Ex-Ministers Discuss New Media, Advocate Open Government

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Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa

Three former Nigerian Ministers of Information, Prof Jerry Gana, Mr John Odey and Labaran Maku, and other media experts yesterday in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, sat on a panel that discussed ways on how to manage government information in the age of new media.

The panel which also comprised a former Editor of The Sun Newspapers, Mr. Louis Odion, and ex-Special Adviser, Aviation (Technical), Mr. Elias Oche, agreed that attempting to hoard or suppress government information in the new media age would end in futility.

They all spoke during the inauguration of the new Bayelsa State Information House, where the ministry would operate from henceforth and also to commemorate the 6th anniversary of the Governor Seriake Dickson-led government.

Prof Gana argued that the new media has its advantages and disadvantages, noting that the advent of the phenomena have also made information monitoring difficult.

“In our setting today with so many avenues to disseminate information, the governance system is likely to be more effective than when I was a minister when all the telephone lines were not more than 500,000 lines. That was just 1999 and 2001. We didn’t have internet. We didn’t know what internet was.

“Today, managing information is one of the most difficult things to do because before you know, it has gone everywhere. The most powerful thing about information is for you to know the truth so it can set you free. That is the essence of information,” Gana said.

On his part, Maku maintained that with the coming of social media, the media space has changed forever, noting that information managers must catch up with the current trend.

“With the advent of the camera, printer and internet, all in one, information has changed forever. What we used to know as journalism has changed. Today, information is people-driven, anybody with a phone can process information faster than a professional journalist.

“Information management calls for a great understanding of the age we are in. One simple fact is that no man, nobody can hide information in government now. Nobody can prevent information from going out. Anyone can disseminate information.

“What everyone should know in corporate, government and community information management is that we must understand that it is no longer possible to stop information from going out. So, what do we do in the new age? We must run an open system.

“Every governor, every government, every commissioner, every leader should understand that the best way to manage your affairs and public image is to be as open as possible. That means you must be very proactive in reaching out before your opponent does,” he advised.

Also, Odey urged those saddled with the responsibility of managing information to be proactive and tell their own story before it spirals into the hands of non-professionals.

According to him, “Information is like air. It’s everywhere, but how well it is managed or disseminated will make it propaganda or not. The Important thing is what do you want to explain? One thing that is clear is that you cannot suppress information in the new age. If you have information, you must state your narrative before the opponent.”

Odion and Oche, who spoke in the same line, emphasised the need for credibility and believability in news dissemination.

“The key is being truthful. Once the information unit is credible and seen as being truthful or proactive, people will believe. If any event happens, media agencies must seize the initiative. When you create vacuums, rumour mongering will thrive,” Odion said.

Also present at the event were Governor Dickson, his wife, Rachael; Senator Ibrahim Mantu, the state Information Commissioner, Mr. Daniel Iworiso-Markson, who had earlier thanked the governor for the edifice and other government officials.