Molly Kilete, Abuja
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Ibrahim Attahiru Wednesday charged army Public Relations officers to be proactive and responsive to information management and practices.
He said the numerous security challenges bedeviling the country and the imperative of military deployment have increased Nigerian Army’s tasks as defenders of national interests.
Gen Attahiru, gave the charge at the opening of a 3-day capacity building workshop for army public relations officers entitled “Respositioning the Nigerian Army Public Relations Towards Addressing Contemporary Communication Challenges” holding at the Nigerian Army Resource Center in Abuja.
Represented by the Chief of Policy and Plan(COPP), Major- General Ben Ahanotu at the occasion, Attahiru, said that to sustain the necessary momentum of security operations, army public relations officers must strive to salvage the credibility of army operations from those who are bent on discrediting its efforts at every stage.
While noting that some undesireable elements in the society whose mission is to attack the credibility and professionalism of operations using the media are daily working to achieve their result, Attahiru said PR officers must do their best to win the fight in the physical, psychological and information domains.
He said “It is our responsibility to counter those who unduly punch holes in our operations and malign our personnel through all kinds of accusations and allegations aimed at diminishing the integrity of officers or the military authorities in military operations”.
He said “The multiple internal security challenges assailing our country and the imperative of military deployment have increased Nigerian Army’s tasks as defenders of national interests.
“In view of these continuous emergencies and flashpoints across the country, the Nigerian Army, as the linchpin in internal security operations, is required more than ever before to be proactive and responsive to information and public relations management and practices.
“Our duty as a military is to neutralize the threats that terrorists, bandits, militants and sundry violent elements pose to peace and stability of our country by ensuring that the adversaries are separated from the population.
“To achieve this, the fight has to cover the physical, psychological and information domains. As you all know, the battle field for us in the war against terror and other internal security operations which we are engage is not just in the trenches.
“Even more ferocious is the battle in the media where the attritional war of narrative is daily raging. Bear it in your minds, therefore, that there are elements in the society whose mission is to attack the credibility and professionalism of our institution and operations using the media.
“In order to sustain the necessary momentum of security operations, APR officers must strive to salvage the credibility of our operations from those who are bent on discrediting our efforts at every stage. It is our responsibility to counter those who unduly punch holes in our operations and malign our personnel through all kinds of accusations and allegations aimed at diminishing the integrity of officers or the military authorities in military operations.
He said “As you already know, our counter-terrorism campaign has been a victim of so many misconceptions and falsehood that were disseminated and effectively sustained in the public domain through the instrumentality of the media. And so we must brace up for the antics of those intent on undue fault finding, blame trading and negative story slanting which distracts our mission.
Continuing, Gen Attahiru said “We must remain conscious of these responsibilities which must be inspired, driven and built on the fundamentals of good reputation that creates goodwill, respectability and acceptability. “This is very important considering that past rigid and fixed mindsets and perceptions have now made it difficult for many civilians and civilian groups to appreciate the noble roles of the military and its steady transformation into a pro-people, citizens-friendly and responsive institution under a democratic government.
“It bears reiterating that for every crisis situation there is always the need to have a ‘voice of reasoning’ or a ‘reassuring voice’ to calm down nerves and build mutual trust and confidence for peace to reign. You must develop and deploy the art and science of ‘conflict sensitive communication’ at all times. Maintaining credibility and respectability with different groups, institutions and personalities for a good corporate image is the hallmark of the spokesperson. As a PR practitioner and spokesman, you must be conscious of the good reputation needed to create or generate goodwill and acceptability. Personal reputation and integrity, and the Nigerian Army’s image or reputation are both important; and that delicate balance must be maintained at all times in the discharge of your onerous responsibilities.
He said “You must be prepared for today’s information environment, characterized by a 24/7 news cycle, social media and the global interconnectedness of audiences. It is increasingly important that the military communicates in an appropriate, timely, accurate and responsive manner on its roles, objectives and missions. This is what compelled this workshop as we are dead serious about equipping you all with the right capabilities required to be on top of the situation.
“My physical presence here today underscores the importance I attach to your assignment as Public Relations Officers of the Nigerian Army and the imperative of building your capacity”.
He commended the Director, Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Mohammed Yerima for coming up with the initiative and identifying the right facilitators to handle the all important occasion. He expressed the hope that with the quality of resource persons and training modules lined up by the Centre for Crisis Communication, participants would go back to their units better informed and well equipped for the huge tasks ahead of them.