…As PGF, spokesmen meet in Lagos, review info mgt
By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Minister for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, said that investigations by the Federal Government have revealed that separatist campaigners, especially those residing outside the country, were using Twitter to attack security forces, burn police stations and Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC offices in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, Muhammed explained that the recent suspension on operations of Twitter in Nigeria was a tough decision to take, considering that many of Nigerian youths also use the platform for business.
He reiterated that over 400 online sites were specifically set up to bring down President Buhari-led Administration.
The minister made the remarks on Thursday, at the meeting of Progressive Governors Forum, PGF, an umbrella body of All Progressives Congress, APC, goverrnors, and information managers of APC government, held at Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja.
However, the dissemination of communication management on the current state of insecurity, infrastructural development and economic-growth of Burhari Administration as it affected other federating units, topped agenda on the ocassion.
The participants which had in attendance, the host, Governor Bababjide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, Special Adviser to the President on Media, Femi Adesina and his counterpart from the office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande, while other participating governors attended via virtual platform.
Others in attendance include: Members of the state Executive Council, Lagos, Information Managers of APC Government, and board members of the forum, General Managers of Nigeria Television Authority, NTA, Voice of Nigeria, VON, among few others.
Muhammed, who said that despite the delay occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic and sundry issues, the meeting finally became a reality.
He commended Sanwo-Olu, for graciously hosting the meeting.”I commend the tenacity and commitment of the organizers, while hailing the patience of all those involved.”
The minister, in his keynote address, titled: “Contemporary Challenges of Information and Communication Management-Regulatory issues and Requirements, described the social media as a double-edged sword, providing opportunities and challenges perhaps in equal measure.
Speaking on the challenges, said, “There is no doubt that the social media is the medium to reach a vast majority of our youth, and we have used our social media platforms, whether it’s Twitter (before it was suspended), Facebook (FMICNigeria) or Instagram (fmic_nigeria), to disseminate information to the public. Our official website, fmic.gov.ng, is also very active, and indeed was the winner of the 2018 Bureau of Public Service Reforms Ranking on Best MDAs Website.
He continued: “For the information and communication manager, the so-called new media provides the ultimate test. As you all know, we recently had to suspend the operations of Twitter in Nigeria because of the threat posed by the gross abuse of the platform to the nation’s peace and unity.
“Twitter is the platform of choice for separatist campaigners, especially those of them residing outside the country, who use it to issue directives to their followers in Nigeria to attack our security forces as well as to burn police stations and INEC offices.
“It was a tough decision to take, considering that many of our youths also use the platform for business. Such is the challenge posed by the social media. At its request, the government has agreed to engage with Twitter and, hopefully, we can both chart a path forward, without compromising our national interest.
“While many have accused us of stifling the press with the ban, we say Twitter is just one of many social media platforms being used by Nigerians. WhatsApp, which is most used by Nigerians, is there. And there is Facebook, Instagram, Google hangout, among others.
“Leveraging the new information and digital technology will undoubtedly facilitate our work as government information and communication managers.
“The multiplicity, immediacy and pervasiveness of the platforms of information dissemination mean that we can reach more people much faster.
“In other words, the democratization of the technology of information dissemination is posing new challenges to us. Anyone can wake up this morning and decide to become an online newspaper publisher, online television station owner, online radio station operator.
“They spread whatever information that catches their fancy without engaging in the rigours of accuracy, fact-checking and fairness imposed by the traditional media.
“But there is another problem: They have their own public, and this public believes whatever information they put out! To worsen matters, the traditional media is now increasingly regurgitating whatever is put out by these emergency purveyors of information.
“Then, and this is avoidable, there is the painful lack of synergy among managers of information and communication in all strata of our government.
“The clear demarcation of responsibilities is breached at will, as we seem to be competing against ourselves. Information Managers rarely compare notes, thus duplicating efforts while the myriad of information being generated from the various programmes Iisted above do not percolate enough to the grassroots, because the managers at lower levels do not utilize them well, or perhaps are not even aware of them.”
Muhammed stressed that: “Perhaps the most daunting task anyone could take on, in this age and time, is that of information and communication management. It is even more daunting when you are engaged in information and communication management for a reformist government like ours.
“As you all know, ‘change’ is the mantra of our party, the APC, and change, as we all know, does not come easy. While the task of government information and communication management is daunting in normal times, today, with the advent of new information and digital technology, the word ‘daunting’ becomes an understatement.”
Giving insight into what the Ministry of Information and Culture and the official spokesperson for the APC-controlled Federal Government have been doing, the minister said, “what we consider the most important aspect of our responsibility is to project the massive achievements of the administration, especially in the three priority areas of fighting corruption, tackling insecurity and revamping the economy.
Highlighting programmes of Buhari administration till date, Muhammed said, “We have organized 19 Town Hall Meetings across the six geo-political zones and covering a myriad of issues, such as the war against corruption, insecurity, infrastructure, economy, food production, herdsmen-farmers clashes, national unity, protection of public infrastructure, among others.”
On testimony series, he said: “This is a unique programme that we launched in the run-up to the 2019 general elections to allow Nigerians to hear directly from citizens who have been positively impacted by the programmes and policies of this Administration. It was so successful that the opposition issued a statement asking for a probe of the (imaginary) billions that we supposedly spent on the series.”
Speaking on the role of the party spokesman, Muhammed stated: “The party spokesman has a lot to contribute, not just in telegraphing the achievements of the party/government but also in countering the disinformation by the opposition.
“There are things that are sweeter in the mouth of the party than in the mouth of the government, hence an effective party spokesman is indispensable to the successful management of information and communication of any government.
“It is said that alone, we can do so little, but together we can do so much. This is the way to go. We, the information and communication managers of our party and government at all levels, must create enough synergy to enable us work together so we can achieve more. The organizers of this meeting have provided us with a launching pad. We must now take off.
“A starting point is to create a WhatsApp group for all information managers to regularly interact. Every media intervention must be uploaded on the platform, for the use of all. Also, meetings like this must be institutionalized.
“It will not be a bad idea if we hold this meeting quarterly. Finally, we must ensure better funding of the information sector at all levels.”