Gov Kefas, in the Plain View of Media Environment.



By Williams Ayooso

During a press briefing in commemoration of one year in office of His Excellency Dr Agbu Kefas, Governor of Taraba State, in the Exco Chamber of the State Government House, Alhaji Sadiq Adamu of the News Agency of Nigeria spoke the minds of a good number of media practitioners in the State.

Sadiq humbly pleaded with Governor Agbu Kefas that media briefings of His Excellency should live by its name as an exclusive preserve of the media, with just but a few cabinet members that the Governor in his wisdom might consider their presence, necessary.

An arrangement of this nature enabled an environment where journalists can freely ask questions or make their observations without the fear of being taught a lesson or two, or spoken with, in a language that they would understand by some desperate elements, supposing tension and emotions which sometimes occur in such engagement surge in.

A media parley that has stern looking security eggheads in attendance, with their subordinates stationed outside the venue, flaunting their military bravado, where royal fathers with their imposing aura of royalty, an ambitious business class, leveraging on government patronage and a whole lot of desperate loyalists of the Governor, is actually not a convenient stage for a media interface.

It is already in the domain of public knowledge that the one year in office of His Excellency, Agbu Kefas experienced a mutual media relationship. He accommodated the media in the ambit of his unassuming, but outstanding lifestyle. He maintains an interpersonal relationship with a good number of media practitioners in the state, even as his goodwill, which comes by way of largess, goes round to media circles in the state, from time to time. A dinner for media in his residence last year, among other things that are not necessary to mention here, readily comes to mind.

However, an insidious web of an activity is infiltrating the veins of this cordial relationship. The bureaucratic aspect of the media architecture is tied to the apron of the State Ministry of Information and Re-orientation, where Barrister Zainab Usman Jalingo holds forth as Honourable Commissioner. This is just but the norm and the right thing to do.

Barr Zainab Usman Jalingo, Commissioner, Taraba State Ministry of Information & Re-Orientation

Ministry of information, among other responsibilities, serves as a coordinating and regulating unit of the state’s media architecture. Its mandate revolves around harvesting media friendly atmosphere that would project the Governor and Government in good light.

Unfortunately, this mandate is being abused by the ministry. Journalists are beginning to settle down with an uncomfortable perception that Barrister Zainab Usman has a low esteem on the profession that they practice. She hardly picks their calls or respond to messages sent to her, even as she is hardly found in her office to clarify issues that are on her line of duty.

When it comes to media, she conducts herself with an aura of arrogance. In one year and still counting, the commissioner in her wisdom never considered that interfacing with the media in form of briefing on the activities of the Governor, which is a time-honoured tradition of the ministry, is a wise idea.

Another dangerous dimension is evolving. Some of the commissioners have started closing their bureaucratic doors on the face of the media. Their excuse is that they are directed to seek clarification from the Commissioner of Information before granting any press interview. This untoward disposition is moistening the morale of the media in the state, especially in the area of sustaining their drive for a good press for the Governor and Government of the state.

Appointing a Commissioner of Information, or any Commissioner is the exclusive preserve of a Governor, if in his judgement, the interest of his administration would better be served. But for the office of commissioner of information, basic knowledge of media operations, its administrative structures, as well as refined public relation’s attitudes are a sine quo non.

For an Information Commissioner to function well and serve the desired interest of his or her governor, such a person must possess basic knowledge on operations of journalism professional structures like NUJ Chapels, difference between government and private media outfits. Above all, the person must be accommodating, with a good form of social resilience.

Unfortunately, Barrister Zainab, it appears, did not possess any of these attributes. It is high time that the Commissioner rejigs her attitude to blend with the tide that conforms to public relations culture, else she has no business hanging on to the ministry.
This is not a piece to castigate Governor Agbu Kefas’ Honourable Commissioner for Information, or cast her in the state of public odium. It is a wakeup call for the right thing to be done so that the media friendly environment, which Governor Agbu Kefas toiled to build, would not be ruined. After all, one has no business with Barrister Zainab’s private life, but the attitudes she deploys to the services of the state is of public interest.

Governor Kefas’ administration flaunts an array of respected and global standard media professionals as his handlers. The Governor is also in a close relationship with world class media experts, including a professor and one of the country’s most famous Journalists, publisher, lawyer and technocrat. No doubt that at their various positions and individual part play, they would share the glory or otherwise, on the negative or positive effect that the media direction might prevail.

However, to whom much is given, much is expected. If the office of Barrister Zainab Jalingo is prioritized and patronized with an overwhelming bureaucratic responsibility, such as approving or processing all media related memos for the Governor, such as clearing commissioners of other ministries for media interactions, such as disbursement of media largess and entitlements, etc, then it is not difficult to discover that, the buck stops at her table. That is why Barrister Zainab is in focus.

On the face value, Barrister Zainab Usman Jalingo is a woman of substance, with an outstanding leadership charisma to go with. It is heartwarming to see that the administration of Governor Kefas has such a noble lady in its stead. What she does not have is the skills that will drive the mandate of the Ministry to the coast of the Governor’s aspiration. What Barrister Zainab needs at this moment, as a commissioner of information, is to excoriate the veil of monarchy mentality, a super commissioner mind set, as well as an arrogant disposition that she weaves around her attitudes in dealing with the media and media related issues.

Media is like a wild beast. If you take it for granted, if you treat it with a mindset of scorn, it will escape and stare back at you with a measure of aggression. It is when you make a conscious effort of taming it, or recovering the status quo that you will discover that it’s an octopus in nature, where it does not accommodate a one size fit for all approach.

Unfortunately, Barrister Zainab is pushing Governor Kefas’ administration on the precipice of this difficult situation.

Williams Ayooso is a Jalingo based media practitioner


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