The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has been described as a visionary leader for looking inward in appointing a professional, versatile and experienced journalist, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, as the Commissioner for Information and Communications in the state. Nsirim, who is a former chairman, Rivers State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), and current Chairman, Rivers State Chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), was a two-time Chief Press Secretary to Rivers State Governors, Captain Sam Ewang and Sir Celestine Omehia, respectively; and rose from the ranks in the profession and the state civil service: He began as a Reporter in The Tide, then joined defunct SUNRAY Newspapers, before returning to the Ministry of Information and Communications where he rose from the position of UNICEF Desk Officer to become Director, and later, Permanent Secretary.
As one who has carved a niche for himself in the journalism profession and exceptionally managed information at different levels, Nsirim’s appointment did not come as a surprise because he had been prepared to hit the ground running on day one. Thus, immediately after his swearing-in by Governor Nyesom Wike on Monday, December 30, 2019, the commissioner swiftly approved a work plan aimed at repositioning the state’s information and communications management apparatus for greater efficiency, productivity and profitability.
To kick-start the onerous journey, he swung into action by visiting the state NUJ Press Centre to enlist the leadership of journalism community’s holistic support to enable him succeed. And in appreciating the appointment by the governor and the commissioner’s visit to show solidarity, Chairman of the state Council of NUJ, Stanley Job Stanley, assured Nsirim of members’ total cooperation.
He returned to the ministry where he held a closed door meeting with all directors on January 2, 2020, to chart the way forward. He also met with all information officers, during which he challenged them to be creative in the performance of their duties, cautioning against indiscipline and laxity. In fact, Nsirim particularly charged the information officers to regularly analyse government policies and programmes as there affect their ministries, departments and agencies as well as local government areas with a view to sensitizing, enlightening, informing, and educating the populace to enable them key in and partner with government to achieve set goals of guaranteeing peace, facilitating governance and sustaining development at all levels.
Having began by consolidating on the foundational basis for success, Nsirim also decided that the journey won’t be easy without carrying the state government-owned media houses along. Consequently, he embarked on the media tour with a visit to Rivers State Television (RSTV) January 7, 2020; Rivers State Newspaper Corporation (RSNC) and Government Printing Press (GPP) on January 9, 2020; and Rivers State Radio Broadcasting Corporation (RSRBC) and Garden City FM Radio on January 10, 2020.
At the RSTV in Elelenwo, Nsirim read the riot act to both management and staff, noting that discipline and creativity must be entrenched to give the station edge in the ever-competitive media space, boost productivity and profitability. While commending the General Manager of RSTV, Dafini Gogo-Abbey, management and staff for their efforts in publicizing government policies and programmes, he reminded them that more still needs to be done, especially in galvanising efforts to rewrite the negative narrative promoted by detractors to demarket the state, scare away investors and tourists and slow down the pace of development in the state.
Nsirim said, “I am convinced as commissioner for information, that we have the right professionals in the various departments of this organization who have the requisite training and experience to deliver on assignments. My job is to make you re-orientate yourselves, wake up every one that is sleeping, and to say to us that we need to roll up our sleeves for more work. We are privileged at this time in the history of Rivers State that we have a governor who is passionate to make Rivers State the destination of choice by rebuilding infrastructure, paying attention to education, healthcare delivery, agriculture, and manpower development, among others.
“And he is putting everything into ensuring that the NEW Rivers Vision Blueprint he enunciated when he took the oath of office in 2015 is implemented to the letter. We have a governor who does not speak from both sides of the mouth. What he says he will do, he has done and will continue to do.
“He has shown Rivers people that his second tenure will be like a first tenure. His Excellency wants Rivers State to be a pride of all of us, and he has demonstrated that with his style of governance. Your role is to use Rivers State Television to key into that development agenda.
“To key into that development agenda, you must be professional, you must be dedicated, you need to do a lot of re-orientation and personal development. If we do that collectively, we will be making a mark. And I am proud to say that when we celebrated 100 days in office of the governor’s second tenure, we were one state in the federation that had projects to be commissioned, and we did that for three weeks. His Excellency was on the road commissioning people-oriented projects. With a man that has that kind of vision, those of us in the media parastatals have a critical role to play. Now that the 2020 Budget has been announced, what are you going to do as a media house to ensure that the people for whom the budget is meant for get what they are supposed to get?”, he asked.
The commissioner said he expects that workers in the state television outfit begin to do sectoral analysis of the budget to help sell the programmes and policies of the administration to the larger population, and tasked them too be proactive.
“We are in a new dawn that calls for creativity and innovation”, he stated, assuring that workers’ welfare will be given priority but urged them to show their professionalism by making RSTV the viewers’ preferred choice. “We will not tolerate indiscipline. I had to hold a meeting with the management team before this general meeting, and I have empowered them to act decisively.
“I have empowered the management to utilize disciplinary measures to ensure that those who think that this is a place where you can come and do anything you like; earn salary and go, stops. If you are a member of staff here and you are part of those who are not dedicated to their duties, then you are going to be in trouble because I have told the management to draw up an appraisal system for this organization.
