By SUNDAY ODIBASHI
THE Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has set the pace to enforce the change agenda of the All Progressives Congress (APC) by initiating new model of service delivery and system dynamics. Lai Mohammed, at a meeting with heads and staff of information agencies under his supervision which include the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Voice of Nigeria (VON), News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Nigerian Press Council and others, directed an end to the old order of restricting government-owned media platforms to the party in government and excluding patronage of opposition political parties.
Apparently, Mohammed gave currency to the change mantra of the APC, de-politicizing the services of all government-owned media organizations and re-orientating the managers towards pursuit of national interest.
Perhaps, Lai Mohammed may be savouring the benefits he derived from the open political space entrenched by former President Goodluck Jonathan. The former President provided extensive latitude of political freedoms within which Mohammed demonstrated his communication sagacity that established him a hero of opposition information manager. The liberal democracy implemented by the former President further increased the magnitude of political participation in the democratic process which culminated into lucid electoral processes in the country’s history of democratization.
Accordingly, Lai Mohammed gave credence to the model of democratization bequeathed to the APC government when he directed that under the current administration, “no FG-owned media organisation will deny the opposition the opportunity to air their views.” The minister acknowledged that the ruling party stands to learn and benefit when the opposition is allowed to air their views. The minister had given such order in recognition of the fact that democracy is enriched through bargaining, negotiation, horse trading and consensus building between the governing and ruling elite. He also gave the lesson that campaigns and elections are exclusive activities of political parties while governance reflects the promotion of national interest and service delivery to the citizens, invariably, cementing the boundary between politics and government. Thus, Mohammed declared, “Therefore, let the ruling party and the opposition air their ideas and let the people, who wield the ultimate power, decide at the end of the day.”
Not many Nigerians believe this re-orientation and attitudinal change coming from Lai Mohammed.
The Information Minister, however, decried the politicization of government media and shift from professionalism under past administrations. According to him, “Public broadcasters have mortgaged their credibility on the altar of political correctness, yet, they are endowed with highly-trained and well-qualified personnel, better infrastructure and a wide reach.”
Mohammed recalled the bitter experiences where the opposition political parties, particularly, the APC, were denied patronage by managers of government media organizations who were in the service of the party in power. He noted that even advertisements were turned down sometimes if they come from the opposition. It was highlighted that during the 2015 elections, NTA and AIT were not making advert slots available to APC. “I remember on a particular night I called NTA, they had 16 slots of one minute adverts and I said I wanted to buy one minute for the Buhari campaign, they said all 16 had been sold,” he pointed out; adding: “sometimes monies already paid were returned to us.”
The minister, accordingly, encouraged the managers of information in the agencies to be committed to professionalism and credibility in performing their duties.
Meanwhile, it is expected that other ministers will begin to define the direction of supervision of the respective ministries assigned to them as the Information Minister has done to distinguish himself in the team. It is an irony that the Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu, beside others, has been preoccupied with celebration of his appointment in the city of Ibadan, Oyo State, as though he has won a contract. Lai Mohammed has clearly set the stage for deviating from the old order to deepen democracy, encourage nation building and accelerate socio-economic development in the country.
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