Idris Malagi: A refreshing example in public information management

Delivering a keynote address at a well-attended National Spokespersons’ Summit and Awards on March 26 in Abuja, former Director-General of the Nigeria Television Authority, Prof. Tonnie Iredia, was excellent as he articulated what should constitute the critical success factors in the work of a spokesperson.

The summit with the theme ‘Change Narrative, Change Society’ was organised by the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations in collaboration with the Ministry of Information and National Orientation. Participants at the summit included communication experts, top journalists, scholars and other dignitaries.

A spokesperson must build trust and credibility through transparent and truthful messaging, Iredia said. Such a person must place premium on facts. ‘A spokesperson must also employ clarity in his messaging.

There should be no ambiguity. Such a person must deploy positive narratives. The spokesperson must be detailed and persuasive and make sure that he or she is first with the information to avoid specul
ation. Feedback is important and must be prioritized,’ he pointed out.

An erudite scholar, lawyer, administrator and communication expert, Iredia knows his onions and has earned his stripes. He worked with the then Midwest Television in Benin-City (now Nigerian Television Authority) where he rose to become Manager, News and Current Affairs.

It would appear the former NTA DG had the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Alhaji Mohammed Idris Malagi, a seasoned communication consultant and media mogul in mind, in his brilliant and lucid diagnosis. This is because in his handling of the Federal Government’s information and public communication machinery, Malagi parades all those essentials of effective communication brilliantly encapsulated by Iredia.

Malagi is humble, cool, calm, not loud, factual, truthful and evinces believability in his appearance, carriage and conduct.

In his speech at the summit, Malagi himself identified the imperatives of some of the earlier mentioned principles behind ef
fective public communication.

He said Nigeria is a diversely blessed and vibrant country, grapples with the need to create a cohesive national identity; one that transcends ethnicity, religion, and political affiliations, and as such ‘crafting a compelling national narrative becomes paramount as we strive to live up to our vast potential.’

According to him, as communication professionals, the spokesperson must be aware he plays a crucial role in shaping perceptions, disseminating accurate information, and fostering trust.

‘Indeed, the nation’s peace, stability, growth, and development can only be attained by how we communicate. We must recognize the critical role that effective communication plays in shaping narratives, building trust, and fostering understanding.’

Both Iredia and Malagi harped on the significance of trust in public communication or indeed in any communication for that matter.

The Minister of Information puts this succinctly: ‘The future of communication points toward technology, but for
technology to make a meaningful impact, it must be anchored on trust. Trust remains a critical element in building relationships; be it at personal, group, and even community levels.

‘As spokespersons, we need to make conscious efforts to build trust and restore hope wherever we are. Building and maintaining trust must be a collective responsibility. For trust to have value, it must be anchored on authenticity, transparency, and consistency.’

Like Iredia, who stressed that both external and internal publics are important and that all stakeholders should be carried along because a disgruntled person within the system can endanger the messaging, Malagi also spoke about collaboration and inclusivity at the summit.

‘The current trend of communication is driven by technology. While technology allows us to personalize messages like never before, collaboration enables us to build consensus among colleagues, stakeholders, and experts.’

Indeed, Malagi not only believes in his precepts, he practices them. He tries
to carry everyone along in an all-inclusive manner. That he acts out his preaching is evident enough in the way and manner he carries on as Information Minister, which is perhaps why he is achieving bounteous positive results.

For instance, as he stepped out as minister he constituted a National Communication Team headed by him and comprising the Information, Strategy, Media and Publicity Managers in the Presidency and Director-Generals of Information and Communication agencies under him to build consensus and synergy and promote collaboration on the important task of disseminating the policies and initiatives of the government and its agencies under the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Tinubu. The team will also track post-messaging feedback.

Recently, the National Communication Team was on tour of Kano, Jigawa and Kaduna states in the North-West. In Jigawa, the team visited wheat, millet and maize farms, an example of dry season farming, which raised the likelihood of the state meeting the expected n
ational targets for domestic consumption and exports. The team also engaged in an interactive session with the farmers, millers, and other important stakeholders in dry season farming in the state.

In Kano, after meeting and exchanging ideas with senior journalists and social media influencers in the North, who had converged on the city, the team returned to also interface with the business community in that commercial city on the government’s economic programmes, their impressions, expectations and challenges.

Arriving in Kaduna to attend the annual Ramadan Lecture organised by the NTA and Voice of Nigeria and attended by prominent Islamic scholars and Emirs from the North, the team opted to return to Abuja by rail so it could inspect the facilities at the train station in Kaduna and interview some of the operators and passengers using the train.

The Information Minister’s speeches on these visits were also remarkable. The speeches reek of the passion and enthusiasm he takes to the job.

Speaking when he
paid a courtesy call on Gov. Abba Kabir Yusuf of Kano State, he said: ‘We are here in Kano as representatives of His Excellency, Mr. President, to meet with Nigerians, from various walks of life.

‘The President has tasked us with engaging with various groups of stakeholders, to share and explain what his administration has been doing to make life better for all Nigerians, and to ask for patience and understanding in the face of the economic challenges we are experiencing.’

A day after at a stakeholders’ meeting with the business leaders in Kano, he highlighted the achievements recorded so far by the Tinubu Administration to make Nigeria a better place to live, and do business and investment. He said the President is committed and has shown rare leadership on many fronts.

On why the team decided to return to Abuja by train, the minister said: ‘The National Communications Team embarked on a train journey back to Abuja from Kaduna after our stakeholders engagement in Jigawa, Kano and Kaduna.

‘We had a fruitf
ul interaction with commuters, welcoming their enthusiasm and noting their feedback. We reiterated the commitment of our administration to securing the lives and properties of travellers, safeguarding our rail infrastructure and improving the quality of service delivery.’

-Rahman is a Senior Presidential Aide

Source: News Agency of Nigeria