Arts & Entertainments

Why scientific application of communication strategies is imperative for development

This sizeable seminal work by Sam-Loco Smith ventures into a territory that is at once dear and loathsome to people the world over – with accentuated emphasis on Nigeria, one must add. The potpourri created by a convergence of these concepts interests virtually everyone.

This is because their very destiny and wellbeing depend largely on how polities are able to manage them to produce results. Some have made good of the six concepts and created ideal societies based on peaceful coexistence, social order, collective prosperity, satisfaction and civil calm. Loathsome, because, on the other hand, the six critical concepts often have found themselves in a cauldron in which a Broth of Death is brewed, so to say. In this cauldron, strife, avarice, violence and cheating are made to simmer perennially, leading to periodic boiling and explosion, often at electioneering and election times.

These, in turn, beget societies wallowing in the antonyms of the other side of the polity coin – unceasing civil strife, social anomie, lopsided prosperity and extremes of privation, discontent and civil turbulence.

Being able to raise empirical dialogue on this quagmire that has been the doom of many a society is what Sam-Loco Smith has ably begun through this work. What he has done is to create a channel for intellectual exchange – rather than rabble barrage of communication – an exchange that encourages all parties to think afresh, reflect and agree that peace and order will always oust rage and chaos.

This book brings out the real feel of what has gone on in political activity in Nigeria since the independence eve year of 1959 up to the present year, highlighting the various elections that have taken place over this period. Some questions should be asked, though, and they are these: Should advertising be expected to bring serenity to a situation that is reputedly laden with disorder – at least in Nigeria? Wherefrom are these expectations coming? Above all, if at all advertising can bring good relief, how? Will answers be found in this great effort of a book? Possibly, methinks.

Why? The very content structure of the book, its empirical and didactic bent, the methodological array of facts, figures and informed views, its deep investigation of the political party structures in Nigeria – and, may I add, the propensity for bedlam by the political parties over the decades – are sources of hope that somebody, somewhere would listen, and give serious from-the-bottom-ofthe- heart thought to the big question: Why can Nigerian political activity not be as calm and serene as it is in some other parts of the world? Dr. Smith may in this cerebral work not directly be attempting to provide answers to highly disruptive political systems in Nigeria, but he has brought to the fore how the scientific application of communication strategies, and the granting of opportunity to bona fide communication experts to manage political and electioneering communication could make a difference in establishing a plausible correlation between organised political exchange through scientific channels, and scenarios of free-for-all miasmic “communication.”

This is shown through a systematic examination of political and electioneering scenarios inherent with, and without, systematic use of advertising, and the comparative electoral outcomes. For some reasons, electioneering and elections are just a step short of full-blown war. The verbal warfare at times becomes virtually palpable – you can almost feel the verbal arsenals strike you and disable you in some way.

This book attempts to disambiguate the enigma of vicious electioneering in Nigeria, and attempts, even if feebly, to give great potency to advertising and other mass communication tools as fail-not panaceas.

The covet thrust of this work is that things would surely be better if advertising strategies are purposively deployed in the entire process of political activity: not just at campaigning and voting times, but into the administrative machineries of the political parties, government structures at all levels, and into citizen sensitization programmes. Enriching this confidence is what one considers as the great strength and unique point of this book.

The mass of interviews with experts from both sides – politics and communication – is an unusual but refreshing approach to serious book writing. Smith excels in this strategy, marshalling up as many as 23 interviews and dialogues with eminent persons, active participants, media experts and scholars, which are supported with 11 tabular depictions of sundry election outcomes since 1959; several campaign messages, including song lyrics; a wholesome 122 advertisement reproductions; deep interpretation of numerous topical landmarks, including the epic 1993 presidential election which is reputed to be the watershed of the systematic use of advertising in political activity; and several news reports and photographs of various controversial advertisements. All these point to work well done by a hard-core professional and scholar. And did he really put hefty time and effort and devotion to getting it out to the world today!

It took a lot of outreach, appointments and disappointments, schedules and reschedules and disschedules, primary and secondary fact gathering, archive tunneling, and, of course, writing, discarding and rewriting, to get where we are today. The book as it turns out bears good testimony to all the sanguine effort put in by Sam-Loco Smith and his bevy of research aides, documenters, word processing hands, editing helpers, materials screening experts and proof reading eyes. Before us today is a pleasant- to-behold and chunky-to-hold work to be proud of. Its sheer bulk, 592 pages of easy-to-read content, looks like proof positive that possessing it – and reading it! – will be real value for money. It is well printed and bound, propped by fold-in gloss front and back covers, clean innards and wellmanaged spine. It also has good referencing with 140 entries.

The good referencing could compensate for the rather sparse indexing of just two pages of 36 entries (pp. 590-591). For a 592-page book, this means 16.44 pages per indexed name or subject entry. This will surely pose a challenge to ease of identification of materials of reader interest.

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