By Adebayo Abubakar
In this clime, the Information or Communication Ministry, [nomenclature depends on the preference who creates it] is always busier than the Ministry of Works. Why? Well there is no prize for guessing right, what the answer is.
Under Normal circumstance, every establishment needs communication experts to communicate its policy to the people in its environment, for there to be a mutual understanding of its philosophy, policy or position on issue. Government at any level is no exception.
When a government fails to live up to its minimum responsibilities to the people, it will definitely have much explaining to do. It is more so, when it fails to deliver on promises made during electioneering.
That is why, from State Governors to the President of the federation, the juiciest office in terms of budgetary allocation is the one that is saddled with the responsibility of interfacing with the people, through the media.
The job involves telling intelligent people, that an albino is a white man; or trying to convince members of the public that, there is a huge difference between “six, and half-a-dozen”, in terms of quantity.
This is the situation, the government of President Muhammedu Buhari has found itself, having not been able to deliver on his electoral promises, chief among which is “Security”.
In the run up to the 2015 general election, he got an overwhelming support on account of his military background – a retired General.
So, greater part of the support he got was anchored around the belief that, his military experience would come in handy, when it comes tackling the problem of insecurity that was at the time, and up till now, is still an existential threat to the corporate being of Nigeria as a sovereign nation.
But today, nobody with a claim to a modicum of integrity, conscience and sense of responsibility, can say that, Nigeria today, is safer than it was, 7 years ago. Things are getting worse.
In a desperate attempt at explaining away the administration’s failure to tame the monster of insecurity, it is like, all members of the media crew are trying to out-do one another, in the art of talking to the press. From Femi Adeshina, to Garba Shehu, to Lai Mohammed, in an uncoordinated manner.
Lately, those in the security team have joined the fray. In the wake of the recent abduction of some students of Government Science Secondary School, Kagara Niger State, the Minister for Defence, Retired Major-General Bashir Magashi, in one of his “uncalled-for” press briefing, sent his tongue on an errand, without a destination, blaming victims of his Ministry’s inefficiency, for not defending themselves (with…? “frying pans; emphasis mine), against AK-47-wielding Bandits, that number dozens, who according to him, might not have come with more than 3 rounds of ammunition. Absurdity on steroid.
Assuming Magashi were a good communicator, who communicates effectively, and also listens to himself attentively, he would realise that, he has just self-indicted. Incompetence.
He has, by virtue of that statement, admitted to having, failed to, according to his job description, help the president and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in upholding the section 14, subsection 2(b) of the 1999 constitution,which says; “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”.
He uttered those words, while the president through another avenue was busy trying to assure Nigerians that, his government is on top of the situation.
The President says, the security agents should shoot on-sight, any civilian caught, bearing arms, unlicensed. Chaotic Information Dissemination Strategy.
The latest of the media gaffes, coming from members of the President’s, was the recent interview, granted by the National Security Adviser, NSA, Retired Major-General Babagana Monguno who is saddled with the responsibility of Co-ordinating the intelligence gathering and sharing among the military and paramilitary establishment, aimed at strengthening national security.
In the interview with BBC – Hausa service, he said all the funds allocated for the purchase of arms to tackle insecurity, under the immediate past Service chiefs are gone, without any trace of the purchased arms in the armoury.
He would later recant, denying saying that, claiming that, he was quoted out of context. But he failed to tell us, what exactly he did say in the interview.
The major effect of information dissemination at level of public office, is the perception it creates in the minds of the target audience,.
Perception; a process of selecting, organizing, and interpreting information, is what you create, when you communicate. Therefore it is always advisable one chooses his words in such a situation.
The impression they have managed to create thus far is that, the strategy they choose for their information dissemination is a very chaotic one, as it is evident in the catalogue of contradictions that characterise the press briefing by the President’s aides.
The administration comes off, as one without bearing, as to how to communicate its actions and inaction to Nigerians.
Otherwise, how does one explains the facts that, most members of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration always want to talk to the press, even though they are not supposed to, by virtue of the nature of their job descriptions? Head of the intelligence is not expected to be talking always to the press, let alone, goofing.
They seem to hold the microphone first, before they start to think of what to say.
That is why they end up saying, what they did not mean, and meaning what they did not say.
It would have been better, if a coordinated and centralised channel of communicating with Nigerian fashioned out, so that, every press briefing will be well-choreographed, to avoid, or at least, minimize unforced errors.
They need to fashion out an information dissemination strategy that will see to it that, only one person is authorised to talk to the press, while those who are to discharge duties that require utmost anonymity like those of the NSA, stay off the limelight and avoid unnecessary distraction, like Monguno and Magashi recently did.
It is going to be a litany of errors, if the trend continues, as it is characteristic of the administration, let the errors be orderly and methodical.
Writes from Ilorin