By Julius Oweh
Asaba was the host of the 46th meeting of the National Council of Information from October 26th to October, 2016. As usual, the Minister of Information, the States Commissioners for Information, managers of government owned media houses and other key stakeholders like the NUJ and RATTAU were all present. It was a three day session of brain storming of charting a new way forward for information in the country.
The first two days were devoted to the technical session and the third day was the main session. Welcoming the delegates, the Delta State Information Commissioner, Mr. Patrick Ukah charged them to exchange ideas and use the new technology and new media in advancing the frontiers of information delivery. He disclosed that there were dedicated media workers in the ministry of information and the state owned government media. Ukah spoke of the achievements of the Okowa administration in the information sector: ‘
I am proud to say that the DBS has gone digital and can be seen on Star Times channel 141. And it is also worthy to note that it has state of the art studios in Warri and Asaba. For our print asset, The Pointer, we have emphasised on the need to cross promote our news on our website and several platforms while working on integrating a mobile app. It is my prayer that we enjoy our stay here in Asaba‘.
The chief host of the summit, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa harped on the importance of information and the role of the Ministry of Information at the federal and state levels. He postulated thus: ‘In theory, the Ministry of Information is the officially designated organ for managing and disseminating government information; it is supposed to be the clearing house for all government information.
In practice, however, we have seen situations where heads of other ministries and political appointees made public pronouncements that contradicted the official government policy, leading to confusion in the minds of the public and loss of confidence in government information machinery. A clearly defined and well documented policy on information management easily has precluded such faux pass‘.
On the challenge of the social media and citizenship journalism, he advised information managers to be more scientific and strategic using the internet, the social media platforms and the mobile phone. Okowa counselled thus: ‘The current scenario calls for a paradigm shift in managing the interface between the government and the public. As information managers, your first responsibility is to ensure that information fed to the public is complete, accurate, relevant and understandable.
You must also become more scientific in your approach and go beyond the realm of information dissemination, to embrace the more strategic function of communication. I believe the Ministries of Information should serve as sensors of stakeholder and public opinion on and about policies, programmes and performances of the government through periodic perception audits. The intelligence gathered is very useful in ascertaining the impact and acceptability of government policies and programmes, as well as helping to gauge the public mood and their perception of the president or governor‘.
The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed explored all the gamut of information management and dissemination and what those in charge should do. He explained the roles of the information officer: ‘As Minister or Commissioner and indeed other stakeholders in the business of government information management, are the true agents of change. Our portfolios and responsibilities bestow upon us the primary role of informing, enlightening and educating the people. In normal times, this task is daunting. Today, with the advent of new information and digital technology, the word ‘daunting‘ becomes understatement‘.