Friday, July 14, 2023


 Sometime in 1991 as a Youth Corps member with the Ogun State Broadcasting Corporation, news got to me that a body named the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations was going to hold her membership outreach for new intakes into the PR profession in Nigeria. Venue was the Institute of International Affairs kofo Abayomi Lagos. I was greatly elated about the news which I had been waiting for to start a fresh path on my long desired journey of PR professionalism or image making. I had studied political science at the university of Ibadan. 

Eventually, the D-day came and I was at the auditorium of the Institute with multitudes of other green horns like myself. We had a couple of PR professionals who took turns to address us. In all of these, one personality that stood distinctly out of the crowd was Dr Adekunle Salu, a dark skinned dude, with an athletic frame and velvet voice. He was dapper with a uniquely barbed hair cut marked with an unmistakable airline called “parting” in our street lingo. He started by welcoming us with an infectious smile and candour which my mind had earlier conjectured as a true image of who an ideal professional should be. 
Pronto, Salu started reeling out the benefits of following the path of public relations as a profession. Being the pioneer Registrar of the institute, he convincingly directed our minds to the chartered examination route of the Institute which had just premiered. He counseled us to follow the exams path in order to be sufficiently grounded in both the art and practice of the profession. Looking back today, I cannot agree less with the sage. I took to his advice to be a chartered member of the Institute through qualifying examinations. My path was set and the rest as they say today is history, as I have through the grace of God and diligence risen meteorically to the pinnacle of my career as a CEO of a reputable institution today on the wings of PR, buoyed on the proverbial seed sowed by the iconic Dr Salu. I am sure many Image professionals today would regale us with stories of their life changing encounters with this icon of PR if time and space permit.
The fact that Dr Salu turns 90 and having put 70 solid years into the PR profession is worthy of being celebrated. Nigeria boasts only of such men in the ilk of the Accounting guru, Akintola Williams and Insurance Grandmaster, Olola  Olabode Ogunlana, in the prestigious league of longest serving professionals in our clime. 
Dr Salu has been providentially blessed on all fronts despite his advanced age, his mental faculty and alacrity are intact. Having authored several professional books among them the best seller “Understanding Public Relations” which is a bible of some sort for PR scholars locally and internationally, the literary pen of his is still dripping with ink as he is producing more and writing so vigorously as if he was in his twenties.
A product of the Nigerian College of Arts and Science, affiliated to the University College that later transitioned to University College, Ibadan, also an affiliate of the London University, Salu started his career as an Information Officer with the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation. It remains to his credit till date that he personally undertook the first national audience research for the station, a feat that propelled him to undertake further courses  in Edinburg and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in London. It is quite auspicious to note that Ghana was the only country after Nigeria in the sub Saharan Africa that has undertaken similar research till date. While working with NBC, Salu was also teaching Public Relations at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ).
To break the frontiers of his aspiration and practice, Salu took over the job of Editor “Links Magazine” of United African Company (UAC) in 1969. Like the glittering star that he was, it did not take up to two years before Salu was promoted as PR Manager with the company for its Lagos operations, while Michael Okereke held same position for the Eastern Nigeria office of the company. Not long after that, the trio of Salu, Ikhaz Yakubu and Michael Okereke were promoted as PR Counselors of the company, to strengthen its relationship with the increasing customers and publics in the country.
It was not a coincidence that the paths of Chief Ernest Shonekan who later became the Group Managing Director and Salu crossed at the UAC. They were actually secondary school classmates, but coming from a privileged family, Shonekan was sent to London to study law after which he returned to join UAC. Salu met Shonekan as an Assistant Legal Manager when he joined UAC and they kept a strong bond of affinity that oiled the delivery of Salu as one of the key Image Makers of the conglomerate. Their closeness was such that Shonekan deliberately delayed the signing off of Salu’s voluntary retirement letter from the company until he was able to convince him with cogent reasons why he had to leave.
While at UAC, Salu recorded some significant feats as the first Nigerian to edit the Links Magazine of the conglomerate as well as being the first PR professional to man the Lagos office of the company where it boasts of the highest clientele or customer base. It is also on record that Salu, out of crave to add value at his personal expense undertook studies on security in Germany and Austria which later became valuable to the company. He was once asked to address all Directors of Unilever in the UK, a rare feat at the time.
On exit from UAC, the bond of friendship and professionalism that strewn himself and Okereke remained strong and they resolved to fortify and expand the operations of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations through better ideation. Prior to this time, the Institute was essentially Lagos based. Mazi Mike Okereke later became President of the Institute and invited Salu as the pioneer Registrar. Regarded as the golden era of NIPR, the combination of the duo brought unimpeachable progress to the Institute as the enabling law was signed in 1991 under them. The Institute hosted the Commonwealth Public Relations Conference in Abuja, which was adjudged remarkably successful. Similarly, more chapters of the Institute were created in almost 19 States of the country. Salu was an unmistakable face of the Institute and a thinking head. NIPR under his Registrarship organized training for all Military officers and Commissioners of Police all over the country, while a faculty of trainers was inaugurated in the Institute. All Local Government officers (10 from each Councils), split between the administrative and executive cadres were trained by the Institute. There is surely no way the history of chartered examinations of the Institute would be told without a mention of Salu under whose tenure it was commenced. The Institute also worked on synergies with some notable higher institutions in the country, to give leeway for PR practitioners to undertake the course at the Post Graduate and Doctorate levels.
An author of distinction, Salu has, in addition to his pioneer book “Understanding Public Relations” written the 1000 pager book “Topical PR” which is a collation of 70 per cent of his practical work experience and case studies in PR. Other books on faith with 36 Chapters themed “Gods Purpose Public Relations” are set to debut.
As Salu clocks 90, it still remains an irrepressible burden in his heart that the NIPR logs into the advantage of imbibing Neurolinguistics programing, taught by only one university in Europe. His opinion is that the programme is an embodiment of ten other professions that would make every PR professional encyclopedic and more valuable in the scheme of things. He has also recommended “quadri-lingualism for transformational leadership” as another inroad for greater knowledge and relevance of Image making professionals. If anything else, Salu desires to see greater acceptance of PR by all leaders in government and corporate institutions, considering the value of the profession as the fabric of social cohesion and unity.
As the czar of PR joins the prestigious league of the nonagenarians, all image makers in Nigeria and globally could only wish him many more years of divine health and undiminishing value to the profession and humanity.  
Tope Adaramola  is a former Chairman of
Ogun State Chapter of Nigerian Institute of Public Relations

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