In the words of American political scientist, Harold Dwight Lasswell, a convenient way to describe an act of communication is to be able to easily define who says what, when, through which medium and why. According to Lasswell’s model, which is about the processes of communication and its functions to society, there are three functions for communication, which are Surveillance of the environment, Correlation of components of society and Cultural transmission between generations.
If Lasswell’s model was to be applied to Nigeria, it is clear that communication has been a major problem, where less information is disseminated or contrary information is made available to the press. This answers for why many intellectual Nigerians query the President’s appointment of two senior media practitioners, one as Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina and the other, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, then, another young chap as the social media champion; Tolu Ogunlesi as Head of Digital Communication. Yet no effective communication has been recorded.
The Association for Credible Leadership in Nigeria (ACLN) thus far observed that in spite of all these appointments, the flow of information from the presidency to Nigerians has remained discouraging. Of a truth, this administration hasn't done enough to bring communication and governance together, despite that both are elements that worked hand in hand to put the ruling party in power. Having said that, the personality of the President and his past could be pardonable, but those should not deter him from rewriting the story. His many senior assistants should convince him on the need for better communication with the people he leads. Tell them when there is a storm and when there is likely to be rain, even when sunshine is certain and calmness is at hand. The people deserve to know.
Progressively speaking, this government has introduced more communication channels than most of its predecessors. From conventional media to news media and cable TVs all inclusive, but the unfortunate thing is that, the Buhari-led administration has only succeeded in using all the media it created in reeling out Press statements. The ACLN observed that this administration only use all the media to supply the people with information of promises on what it intends to do or what its predecessor failed to do. We are yet to read in the media what this government has done. President Buhari’s cabinet may need to know that there is nowhere in the world where communication is ever made effectively or efficiently when it is channeled to run one way; from sender (government) to receiver (the people) only, without feedbacks. These are leaders who do not even dwell among the people to feel their pains directly. Most of the policies are often based on assumption of what the masses need. One then wonders how a mere press statement will help the situation.
According to a post on Forbes written by a contributor, Cheryl Conner, press releases can no longer be classified as means of communication because they are hardly and thoroughly “thought out, neither do they focus on deliberately informing the reader and moving them down a specific path, whether that path terminates in earned media coverage or customer conversion.” As important as effective communication could be, to lazily sit back and send press releases to largely partisan media houses will never help re-orientate, properly inform and adequately dissuade the citizens of Nigeria from wanting to take every measure possible to get even with government. A typical example is what the Niger Delta Avengers are doing in the South Southern region of the country, where they desire to make government feel their pains by attacking crude oil pipelines including that of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that was blown on Friday, May 27th.
In retrospect, what led to the 7 days economic shutdown of Nigeria in January 2012 is not unconnected to lack of effective communication. Just like then when the Former president Goodluck Jonathan-led administration was unable to communicate the benefits of subsidy removal and why government had to remove it at that time, four years after, the President Buhari-led government has done the same thing without communicating effectively to Nigerians. However, may we remind the President that this is democracy. In a saner community, the government would have aired a nationwide announcement on all media platforms, New media inclusive, and ensure that the announcement is translated to the three major languages in the country to explain in layman language, factors that necessitated the decision.
Kudos to the former governor of Lagos state, Babatunde Raji Fashola, now Minister of Power, Works and Housing, for being able to redefine the concept of leadership through effective communication in the state. His ability to communicate government's mission for a new Lagos, made it possible for his government to prepare the minds of the people, as well as carry them along during the rebuilding of the state without having crisis at any point. He also ensured that the state published a bi-monthly magazine, The Indicator, which contains government's efforts to improve the state as well as contact numbers to offices of heads of departments and state ministries for the people in case the need arose.
There is no denial that people will form opinions out of government policies, especially when it is assumed to be anti-people. Hence an important policy like subsidy removal which will affect the entire nation and especially the masses, requires effective communication to avoid misconception of the good gestures that government intends for its people. No wonder the organized labour proposed an industrial action to force a reversal of the policy. Unfortunately, the planned strike failed. And this is a bad sign for the Nigerian politics at this crucial time of our very young democracy.
On the other hand, the ACLN appreciates the Minister of State for petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu in some recent videos where he attempted to explain reasons behind the subsidy removal. Though a step in the right direction, the minister needs to do more by ensuring the audience is carried along and on the same page with the Minister. Making video releases in which 60 – 70% of the affected Nigerian population cannot connect with what Dr. Ibe was saying in economic terms makes the effort ineffective. Again, there is need for our leaders to understand that in communication, there is need for the other party to fully understand what you are trying to pass across and not just a video or press release in economic jargons. This we believe will bring everyone including a bus driver, a market woman, a barber, an artisan, trade unions and the elites together on the same page to foster easy acceptance and understanding of the people. We therefore encourage the government to ensure they communicate much better and remember that they are governing human beings like them and not animals. Like always, We believe in the power of the people; We the people.