The way and manner in which the Governor of Ogun State, His Excellency, Governor Dapo Abiodun had resolved the protest over the payment of #25,000 fee for COVID-19 test by SS 3 boarding students in private schools in the State has once again brought to fore the essence of public opinion management in governance.
Governance, especially in democracies, requires that formulation and implementation of government policies and programmes should take into consideration all stakeholders views and public opinion at various stages of formulation and implementation. With the way the fee had been introduced, there is no doubt that all the relevant stakeholders or publics have not been properly carried along and their opinion and interests respected.Hence, the wave of protests and spate at which even some relevant government officials distance themselves from the exercise.
However, the intervention of the Governor and his objective assessment of the situation must have revealed the shortcomings in the process and how public opinion does not favour, not only this process but also it’s implications for the image of the Governor and his government.
Essentially, the lessons to take away from all these, especially for many government officials, is that governments must be concerned about how their statements, actions, programmes and policies would be perceived and interpreted by the people; and it is against this background that we should see and appreciate the intervention of the Governor in resolving this matter in favour of public opinion.
I believe he deserves to be appreciated for the love he has shown to the affected children and his people in Ogun State. He has shown that governance is about listening, being sensitive, benovolent, responsible and concerned about the happiness and welfare of the governed. He has shown that governance is not about being too proud to review government’s policies whenever feedbacks and public opinion clearly make such expedient.
Governors should not be so power drunk that they feel that reviewing policies and respecting public opinion portrays them as weak leaders.
I am confident that the public spirited dispositions and gesture exhibited by the Governor have certainly, at the end of the day, shored up his popularity and goodwill rating, not only in the State but across Nigeria;and this shall be a reference point in what good governance should be in our democracy in Nigeria.
Femi Dokunmu is
Former Chairman, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, Ogun State.