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NTA to lead change mantra: Ibn Mohammed’s perspective

WHEN it comes to television broadcasting, Nigeria is expected to plunge fully into the digital terrain, Digital Switch Over, by 17th June 2017; and the implications are many. First, it is going to be an entirely different reality for the television industry. Second, television broadcasting will be so much  magnified that only the best can survive.

Third, broadcasters would be expected to turn-in stellar performance to remain relevant. Fourth, and this is fearful: competition is going to take an entirely different dimension, feverish: and media houses have to ferociously merge up to what one can describe as the increasingly rising tempo of the game of television broadcasting. This is expected in the area of content generation, marketing and engineering technology. Fifth, an innovative sense of management is expected to emerge to generate and midwife all the ideas that could make any particular television house remain relevant. So the question to asked is: Are TV broadcast stations ready to for all these?

In relation to the above understanding, just as the government of President Muhammadu Buhari is poignantly premised on Change, a philosophy that illuminates the need for new ways of doing things and of course to be largely facilitated by the right leadership, Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, seems to be right on course at the moment; with the assumption of duties of a new helms man, Yakubu Ibn Mohammed.

The Taraba-born Mohammed, who studied at the  Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, had earlier put all his working years as an exceptional broadcaster, in the services of NTA from 1977, rising to the pick of his career as a Director and later appointed an Executive Director Special Duties in 2008. He retired in 2012 and as they would say, what goes around comes around, has been appointed the new and 9th Director General of the broadcast behemoth, NTA, on 11th May 2016 by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Ibn Mohammed has been described as a man who knows the taste of good broadcasting and then can actually make it happen in practical sense; as a suave news man. He had created and produced so many programmes including Tuesday Live, Periscope, News Extra, Weekend File and Nationwide: programmes still running till date and are all frontline shows. Their relevance is attested to by the long stay on NTA schedule, even when many programmes had long been rested.

So what other antecedent does Mohammed needs? In fact, observers say that his high delivery pedigree was greatly necessitated by that special appeal of thoroughness, quick analytical skill and humane-nature which he possesses. His demeanour is always that of friendship and every encounter with him essays humility.

These aside, because sometimes, CV could differ from practicality – especially when you find yourself as a helmsman – and Mohammed knows this, as he says that the task ahead is challenging. You can accuse him of anything, but when it comes to bluntness that is his cosy ambience. Without mincing words, he regrets the “unprofessional path NTA navigated in its coverage of the campaigns leading up to the 2015 elections … which shook NTA’s credibility and left many of us in state of shock and disbelief” he submits. This is indeed a personal surgical appraisal of oneself and that is the beginning of a process of finding a genuine solution to a problem.

So what is the new DG thinking about NTA?  For him, the ideology that is going to hold sway in NTA from now is that of Change, as enunciated by the government. Essentially, that idea merges well with that fundamental understanding that broadcast media practice is predicated on innovative approaches to work delivery and that is all about change in its real sense.

According to Mohammed, NTA is critically going to key into “the Change Mantra of the present administration and ensuring the actualisation of the goals and objectives of the Buhari administration” he clearly states. Therefore, NTA will help in the articulation, propagation and promotion of government policies and programmes. Thus in the words of Mohammed, NTA “will promote, explain its virtues and promote its dividends.”

In ideal sense and looking at NTA hard in the mirror, the DG has resolved to tell himself the truth “NTA is not where it should be…we must stop living in denial and accept the fact that there is a lot of work right now before us” he says. To achieve this, he believes that NTA has almost inexhaustible reservoir of talent, both within and outside. Consequently, he intends to evolve a deliberate policy of tapping from these talents to propel the desired shift in the fortunes of the organisation.

That would ultimately mean the stabilisation of the polity through the promotion of positive ideals, thereby sustaining the unity and peace in the country. For NTA and its people, this is a sine qua non of the existence of the organisation. To say the least, the President can only deliver on his agenda and the economy can indeed grow – either from within or outside – if the country is peaceful and cohesive.

What is also not lost to Yakubu Mohammed is the fact that the media audience today has become wiser and more analytical – arising from a combination of factors like exposure – presence of so many other platforms, including social media (which has brought intense competition to the traditional media terrain), education, need for more information in a world challenged by so much societal and economic issues, and these guide what they want to watch. With the mentality of a strategist, NTA intends to merge all these developments with innovative thinking and effectiveness.

Yakubu Ibn Mohammed is a man who can close his eyes and navigate every corner of NTA station nationwide and coupled with his intimidating experience, it is no doubt that the foremost television house will witness a sea-change in fortune. That in every sense will usher in an era of quality and impacting content in crisp and sharp picture; while adhering to core professional ethos.

For this to happen, he must also bear in mind that the workforce who would put their hands on the deck, indeed swim and sink with him deserve attention in a special way; considering the difficult nature of the television business. Do they call it staff welfare? Coincidentally, it is said that he was a foremost promoter of better working condition for staff during his days in NTA. It is therefore expected that he does not lose memory of that record. Every leader needs goodwill – both spiritually and practically – if he must right his name in gold. This can only happen when the soul of the workforce is in sync with the leadership.

Funke Oga & Jenson Okereke,  public affairs commentators, wrote from Abuja.

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