Assigning Mutfwang’s 204 media aides




A committee set up by Plateau State Government House, Jos to assign specific job descriptions and Key Performance Indicators [KPIs] to the 204 newly appointed media aides to Governor Caleb Manasseh Mutfwang worked through the night on Saturday but was unable to finish the assignment. So on Sunday morning, it commissioned me as a consultant to complete the task. A contract appointment letter, signed by a very senior Plateau State Government official, stated, “Mr. Jega, we have no idea where to deploy these newly appointed media aides. We are confident that you will bring your decades-long experience in six media houses to bear by advising us on how and where to deploy these 204 media aides. You should submit your invoice for payment after completing the assignment.”

Attached to the contract letter was a copy of the announcement made at the weekend by the governor’s Director of Press and Public Affairs, Gyang Bere. It said, “In a bid to enhance public awareness and disseminate the policies of the ‘Time is Now’ administration to the grassroots level, the executive governor of Plateau State, Caleb Manasseh Mutfwang, has approved the appointments of some media aides.” Forty of the appointees are Principal Special Assistants (Media), 53 are Senior Special Assistants (Media) while another 111 are Special Assistants [Media].  All the appointments take immediate effect, according to Bere.

Phew. What a serious task. Even though the contract letter mentioned many terms of reference and time of completion of the assignment [24 hours], it somehow forgot to mention the amount to be paid for the task. In these hard times, whenever I look at a contract letter, my eyes immediately go to the figures, not the long grammar. Anyway, I got to work immediately. Within an hour I submitted an interim report. Its abstract stated, “Have you guys not bitten more than you can chew by appointing more than 200 media aides, in addition to the ones already in place? Is there not going to be a cacophony?”

Besides, I also stated in the interim report, “This media team will have a Herculean task before them in trying to sell Governor Mutfwang’s Time Is Now slogan. That is because many Nigerians think that for Plateau State, a more fitting slogan is Time Is Past. Plateau State is no longer famous for tin mining. Jos city itself no longer has the country’s highest concentration of White people. Up until the 1970s, a song commonly sang throughout Northern Nigeria was, “Inje Jos inga Bature [Go to Jos and see a Whiteman.]” Most of them have since run away. Plateau is no longer famous for peace, after two decades of intermittent bloody communal clashes and tit-for-tat reprisal attacks. Outside the North East, Plateau is the only state since the First Republic where a state of emergency was declared, the governor and state assembly were suspended and a Military Administrator was installed for six months. Even Jos’ famously cool weather has warmed up now. During my visit to Jos in December 1988, I found myself shivering at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. But on a more recent visit last year, I found myself sweating in the night, maybe for fear of the very steep Hawan Kibo.”

Within thirty minutes, with a speed unknown for government officials, I received a terse reply. It said, “Mr. Jega, you are going outside your Terms of Reference [TOR].  Please adhere strictly to your TOR or else the contract may have to be revoked.” So I set to work again. First, I made a list of newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations, online publications and social media sites in Nigeria. The number came to nearly 1,000. So if one media aide is to be assigned to each media house and social media site, PLSG will have to appoint another 800 media aides. I added this recommendation in my final report because I know my clients will jump at it.

Next, I recommended portfolios to be assigned to the 40 Principal Special Assistants, PSAs. This post is a real innovation because even the State House in Abuja has only Special Assistants [SAs] and Senior Special Assistants [SSAs].  I recommended that for maximum effectiveness, the PSAs should be deployed to specific newspaper sections. There should be a PSA Editorials. For any man in power, editorials are a big itch. A man who has never seen the reports and figures contained in official files will sit down in one corner of the newsroom and write what he calls a “punchy editorial,” saying this and that must be done, or that governor should not have done this or that. The KPI of the PSA Editorials is how many positive editorials he gets for PLSG, how many negative editorials he successfully debunked and how many editorial writers he got to eat the humble pie and apologise for their ignorant rants.

