Public relations describes any form of communication which is aimed at bringing about goodwill and mutual understanding between an organization and its publics. As a planned communication, it concerns every organization, whether commercial or noncommercial, government inclusive. This is because, every organization needs to create a favourable image for itself before its internal and external publics for successful operation (Asemah, 2011).

Modern public relations (PR) practices first became popular in the United States in the early 1920s with the publication of Edward Bernays’s influential text (Nessmann, 1995) entitled ‘The Crystallization of Public Opinion’. Since then, the practice and management of public relations became a global enterprise (Sriramesh and Verčič, 2002; Culbertson et. al, 1996) that cannot be ignored. Within a short period, public relations gained popularity not only in the United States but also amongst foreign governments (Kunczic, 2003) and multinational firms (Olasky, 1987; Hutton et. al, 2001; Wakefield, 2000; Sriramesh, 1996). Today, public relations are practiced in most countries around the world and more importantly in non-western developing countries (Al-Enad, 1990).

Contrary to Ajala (1993) and many other authors that public relations practice began in Nigeria during World War II, modern public relations practices began in Abeokuta, Nigeria on December 3, 1859, when the Christian Missionary Society (CMS) published the “Iwe Irohin” (meaning news journal), Nigeria’s first newspaper (Salawu, 2004a). The trigger for the creation of this newspaper is grounded in the desire by church missioners to inform parishioners of weekly Christian activities within the church.

This newspaper performed the first public relations function by providing up to date information concerning missionary activities as well as socio-economic and political activities affecting Anglican parishioners, Abeokuta indigenes, the settlers (Creoles) and Europeans at large. Our position is in consonance with Bates (2006). While tracing the history of public relations, Bates (2006) asserted that the development of modern PR began with the use of oratory, newspapers, meetings, committees, pamphlets, and correspondence by rebelling American colonies against England to win people to their cause”. The Iwe Iroyin, the first PR medium in Nigeria included news about colonial administration, some foreign affairs, advertisements and public announcements (Salawu, 2004b). Furthermore, the Iwe Iroyin laid the foundation of modern classified publicity, public advocacy and public announcements on births and deaths (Oduntan, 2005) in Nigeria.

Nigeria is miles ahead of a number of advanced industrialized countries when it comes to the professionalization of public relations. Our conviction is predicated on two arguments. First, unlike the Chartered Institute of Public Relations London, which got its professional charter in 2004, public relations practices had since 1990 been recognized by the successive governments in Nigeria as a professional discipline. The Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) got the professional charter, which recognized PR practices as a professional discipline in 1990 (Molleda and Alhassan, 2005). The charter limited the practice of public relations in Nigeria exclusively to persons registered by NIPR.

Besides, it was established far ahead of many European and North American public relations institutes. The popularity enjoyed by the professionalization of PR practices in Nigeria has encouraged many Nigerian universities and polytechnics to develop and run academic and professional degrees in this discipline (especially at postgraduate level).

Conservatively, there are at least 20 higher institutions of learning in Nigeria offering specialist degree programs in public relations (Otubanjo and Amujo, 2009).

Public relations has contributed greatly to the growth and development of Nigeria through all its phases of growth.