Bernays who is considered the founding father of modern public relations along with Ivy Lee, in the early 1900s defined public relations as a management function which tabulates public attitudes, defines the policies, procedures and interests of an organization followed by executing a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance" Today, "Public Relations is a set of management, supervisory, and technical functions that foster an organization's ability to strategically listen to, appreciate, and respond to those persons whose mutually beneficial relationships with the organization are necessary if it is to achieve its missions and values." Essentially it is a management function that focuses on two-way communication and fostering of mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and its publics.

Building and managing relationships with those who influence an organization or individual's audiences has a central role in public relations.

This is completely missing in the BNI in Ghana.

It is imperative to know the difference between QUESTIONING and INTERROGATION and INVITATION and ARREST. Is it a standard procedure to deny the counsels of the invitee at the instance of questioning?

What are the actual workings of the BNI in Ghana? Answers to these nagging questions would be best given to the Public by the Public Affairs Directorate (If there is one) headed by the P.R.O.

Fallout from the Kojo Mpianim’s interrogation gave birth to numerous security “experts” spewing out so much ignorance and naivety on this rather sensitive and crucial matter.

I real think that Ghanaian politicians are suffering from oral diarrhea. They even speak on issues they are clueless about. They turn themselves into experts on issues they hardly heard of in their entire lives. I find it very difficult to fathom why a Deputy Minister of State would speak on behalf of the BNI in a matter that resides solely in the bosom of the BNI. I also heard the president’s press secretary (who is supposed to speak for the president) sometime ago speaking on behalf of the BNI in the matter involving the NIB boss (don’t confuse the two).

I appreciate the fact that Government has a stake in these matters but the real explanations of the matter must be done by the BNI.

I admire the proactive nature in which DSP Kwesi Ofori is handling the Police service outfit concerning matters of public discuss. He seem to be on top of his job hence the seemingly better image of the Ghana police force is been propagated.

The BNI has not helped its course in leaving their modus operandi to public interpretations. While the NPP sees the prolonged questioning of the former chief of staff as unconventional, the NDC government spokespersons tried frantically to proffer explanations to the workings of the BNI. Everyone seem to be speaking and we seem not be hearing anybody. Who actually should we listen to?

After that infantile exercise by the ex-ministers in the Kuffuor administration in show of “hostile solidarity” for the former chief of staff, they virtually left themselves at the whipping ends of the public’s tongues. Some of them went further to attack the independence of the BNI. That action to me is most unfortunate and hypocritical. Barely five months of NDC rule, the confidence of NPP has suddenly and amazingly wore so thin that they seem to question the integrity of the Ghana secrete service.

In my candid view, the onus lies on the BNI to repair their image and regain their status as the only authentic state secret service.

In Ghana, Governments have sermonized their commitment to fighting crimes and corruption but no real action has been taken in that direction to strengthen the institutions of state responsible for the task.

It is interesting to note that in Nigeria, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) headed by AIG (rtd) Chief Mrs. Farida Mzamber Waziri has arrested several people especially corrupt ex-government officials cited in financial malfeasance. Do we see that in Ghana? It is unfortunate.

Until the BNI comes out to set the records straight, we would continue to witness the unfortunate unleashing of naivety and ignorance on the good people of this country.

God Bless.

Author: Akumey-Affizie Nunya London School of Journalism