The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has diclosed that managing information and communication of a reformist government like that of President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is daunting and requires high level of professionalism.
He added that recent challenges bedevilling the country, particularly insecurity, weak economy, among others coupled with increased usage of social media by Nigerians have made the work challenging and tasking and that efforts that goes into managing information were draining.
The minister who spoke yesterday while delivering a keynote address in Lagos on Thursday at a meeting of All Progressives Congress (APC) Government information managers at federal and state levels, also added that the advent of fake news has doubled work of spokespersons and information managers across the globe.
The minister said that the advent of new information and digital technology had made the job of information and communication management more challenging and the work been put in by information managers cannot be quantified with regions interpreting government policies and directives differently.
Speaking further during the meeting organised by the Progressive Governors Forum was hosted by Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Mohammed described social media as a double-edge sword which provides opportunities and challenges in equal measure.
“Perhaps, the most daunting task anyone can 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,’’ he said.
He said that while the government had leveraged on social media platforms to propagate its activities, it recently suspended the operations of Twitter 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. They 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 pose by social media,’’ he said.
Mohammed said that following the request by Twitter, the government had agreed to engage with the microblogging site, without compromising national interest. He also identified poor funding due to dwindling resources available to government as part of the challenges facing the information and communication sector.
He said that in spite of the challenges, his ministry had deployed several innovations, traditional and modern methods, to project achievements of the administration in the three priority areas of fighting corruption, tackling insecurity, and revamping the economy.
The innovations, according to him, included town hall meetings, testimony series, documentaries, bi-weekly news briefing, releases, and media tour of projects.
He said that others are, social Media, the FGN/IAPP, stakeholders’ engagement, tour of Media houses, regular radio/TV appearances, media interviews, advocacy campaigns, and ministerial news briefing.
The minister, however, lamented that in spite of the various programmes, people were still complaining in certain circles, that not enough was being done to publicise the administration’s achievements. He, therefore, called for sustainability and the need for synergy among managers of information and communication in all strata of 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 I have listed above do not percolate enough to the grassroots. This is because the managers at lower levels do not utilise them well, or perhaps are not even aware of them,” he said.
As a way forward, the minister said the information and communication managers of the party and government at all levels should create enough synergy to enable them work together. He specifically suggested as a starting point, the creation of a WhatsApp group for all information managers to regularly interact and upload every media intervention.
In his contribution, Sanwo-Olu said that proper framework of communication was the bedrock of democracy and good governance. He urged participants at the meeting to proactively use traditional media and social media, in spite of its challenges in engaging the people.
”There is no positive change without effective dialogue. The media managers must design effective communication method whereby the citizens will be informed of programmes and activities of government,” the governor said.