The place of self-advocacy in NOUN's visibility

By Sunday Adama

Recently, the former Head of the Department of Mass Communication, National Open University of Nigeria, Dr. Chidinma Henrietta Onwubere, on her own volition, took an advocacy campaign to her church, the Church of Holy Trinity, Lugbe Archdeaconry, Kubwa Diocese of Abuja, to create awareness about NOUN activities in her church during the youth harvest programme. While Onwubere should be commended for this very initiative, every NOUN staff should, as a matter of necessity, use every available opportunity at his or her disposal to replicate this result-oriented initiative.

Advocacy is not alien to NOUN. In fact, advocacy is as old as the establishment of the university and it is the live-blood of the university. In this respect, NOUN’s advocacy is likened to the saying, "...let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works..." This is highly instructive and an eye-opener to all staff of NOUN.  So, as far as NOUN is concerned, advocacy is indispensable. That people are aware of NOUN and its activities today is a function of advocacy genuinely carried out by the NOUN's founding fathers. This is mainly done by NOUN Study Centres across the country where NOUN takes advocacy campaign to traditional rulers, government agencies and parastatals, the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), schools and hospitals, among other places.

Available evidence has shown that in NOUN, mass advocacy is officially recognised and more prominent than other forms of advocacy such as self-advocacy or personal advocacy as the case may be. A day hardly passes by without one hearing the news of how a Study Centre takes advocacy campaign to one place or another. This is highly commendable but a lot needs to be done. There is need for staff of NOUN to delve into other forms of advocacy: self-advocacy.

What then is self-advocacy? As the name implies, it is an advocacy campaign a person willingly, voluntarily and personally carried out with a view to creating awareness for his or her organisation on behalf of the organisation. One of the crucial things in self-advocacy is that you do it on your own volition and not by coersion. It is done out of joy in order to promote, publicise, advertise, and create favourable image for your organisation. Self-advocacy is purely Total Quality Management (TQM) in action. In management as a discipline, TQM is recognised and acceptable; it simply means adding value to an organisation where you work. On this basis, every staff of NOUN, irrespective of his or her position or place of work, must make it a point of duty to add value to NOUN. One sure way of doing this is through self-advocacy.

Self-advocacy has many advantages if properly carried out. One of the advantages is that it creates room for follow-up.  Secondly, people will be more convinced hearing from the horse's mouth. Thirdly, there will be room for questions and answers, thereby building prospective NOUN students' confidence in your institution, among other benefits. In this respect, NOUN staff can take advocacy to their family members, churches, mosques and social gatherings, among others.

Get the NOUN advocacy materials such as NOUN bag, key-holders, car stickers, T-shirt, calendar and NOUN News bulletin for your advocacy. What will be your unique selling point (USP)? It is: come and study in NOUN, learn at any place at your pace. NOUN is flexible, accessible, affordable and of course, cult-free. Tell them that NOUN products go for NYSC and the Nigerian Law School. Tell them and tell them until you win students for NOUN.

Yes! There are other vital things NOUN staff must bear in mind before embarking on self-advocacy. These are: preparation, planning, presentation, communication, co-ordination and conviction. These are necessary ingredients for effective and efficient advocacy. Be persuasive in your communication and win students for NOUN. Present your advocacy campaign convincingly and that settles the matter.

At this juncture, let's borrow a leaf from Onwubere’s self-advocacy to her church. The first and the most important propelling factor that spurred the lady into action is willingness as well as her undiluted love for NOUN. She said: "I actually started some quiet advocacy for NOUN in church since I registered in this church in 2017 and I am glad to say that it has yielded meaningful results for both the institution and on the part of students". This is very instructive to all staff of NOUN. Let's toe her good part.

Also, another vital thing to look at is Onwubere’s preparation and planning. She sought the approval of the university management and formally requested for advocacy materials. She produced the Video Compact Disc (VCD) and a detailed report of her personal advocacy to her church. In fact, she prepared and planned excellently well. No wonder, she achieved the desired results.

In addition, Onwubere deployed her communication skills to the fore. She communicated so effectively that her church members responded without hesitation. She said, "The church was held sway as they listened attentively to my presentation and in acceptance of the issues I highlighted.  The initiative was really worth the effort".

 She added, "Immediately I retired to my seat after my brief speech to the congregation, adult members sitting around me bombarded me with all kinds of questions regarding the types of programmes we have for mature people and how they can register. I directed them accordingly".

Continuing, she added: "My phone lines have been buzzing since Sunday, the 29th of August, till the time of this report, all in a bid to get further information about NOUN. I have been receiving several calls from parishioners even while at my professional conference in Port Harcourt. Many questions were asked about NOUN programmes.

"Consequently, seven NOUN students across five faculties who had previously abandoned their programmes due to lack of counsel have revived them and five of them have graduated and collected their certificates".

This clearly shows that Onwubere is a trained communicator. She has proved her mettle beyond reasonable doubt as it is evidently shown. Due to her effective communication, she made an impact. Convinced by the effectiveness and efficiency of personal advocacy campaign, the erudite scholar recommended thus: "This type of activity can be replicated in other churches and mosques across the Abuja Metropolis, especially during any positive event that will bring youth together.This will enhance the physical visibility of NOUN personnel and their activities and it will greatly complement our online presence"

By and large, to continue to increase NOUN visibility, mass advocacy should not only be employed, self-advocacy should be intensified and sustained. And if self-advocacy is genuinely carried out, the current students' population of about 570,000 is a tip of the iceberg. Dr. Onwubere has since started it. Therefore, every staff of NOUN should, as a matter of necessity and urgency, follow suit.

Without doubt, this is in line with the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Olufemi Peters' agenda in moving NOUN forward since assumption of office on 11th February, 2021.


*Sunday Adama is a staff of Directorate of Media and Publicity, National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN).