Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has charged government information managers to remain focused in carrying out their duties, despite efforts by naysayers to distract and intimidate them with a view to set the agenda.
The Minister gave the charge in his keynote address at the 2017 Annual National Conference and Annual General Meeting of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) in Ilorin, Kwara state.
He said the job of the government information managers had become so daunting because of the undefined nature of the opponents and the advent of the Social Media, which puts power in the hands of anyone with a phone and data, without commensurate responsibility and control.
”Today’s perception manager, especially at the government level, can be likened to one who has signed a contract, the terms of which he or she is not aware of…The opponents are not clearly defined. They could be friends today and opponents tomorrow. They are not necessarily interested in the vision of the government nor the welfare of the people. They insist on being heard and seen, and the privacy, reputation or integrity of public officials are of no consequence to them.
For this section of the new media, government and its leadership must be annihilated. It is not about logic, reason, intellectual discourse or professionalism. It is about a viciousness and bitterness that are hard to fathom,” the Minister said, adding: ”The masses are daily served incredible menu and unbelievable tales which they swallow hook, line and sinker.”
Secret bank account
He cited, the example of a widely-circulated fake news that said he (the Minister) has 1.2 billion dollars in his bank account.
”Let’s examine this a for a moment. 1.2 billion dollars is about 400 billion Naira. The entire yearly budget of the Ministry of Information and Culture, where I preside, is under 15 billion Naira, and this includes salaries, overhead and capital projects. Assuming, without conceding, that the Minister somehow manages to transfer the entire budget into his personal account, it will take 25 years for him to amass 400 billion Naira. Yet, this disinformation was lapped up by the public. Similar imaginary huge sums of money have been credited to other Ministers,” he said.
While urging the government spokespersons not to be distracted, Alhaji Mohammed charged: ”You must be proactive rather than defensive. You must refuse to allow them to set your agenda for you. You must set your own agenda and daily review such, with a view to improving on them. You must stay true to your calling to inform and educate, and to
telegraph the achievements of your principal and the intentions of government.”
In order to succeed, he said the information managers must equip themselves with qualities such as integrity, courage, abnormal capacity for hard work, ingenuity, resourcefulness, ability to think out of the box, encyclopedic knowledge, incorruptibility and, above all, passion for the job.
In his remarks, the NIPR President, Dr. Rotimi Oladele, said this year’s annual conference was to generate ideas on how to use the profession to dispense communication that will promote values for accelerated development and sustainability.
The high point of the occasion was the inauguration, by the Minister, of the Governing Council under the chairmanship of Dr. Rotimi Oladele.