At the Banquet Hall of
the Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt, were seated several dignitaries which included politicians, top media executives, university lecturers, representatives of telecommunication companies, labour leaders, state government functionaries among others. The hall was full to capacity and over-flowed with participants.
The occasion was the first ever meeting of the Council on Information and Communication by the Rivers State Government as well as the domestication of the National Council on Information. The meeting aimed at formulating an information policy for the state government. It held on June 13, 2013. Government sources said the policy would create a paradigm shift and make information sharing to be directed toward the interest of the generality of the people rather than serve the interest of the government in power.
Brandishing the theme: “Public Information Management as a Tool for Good Governance”, the gathering also witnessed the presence of the Rivers State Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, who was the guest of honour.
The governor’s remarks highlighted the various achievements of his administration in the information sector. He said the state-owned cultural centre and many other projects were almost completed and added that funds had already been released for the construction of a new Radio Rivers FM station. According to him, both The Tide Newspapers and Rivers State Television would be upgraded. While new machines would be acquired for The Tide, the operation of RSTV would be digitalised.
He urged Nigerians to insist on good governance and the conduct of transparent election. The governor blamed Nigerians not leaders for bad leadership in the country.
“The people should demand for transparent election and good governance and where they do not, they are 80 percent of the problem,” he said.
He admonished the citizens to avoid reticence in the face of bad leadership upon the assumption that nemesis would catch up with the bad leaders. According to him, such belief impoverished the nation while the leaders continued to squander national resources without qualms.
“Insist that election must be transparent; nobody will give you your right, demand for it and claim it,” Amaechi admonished.
He listed his achievements in the education sector and claimed that his administration had completed 250 modern primary schools which would soon be delivered to the host communities and made functional in September. He declared that schools would soon be equipped with laptops, beds, tablets and free feeding.
In her remarks, the state Information and Communications Commissioner, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, explained the philosophy behind the enactment of a state information policy. She said it was to accomplish the governor’s belief that public information management was a veritable tool of social cohesion because of its ability to breach communication gap and give the citizens an opportunity to be an integral part of governance.
“The theme for this meeting was carefully chosen because we want to develop an information policy that will de-emphasise praise-singing and sycophancy but rather empower citizens with information that will assist monitor the policies and programmes of government,” she said.
Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, commended the Rivers State Government for its initiative as the first state to domesticate the National council of Information and stated that good information management would ensure a deep sense of participation of the citizenry in the process of governance.
According to him, a system that denies the people access to information did a great disservice to them. He decried a situation where those in power, who should serve the people, consider leadership as a favour to them.
“Government is only relevant when it energizes the people to make meaningful contribution in the process of governance as this fast track the prospects of development,” Odinkalu stated.
He established a nexus between information management and education, claiming that every child should be given an opportunity to aspire through basic access to education as a right. He called on the people to check irresponsibility in governance by asserting their rights to know what was happening in the process of governance.
A paper presented by the Director, Centre for the Study of African Culture and Communication, Catholic Institute of West Africa, Rumuibekwe, Port Harcourt, Rev. Fr. Joseph Faniran, described information as one which constituted the artery of governance and that good governance was predicated on the way information was managed by political authority at every point in time. Continuing, the clergyman stated that responsibility for good governance did not lie squarely on political leaders alone, but on journalists as well. Hear him:
“Information constitutes the artery of governance and good governance is predicated on how information is managed by those holding political authority at that point in time…. However, responsibility for good governance does not lie solely on those holding political authority, but also on those involved in that noble profession of gathering, processing and transmitting information in the society since they have power to direct mankind along a good path or an evil path by the information they impart and the pressure they exert.”
Concluding his presentation, Rev. Fr. Faniran recommended the establishment of communication institutions rooted in our various communities that would ensure that all sectors of our population had the capacity to communicate with other sectors and the nation as a whole. This, he said, would meet Nigerians’ deep-rooted desire for democratic and participatory form of life.
The council later broke into five technical groups which produced 12 resolutions.
Some participants who spoke with The Tide were doubtful about the practicability of the resolutions citing the Nigerian factor. However, others thought they could be enforced if the required political will was demonstrated.
Arnold Alalibo/Calista Ezeaku