Spokesperson of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr Reuben Abati, on Tuesday, pointed to the social media as the greatest source of agony of the Jonathan’s government.
Abati, who premised this assertion on his 2011 to 2015 experience, said the social media had become a perilous territory and battlefield for information managers of government to battle out with the opposition.
Speaking at the Oyo information summit held in Ibadan, he said the Jonathan’s government had to wage an internet war against the then All Progressives Congress-led opposition by engaging a team of social media assistants.
Though he noted the negative impact of the social media in terms of the spread of fake news thereby discrediting professional journalism, Abati said both media managers and information managers of government had to engage in the social media war to remain relevant.
He pointed to the impact of the social media upon the mainstream media as such that compels media managers to rethink business models and modes of practice by information managers and media executives.
Abati who spoke on “Managing Information and Communication: The Catalyst for Sustainable Development”, saluted the fact that media houses had gone online, but decried fallen standards, a drop in the quality of reporter and low quality content.
Abati further prayed that the media enforce good governance through dissemination information that emphasizes values and accountability.
“As the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity in the Nigerian Presidency between 2011 and 2015, the social media was the greatest source of agony for my office. While to a reasonable extent, you could expect the mainstream media to be professional, since media practice is guided by certain codes and rules, the relationship with the social media was perilous territory. Those were interesting times when a vocal political opposition was determined to push the incumbent administration out of office. Governments and politicians love comfort, they crave popularity, your average politician wants to win elections and be loved by the people.”
“As an information manager working for government, you could be accused of not ever doing enough to build strategic partnerships with the media to promote the government. For us the social media became a battlefield. Our response was to create a presence on social media, engage a team of social media assistants and wage an internet war against inconvenient journalism. But because of the ubiquitous nature of info-technology, and the attraction of a post-truth reality, the social media would continue to pose serious challenges to information managers.”
In his remarks, Governor Abiola Ajimobi stated that the summit was borne out of the need to ensure undiluted professionalism in the gathering and dissemination of information.
Noting the critical role of the press in bridging information between the government and the governed, he noted that imperativeness of disseminating factual information to prevent chaos in the society.
In his remarks, Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Toye Arulogun decried unprofessionalism by some journalists, calling for more research to ensure that the audience is fed with informed stories.
He added that the summit aimed at improving and strengthening the information network of government to make the media veritable partners in the development of states and the country as a whole.
Head of the Department of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan, Professor Ayobami Ojebode, identified the need for men of the fourth estate of the realm to appreciate the social and oppressive implications of the words they use on the society.
Ojebode, who spoke on “Language as an Instrument of War and Peace”, prayed that human beings utilize words to promote peace and collectiveness.
He, particularly, pointed out that language use as an instrument should be included in curriculum.
Beyond, students taking a course in Peace and Conflict studies at tertiary level, Ojebode said an element of peace studies should be in the curriculum from the elementary level.
He decried the bastardisation of language on social media, warning Nigerians to be careful of promoting ethnic strife, through the kind of jokes and information shared online.
Managing Editor, Nigerian Tribune, Mr Edward Dickson remarked that it was incumbent on government leaders to integrate communication into all development initiatives.
Represented by Business Editor, Nigerian Tribune, Mr Sulaimon Olanrewaju, he noted that effective deployment of communication will facilitate engagement of different stakeholders in decision-making process and project ownership by the people.
Guests at the event included various media managers and practitioners, former spokesperson of Governor Abiola Ajimobi, Dr Festus Adedayo; former Editor in Chief, Nigerian Tribune, Mr Felix Adenaike; state Commissioner of Environment and Water Resources, Mr Isaac Ishola.