Special Adviser to President Muhammad Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, has urged the military to allow journalists do their work, stating that the era of suspicion should be done away with.Stating that everyone should be a stakeholder in the Nigerian project, Mr. Adesina said the era of “Tom and Jerry” adversarial relationship between military and media, where military perceive journalists as nosey parkers interested only in muck raking and exposing only the soft underbelly of the military is gone.
Adesina stated these as one of the guest speakers at the two-day media workshop organized recently by the Nigerian Army School of Public Relations and Information (NASPRI), 81 Division, Victoria Island Lagos State.
Emphasising that there should be synergy between the military and the media, Adesina identified suspicion, antipathy, rivalry, among others as some factors responsible for the sour relationship between the two.
The spokesman to the President quoted an American Major-General: who said: “If we don’t tell our side of the story, shame on us. Reporters are like alligators. You don’t have to love them, but you do have to feed them. A hungry alligator is doubly dangerous. Reporters love to pry, the military loves to cover”.
The way forward, according to him, is to meet each other midway, adding that grant controlled access, whether during: Low-level disorder, large scale disorder, armed insurgency or full-blown war, the military will always be a source of interest to the media.
He advised the military should perish the thought that it can be anonymous, quoting Good Book, which says: “Where the carcasses are, there the eagles would gather”, adding that: “Communication with the public is an obligation, not optional; it is in national interest, not against it”.
The president’s spokesman further said: “We are in the season of Change; It is not only in the political front that the country is experiencing Change. Even in military/ media relations, change is evident. The military has professionalized public relations and information dissemination, and the result is evident”. “In recent years, the Major-General Olukolades, Brig Gen RabeAbubakars, Col S.K Usmans, and others in the other services, have made a huge difference. We now have officers and gentlemen, who know how the media thinks. They know that the alligator has to be fed daily”.
Adesina further suggested what the media should expect of the military during operations and what the military should expect from the journalists.
These include: open and independent news coverage, facilitated by the military, which he said, is one of the most credible methods of communicating the military’s message.
“This prevents the ECOMORGUE syndrome, and alleged early media sympathy for Boko Haram”, he added.
In his speech, Professor Ralph Akinfeleye of Mass Communication Department, University of Lagos, encouraged the journalists to maintain balance in reporting, adding: “The responsibility of the army to protect certain information regulates information dissemination from the military man; does not portray the army as an irresponsible institution.”
Earlier, Colonel S.K. Usman, acting Director, PRO, encouraged more positive coverage and reporting of Nigerian Army activities with due observance of the principles of accuracy, responsibility, security and propriety by the media.
According to Usman, the media workshop is intended to examine the role of information management officers play in theatres of operation.
This, according to him, is in consonance with the vision of the Chief of Army Staff which is to ensure he commands a professionally responsive Nigerian Army in the discharge of its constitutional roles.
“The choice of the theme “ New Generation Warfare: The Dynamics of Information Management“ could not have been more apt and timely considering the myriad of avenues aggressors are putting information out there and its impact on combatants and passive consumers of these information. “New Generation Warfare” and the opportunity this platform affords the Nigerian Army to dialogue with fellow Nigerians”.
Usman also said: “It is also an opportunity for us at the DAPR (Directorate of Army Public Relations) to rub minds with journalists especially in the western part of the country, far removed from the immediate direct impact of the ongoing war against insurgency in the North East and militancy in the Niger Delta region”.
“Similarly, it is our desire to further generate more awareness, active participation and patriotic support of our military operations especially from the media and all Nigerians, while we continue to support and project the Nigerian Army in the best possible light”.
Also present at the event were Dr. Rotimi Oladele, Major General A.A Ojajune, Mrs. Alli Balogun and Major General K.A Role.