Next, I recommended a PSA Columns. There are innumerable columns in Nigerian newspapers. Nigerian columnists are very irksome to persons in power. Much as Nigerian clerics state with finality what will happen in the Hereafter, Nigerian columnists speak with certitude about what will happen the day after tomorrow unless government does this or that. So much so that, in Arthur Hailey’s old novel In High Places, the Prime Minister of Canada suggested that the country should be handed over to columnists since they have a solution to every problem.

Next, I recommended a PSA Letters to the Editor. Even though Newsrooms think little of Letters to the Editor and assign little space to them, a very brief Letter to the Editor could ruin someone’s political or public service career. Anyone can just sit down and make an allegation, that no light, no water, no this and that, that food is costly, that school roofs are blown off. A small boy will just write a letter with the title, “EFCC, welcome to our local government.” Anyone reading it will conclude that there is fraud in the LGA. Anyone who writes such a letter about Plateau should get an instant answer from the PSA before people think what he is saying is true.

I also recommended a Principal Special Assistant, Cartoons. You may not think much of cartoons but they are very important. Almost no newspaper reader misses a cartoon, which summarises in a few sketches what it will take a story or features writer many pages to say. Cartoonists pretend to be humorous and entertaining but they actually deliver powerful BBBs [below the belt blows] to government officials. During the Buhari military era 1984-85, Boye Gbenro’s cartoons in National Concord were so punchy that at one of his monthly press conferences, Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters Major General Tunde Idiagbon warned cartoonists to stop disparaging the government’s efforts at ridding Nigerian society of indiscipline.

I also recommended that several Senior Special Assistants [SSAs] should be assigned to each major newspaper and TV station.  The big national newspapers in Nigeria today are not up to ten. In order to maximise opportunities, three SSAs should be deployed to each newspaper, with a summary of expected functions and KPI’s. For example, the three of them deployed to This Day should be allocated pages to monitor. The senior one among them should be assigned to monitor columns, editorials and letters to the editor. If there is any mention of Governor Mutfwang in any of those pages, it is his or her responsibility to draft an immediate response and submit it to His Excellency through the Secretary to the State Government, through the Commissioner of Information for clearance and approval.

Another SSA should be assigned the paper’s Front Page and Business Section. Since This Day is a highly business oriented newspaper, he must make sure that Plateau’s tin mining industry regains its pride of place on its pages. Three more SSAs should be assigned to Arise TV. One of them should be specifically assigned to monitor the talk shows, especially The Morning Show and Prime Time. If any presenter, guest or analyst on those shows says anything about the Governor, he should immediately get a video clip of it, prepare a quick reaction and submit it through the normal channel for clearance. If what he says about Governor Mutfwang is good, then there should be a phone call, text message or email to thank the person. If what he says is negative, then we must get numerous social media influencers to attack him in order to set the record straight.

I recommended Senior Special Assistants, NTA. Since this station claims that it has the deepest reach in Africa, up to five media aides should be assigned to it. They should monitor its Network News, its discussion programs, features and even its sports stories. For example, if NTA’s sports news does not mention Mighty Jets of Jos among this country’s greatest ever football clubs, SSA should immediately write a rebuttal and remind it of Yakubu Mabo, Samaila Mabo, Aloysius Atuegbu, Audu Buba, Sule Kekere and Sam Garba Okoye.

Three Senior Special Assistants each should be assigned to Channels, AIT, TVC, Silverbird, Radio Nigeria, Trust TV, Liberty, Freedom FM, Vision FM, Unity FM Jos, VON, NAN, DSTV and Star Times. The SSA NAN should sit down everyday and count how many stories it posted from Plateau State compared to those from other states. If those of Plateau compare unfavourably, he should immediately allege marginalisation, unfair treatment and violation of the federal character of media space.

The 111 Special Assistants [SAs] should be assigned 10 each to Facebook, You Tube, WhatsApp, Instagram, We Chat, Tik Tok, X, Messenger, LinkedIn, Telegram and Snapchat. Why, for example, should Murja Kunya be such a big sensation on Tik Tok? Aren’t there enough [shameless] girls in Plateau State who can give her a good run for her money by posting crude, acerbic and cantankerous short videos? Or is it the fault of Governor Mutfwang that, unlike in Kano, he did not personally intervene to spring a Tik Tok personality from prison? 

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