As a trained journalist, I don’t take lightly issues around my first constituency, media. I handle media issues and industry related matters with great passion. It is so because our positions and thoughts have immense impacts on nation building. Among the first news items and opinions read yesterday was an article by a senior colleague, Dr Reuben Abati, (Media & Publicity) assistant to the immediate past president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, PhD.
Hear oga Reuben “As spokesman to President Goodluck Jonathan, my phones rang endlessly and became more than personal navigators within the social space. They defined my entire life; dusk to dawn, all year-round. The phones buzzed non-stop, my email was permanently active; my twitter account received tons of messages per second. The worst moments were those days when there was a Boko Haram attack virtually every Sunday. The intrusion into my private life was total as my wife complained about her sleep being disrupted by phones that never seemed to stop ringing. Besides, whenever I was not checking or responding to the phones, I was busy online trying to find out if the APC had said something contrarian or some other fellow was up to any mischief”
Reading through the above, I was asking myself what Egbon, Abati expected as a media manager to the most vilified Nigeria president ever. No doubt, Dr Abati’s rich media experience, critical views and opinions must have informed the choice of his boss, Jonathan. Surely, Dr Abati was and still a competent media combatant. Clearly, Dr Abati lamentations of his phones nonstop as a media manager shocked me. In this age and times, when every citizen has become a “journalist”? To which extent are professional values upheld in the practice of this new “journalism“? That is another issue for later discussion. Other lamentations will be handled some other day. But the focus of that office now rests on another senior colleague, Femi Adesina.
To Femi, another dogged media warrior, he needs to sentinel himself not only with the necessary tools to deliver, but take due lessons from Dr Reuben Abati’s seeming lamentations and failures. Abati, though very competent, but in his own words didn’t prepare or really know the demands of his office when he said “Top of the task list was the management of phone calls related to the principal. In my first week on the job, for example, one of my phones ran out of battery and I had taken the liberty to charge it. While it was still in the off mode, the “Control Room”: the all-powerful communications centre at the State House tried to reach me. They had only just that phone number, so I couldn’t be reached. When eventually they did, the fellow at the other end was livid. “SA Media, where are you? We have been trying to reach you. Mr President wants to speak with you” “Sorry, I was charging my phone. The phone was off.” “Sir, you can’t switch off your phone now. Mr President must be able to reach you at any time. You must always be available.” I was like: “really? Which kin job be dis?” The Control Room eventually collected all my phone numbers. If I did not pick up a call on time, they called my wife”
I think this is a key lesson for Femi Adesina, more importantly now that his phones will be ringing endlessly. He must set up viable machineries in place to respond PROFESSIONALLY to issues as against what he did sometimes ago which has made some refer to him as an “Apostle and creator of wailing wailers”. Sadly enough, that lexicon has now found its way into our industry. Let truth be told, 21st century media managers must learn how to respond to those “wailing wailers” without losing professional ethics and ethos.
In my view, Femi Adesina, unlike Dr Reuben Abati should admit for the period he will be on this seat, has no private life. His statements will be credited as the views of the presidency he serves. Unlike Dr Reuben Abati, Femi Adesina needs to master the techs of social media. His expertise on social media usage is still far below average. As a media manager serving Nigeria presidency, you cannot ignore young Nigerians who are more active than ever. Also, you need the old horses of the conventional media. Balancing the two is very germane.
He should know, like Olumide Iyanda, publisher of an online newspaper, Qed.ng, opines in his recent write up on “For whom the phones have stopped ringing” the phone will continue ringing as long as you cover a “juicy beat” or are in a position to influence what goes into any publication people reckon with. The phone will continue to ring as long as every journalist wants to have scoop or exclusive with the presidency. Oga Femi Adesina should know the change promised by his boss; Muhammadu Buhari will be demanded by Nigerians where and when it seems not showing. The phones will keep ringing until Boko Haram insurgency, Corruptions, weak institutions and abuse of power continue in Nigeria. Watching Femi Adesina on Channels TV Sunday 26th July night responding to issues raised by Seun Okinbaloye confirms his competency again. He was clear, lucid and details on president Buhari’s trip to America just as he was in his write up on same subject today. But he needs to do more providing online consumers with real time reportage, pictures and updates. If he fails, unverified online news media may feed the gullible with half truth.
But any journalist who has passed through the newsroom will have tales of people who became social orphans as soon as they were no longer in a position to write, kill or push a story of interest. We as professionals must accept to live with this sad reality that people only relate with or count you as useful when your presence or position benefits them.
While I agreed sometimes you can be defensive in your approach as a media manager, but such is not to be always. You can make your opposition sing your positive songs if you do the right things. Personal attacking or naming calling as professionals should be avoided. Positions and issues should be stated professionally, clearly with objectivity.
Till then, Oga Femi Adesina welcome to the “phones ringing arena”. And to Dr Reuben Abati, I join Olumide Iyanda to welcome you to “planet Earth”… whatever that means.