The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has again accused the social media of aggravating the challenges of government’s media representatives.
In a speech delivered to mark the annual conference and general meeting of the National Institute of Public Relations in Ilorin, Kwara State, Mr. Mohammed also denied allegations of diverting $1.2 billion.
According to a statement sent by the minister’s special adviser on media and publicity, Segun Adeyemi, Mr. Mohammed denied media publications alleging that he amassed $1.2 billion through an unnamed account. He however did not state what media organisation, or under what caption the alleged story was published.
“There is no better occasion than this to examine the increasingly tough, and almost impossible, job of a public relations practitioner. Tougher still is the task of the Government Perception Manager, whether he or she is the Minister of Information, Commissioner for Information, Spokespersons for the President or Governor or for any government agency.
“The challenges faced daily by the perception managers have been exacerbated by the Social Media. Today, the challenges have defied everything the practitioner may have been taught about perception management, public relations and all. Today, anyone with a phone and data is a journalist, a blogger, owner of an online publication, an opinion moulder, etc. And they do all this simply because they can. No regulations, no sanctions. The spokesperson is at their mercy. Regrettably, they have a fanatic followership in the largely uninformed masses, whose experience over the years has primed them not to trust government and public office holders.
“The masses are daily served incredible menu and unbelievable tales which they swallow hook, line and sinker. How else can you explain that people will believe and circulate a fake report that the Minister of Information and Culture; that is yours truly, has 1.2 billion dollars in his imaginary bank account? Let’s examine this for a moment. 1.2 billion dollars is about 400 billion Naira. The entire yearly budget of the Ministry of Information and Culture, where I preside, is under 15 billion Naira, and these include salaries, overhead and capital projects. Assuming, without conceding, that the Minister somehow manages to transfer the entire budget into his personal account, it will take 25 years for him to amass 400 billion Naira. Yet, this disinformation was lapped up by the public”.
Mr. Mohammed who had in previous publications described the social media as a nightmare alleged that the stated problem is caused mainly by the activities of the opposition whom he defined as a set of uncontrollable people.
“The perception manager today is engaged in an unending war with an opposition that is amorphously defined, an opposition who never sleeps, an opposition that has no rules of engagement, an opposition that has power without responsibility or control, one whose objective is not to inform, educate or provide constructive criticism but to set their own agenda from their own ethnic, religious, ideological and economic perspective, irrespective of what the challenges of government are”.
Mr. Mohammed urged media representatives in government parastatals to rise up the challenge by adhering to the principles of accountability in information dissemination.
“The government information managers must not allow themselves to be discouraged by this. Today’s government information manager, whether he is Minister or Commissioner in charge of Information, must equip himself with qualities such as integrity, courage, abnormal capacity for hard work, ingenuity, resourcefulness, ability to think out of the box, encyclopaedic knowledge of all things under the stars, incorruptibility and, above all, passion about the job,” said Mr. Mohammed
The information Minister has at various fora expressed displeasure about the impact of what he described as fake information emanating from the media, stressing that such stories pose more threat to Nigeria than insurgency.