By, Dr. Charles Omole
The biggest perception causal problem that the PMB government have today is the same as during his first term. That is a lack of Strategic Communication Strategy.
I once said in a blog in 2017 that Lai Mohammed is one of the best Party Spokesman we have ever had; but he has not shined or been effective as Information Minister & Chief Spokesperson for the Govt in my opinion. The haphazard way govt information is disseminated and the party political spin every govt communication is given removes credibility from govt information. So rather than Unite; communication now Divides.
Take the issue of Border closure. From the info I have gathered; there are strategic and existential reasons for this particular govt action. Even OBJ has come out to support the closure and complain about the shenanigans of our neighbours during his Presidency. But the govt communication around this decision has been badly managed by the administration.
All you hear daily is how much revenue Customs now raise daily since the border closures. How some borders are not really closed in the North while they are in the South. These are the wrong narratives. How much Customs now make is irrelevant.
The medium term economic benefits to Nigeria is massive in terms of domestic industrial production. A lack of Strategic Communication is letting this govt down. To be effective; such has to be communicated without blatant partisan bias but focus should be on uniting Nigerians
in defence of the National interests. You can do the Right thing in the Wrong way.
A Vision need to be laid out. A narrative of medium term goals need to be explained. Communication of government policy and direction MUST never be confused with party political communication.
It seems Lai Mohammed may not know the difference. You can campaign as APC or PDP; but after elections you must govern as Nigerians in the interest of Nigeria. Partisan politics should not colour every communication. Public goodwill will only be secured when govt begin to speak as leaders and nation builders and not merely as party political bouncers who have seized power purely in their own selfish interest. Communicating the benefits and reasonings of the Border Closure has been a dog’s breakfast.
Different messaging and narratives from different departments of govt. No coherence or evidence of a joined up strategy and govt seem to always react to news rather than shape it in a proactive way. Policies and decisions need to be explained First Centrally by the govt; with explanations of rationale, strategic logic and thrust of policies in a non-partisan way. Then the various MDAs can go and echo this central theme from their various areas of responsibilities. Everybody has to be on message.
The narratives and reasonings have to be consistent and no part of govt should be allowed to go on a frolic of their own as currently seen. From Security issues to Economic and Commercial interventions; the government seem to lack Strategic Communication capacity.
In a Constitutional Democracy, security Operations MUST NEVER be announced by the Army. It should be d civil govt making all announcements, with the military simply acting as echo chambers. But when the COAS make daily announcement on conduct of civil operations within Nigeria before the Minister of Information speaks about it (if at all he does); then you know it is the tail wagging the dog.
Benin Republic with about a Million tons of Rice import is the biggest importer of rice in Africa and the 6th biggest in the world according to James Burton’s “The 10 Largest Rice Importers In The World.” WorldAtlas, Aug. 28, 2019. How can a small country of 11Million people achieve that feet? Fact is over 90% of Rice imported by Benin end up in Nigeria through our Borders (official and unofficial).
The Ecowas protocol allows free movement of goods produced from Member States to grow the economy of the region. It was not intended to be used to dump foreign goods into another Member state through the back door. This practice has stunted the growth of local rice production in Nigeria for so long through a glut of cheap imports. So this is just one of the many narratives to justify govt action.
But was a border closer really necessary? In my view; this closure is evidence of a failure of State-craft and diplomacy.
It seems another example of the govt’s preference for Sticks first rather than Carrots in solving many issues. With our dominant position in Ecowas, we cannot deal with small Benin diplomatically? Unbelievable. So what the govt should have done is to start setting the stall from the beginning of the year explaining all their efforts (effective Diplomacy & Carrots) at securing cooperation with all our neighbours in a strategic way. If this had been done correctly; by the time the borders were closed, most Nigerians would have understood where the govt was coming from. Bad intent would not have been easily read to the action of govt. This is just one example of many failures of strategic communication management by the Govt and Lai Mohammed.
The govt need to wake up and take charge of its communication strategy. There should be expressed civilian oversight in a civilian government. There should be a scale-back in the size of the media department of all govt ministries and agencies.
A Bigger more muscular proactive and visible strategic communications team should be set up at the Ministry of Information to take charge of ALL government communications. Talking briefs should then be given to MDAs to reinforce the same narrative and message.
This will create a UNITED GOVT image that is coherent and joined-up. It will enhance credibility and eliminate the perception of a DRIFT and disparate confusion in government activities. Perception is everything in governance.
So the govt need to rejig it’s entire Communications Estate for better impact & focus. The reactive posture of govt communication is lethargic & unimpactful. Effective Communication need to be made from an already agreed Strategic Frames of Reference then d govt can be impactful and engaging. Strategy is everything. We have to thank God for small mercies. We have to take encouragement from wherever we can. We must not despair. A lot is happening in this nation that is not being talked about or being badly communicated that is affecting perception.
We need to be optimistic in the future that will emerge; despite all the challenges. We need inspiration and better engagement with the polity. There is hope in our future and future in our hope. A word is enough for the wise.