By Lukman Olabiyi
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed yesterday affirmed that the recent ban of Twitter in Nigeria by the Federal Government was not an attempt to stifle the press but hard decision taken in order to protect nation’s peace and unity.
The Minister affirmed it while speaking at a meeting of the Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF) with information managers of All Progressives Congress (APC) at the federal and state levels.
The meeting held at the Lagos House in Ikeja. The meeting was an avenue to identify challenges facing information managers and to chart better ways of pushing positive narratives about the government.
At the event, Mohammed who was asked to speak on the ‘Contemporary challenges of Information and Communication Management – Regulatory issues and Requirements.’ but seeking the indulgence of the organizers to tweak the topic to read ‘Mitigating the Contemporary Challenges of Information and Communication Management.’ According to him, the occassion was not for them to just dwell on the challenges they may face as information managers, but also to chart a path forward.
He said:” social media is a double-edged sword, providing opportunities and challenges perhaps in equal measure. 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, etc”.
Mohammed said 476 online publications have been identified as working to bring down APC led Federal Government.
The Minister in his explanation of the role of a party spokesperson, said their roles are not only to propagate the government’s achievements, but also to keep the opposition very uncomfortable.
He identified poor funding, new digital media and lack of synergy among information managers of government as some of the challenges which should be overcome if the war against misinformation would be won.
To him, information managers of the government seem to be competing with each other rather than playing complementary roles.
He thus advocated that these people must work in cohesion to project the party and government in good light.
“It is not uncommon to hear, in certain circles, that not enough is being done to publicise the government’s achievements. Herein comes the issue of sustainability. To keep programmes running, you need a massive infusion of resources. Unfortunately, the funding of Federal Government’s information sector is far below par, due partly to the paucity of funds, and also in part because of the little premium that we, as a nation, place on information and communication management. To put things in perspective, the budget of the information ministry in some states is higher than that of the Federal Government.
“We also face the challenges posed by the new information and digital technology. Government information managers face the paradox of technology. One one hand, the information and digital technology provides us with great opportunities, and on the other hand it is fraught with great challenges. We are therefore tasked, daily, with how to balance this paradox and make the best of it”, he said .
National Chairman of the APC and Yobe State Governor Mala Buni, who was represented by a member of the party’s National Caretaker Committee Ismail Ahmed, advocated the need for strategic communication to push the government’s programmes and project it in good light.
He said: “The APC is doing well but there is an avalanche of misinformation and mischief against the government. It is very difficult for the government to sell itself. This is why all APC led-governed states should have a common denominator and semblance which would sell them. The states should be able to counter wrong narratives against each other and the Federal Government.
The event host, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said there is need to properly communicate with the citizens and the electorates, urging the information managers to ensure that they communicate government policies effectively and efficiently to the people.
Sanwo-Olu said,’’ We need to be proactive in this era of social media. As good as novel as they bring on board they also come with challenges,’’ urging the information managers to rise up to the challenges posed by the socio media.
Earlier, the chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum and Kebbi State Governor, Abubakar Atiku Bagadu who joined the meeting virtually because of the ,’’ Security situation’ in his state said the progressive governors have done well at the federal and in the states they are governing.
He commended Lagos State Governor Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his Kaduna State counterpart, Mallam Nasir El- Rufai both co-chairmen of the PGF Media and Communications Programme for organising the meeting.
The governors who were present and those that joined the meeting virtually noted that though the ruling party at the federal and states they are governing were delivering dividends of democracy despite the numerous challenges, certain individuals, separatists campaigners are bent on bringing down the government.