Former Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr. Reuben Abati, on Tuesday admitted that the social media was his greatest agony when he was in government.
“As the Special Adviser in the Nigerian Presidency between 2011 and 2015, the social media was the greatest source of agony for my office”, Abati said. “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”.
The former government spokesman said this in Ibadan while delivering the keynote address at the opening of a two-day Information Summit organised by the Oyo state Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.
Oyo State governor, Abiola Ajimobi and his Ekiti State counterpart, Ayodele Fayose, were at the event which had in attendance media practitioners (from the print, broadcast and online media), media executives, media regulatory bodies, veteran journalists, academics and related professionals.
Abati however noted that the social media had changed the world’s way of life.
“The social media is forcing a rethinking of business models and the modes of practice by the information manager and media executive”, he said.
He also disclosed that his time in office revealed to him that government officials and politicians do not trust journalists.
“One of the revelations I stumbled upon in the course of my four-year excursion into government is that government officials and politicians do not trust journalists. They believe journalists can be bought and that the news can be fixed if the price is right. The net effect of this is the pervasive opinion in official corridors that the public information process in Nigeria can be manipulated, and the people can be made to believe what government wants.
“The over-confidence of government along this line is partly responsible for the impunity of politicians and their agents. Thus, what is missing is the value of integrity in the country’s information architecture, producing by extension, a poverty of ideas and a lamentable disconnect between policy and the public mind.
He also acknowleged the constraints journalists and media managers face in the discharge of their duties.
He said: “The worst part of it all is the failure of most of our media owners to pay salaries of journalists and attend to their welfare. This places a burden on information officers and managers in government and corporate Nigeria who are expected to use their offices to maintain a large crowd of unpaid and overworked Nigerian journalists.
“The partnership that is often sought between government and the media no longer obeys an established pattern, it is now more fluid and variegated, with influential stakeholders occupying both a mass communications and a de-massified market.