…Says democratization of tech of info dissemination is posing new challenges to govt
By Olasunkanmi Akoni
The dissemination management of communications on the current state of insecurity, infrastructural development and economic growth of the President Muhammadu Buhari- led administration as it affects other federating units top agenda on Thursday, at the meeting in Lagos of Progressive Governors Forum, PGF, an umbrella body of All Progressives Congress, APC, governors, and information managers of APC governments.
The participants had in attendance, the host, Governor Bababjide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, Minister for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, Special Adviser to the President on Media, Femi Adesina and his counterpart from the office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande, while most of the governors attended via a 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.
In his keynote address, Titled: Contemporary Challenges of Information and Communication Management-Regulatory issues and Requirements, the minister stated: “However, I am seeking the indulgence of the organizers to tweak the topic to read Mitigating the Contemporary Challenges of Information and Communication Management.’ This is because we are not just here to dwell on the challenges we may face as information managers, but also to chart a path forward.”
Muhammed 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.”
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.
“Add to that the dwindling resources available to government, which has drastically affected the funding of the information sector, and you will understand the enormity of the challenges, contemporary challenges, that we face.”
Giving insight into what the Ministry of Information and Culture and the official spokesperson for the APC-controlled Federal Government has been doing, the minister, expressed no doubt, saying, “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.
“We do this by employing a mix of the traditional and modern methods, as Town Hall Meeting, Testimony Series, Documentaries, Bi-weekly Press Briefing, Press Releases, Media Tour of Projects, Advocacy Campaign, among others.”
Highlighting programmes of Buhari-led 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.
“To show that it wasn’t a fluke, we brought to Abuja, live, all those who participated in the programme, for live testimonies. We also produce documentaries, on a regular basis, on the various programmes of the federal government, the most recent one being the documentary to commemorate the second term, mid-term, or six years if you like – of the Buhari-Administration.”
Speaking on the social media influence, Muhammed described it as a double-edged sword, providing opportunities and challenges perhaps in equal measure.
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 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.
“Ordinarily, that should be a good thing. But when you remember that those who are trying hard to distort the information you are putting out also have access to the same technology, you will realize the meaning of the paradox of technology that I spoke about earlier.
“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! The traditional media is now increasingly regurgitating whatever is put out by these emergency purveyors of information to worsen matters.
“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 Listed 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.”