“Because it a public communication outfit does not mean that we won’t make profit. It doesn’t mean that we can’t shine like other television houses. The television house is a platform for creativity. If any staff here is creative, you will be sought after. The media house is a place where you can stir up your potential and distinguish yourself, if you are creative. The times now call for personal development”, he said, adding, “I would like to see more creativity and healthy competition. Television is glamour right from the dressing of news casters to diction. You need to understand that this promotion that His Excellency gave to me is our collective promotion, so we must reciprocate through improved performance. We can’t thank him enough.
“If you understand that this is the first time in our ministry where somebody will rise from the ranks, get to be permanent secretary and now commissioner, then you will realise that there is reason for this appointment: confidence and trust in our ability to excel. And because it is so, we can’t afford to let His Excellency down. We all need to redouble our efforts. So, I am going to demand from RSTV better programming and content. I am going to demand from the news casters to dress with class. I am demanding professional competence from RSTV”.
Noting that he expects to see changes immediately, Nsirim urged them to show commitment and dedication with the little resources that are available to them. “I have found out in my working career that what makes people stand out is when they are able to manage the little they have and show that they have potentials, and then, people will recognize them. We must be proactive as media houses, the platform you have accommodates lots of creativity and hard work. I want to see competition among those in programmes and other core areas, and we will be ready to partner the management of the station to honour those that are creative,” he added.
Earlier, General Manager of RSTV, Defini Gogo-Abbey, welcomed Nsirim to the organization, saying that many in the state-owned media have been asking for a commissioner that they can call their own.
“Most of us have been asking God to give us a commissioner, and that Lord, when you are giving us a commissioner, let him or her be a commissioner that will understand us. Let him be a commissioner that you will send to us. We thank God today that He has sent us a commissioner. He is not just a commissioner; he is a son of God, who, I guess is a commissioner for this time to work with Governor Nyesom Wike, Mr. Project”.
She described Nsirim as a thorough professional and somebody that knows the state-owned media and the peculiar circumstances facing them, just as he she pledged the commitment of the management and staff to continue to promote the activities of the state government with professionalism.
At the RSNC and GPP, Nsirim said that his familiarisation visit to government-owned media houses should not be seen as a ritual but designed to challenge the media houses on the urgent need to reposition themselves for greater productivity and profitability. He charged both management and staff on innovative, creative and productive ideas and strategies to move the organisations to the next level, and particularly noted that with innovative ideas, everyone has the potential to recreate The Tide Newspaper to achieve enviable heights never before imagined.
He reminded the workers that ideas rule the world and not money, and further charged the workers to think out-of-the-box, saying that he does not see any reason why the newspaper should not be on the newsstand on a daily basis, given the quality of manpower available.
“Let me challenge the men and women here that we have the potential to turn things around in The Tide Newspaper as part of ways to let government know that we are keying into the NEW Rivers Vision’s development agenda”, Nsirim emphasised, adding that the Editorial staff, as the rallying point of the flagship newspaper in the Niger Delta region, should lead the way in creating solid editorial content to drive the positive pro-development and investment message of the government and people of the state to the outside world. “I am expecting deeper editorial content on the policies and programmes of the state government,” he stressed.
“At RSTV the other day, somebody asked me when are we going to celebrate improvement of the state media houses? Let me tell us one thing: I am a family person and there are so many state newspapers that have closed down. I hope we are aware? They are no longer operating. If government has kept this place open, and the governor is still paying salaries, we shouldn’t wish it away. That is a major contribution. I know so many of us here don’t have less than five dependants, and this job you have here is helping you to maintain your dependants.
“The issue usually is: we need equipment. I have challenged even the RSTV because I am a family person. I have asked them: what you have now, what are you doing with the little that you have? We shouldn’t be like that man in the Bible that was given one talent. We know the story. That parable teaches a lot of lessons, all of us here can use what we have to make this newspaper the pride of Rivers people.
“I was here when we were printing 12,000 to 16,000 copies daily. In fact, we were running two editions, and circulating all over the country. We had Weekend Tide and Sunday Tide. I worked here to the point I was producing three pages every day. I produce my ‘Political’ page; I produce ‘Weekend Personality’ and also produce ‘Faces and Ideas’ on Sunday in this organization. We can go back to those olden days. It’s possible!” he stated.
Admonishing those in Advert Department to work hard to generate more revenue in 2020 than in 2019, as the viability of the corporation depends greatly on their ability to perform, Nsirim said, “I need to see a radical difference on how it was last year, and now. We can’t afford not to make progress this year in this corporation. We demand from you, beginning from tomorrow, greater productivity and efficiency. We are also going to be demanding profitability from you. If you generated N10.00 last year, I expect that this year, you generate N20.00. There is no excuse for failure. I won’t tell the governor now that because he has not given me money, then I will not work as commissioner. So it is for all of you.
“Those in Advert or you call it Business Development; you must generate money this year. The first assessment for all the media houses is happening this first quarter, between now and March. I must see a radical difference between how it was last year and now.
“We must demonstrate to the present administration that we are keying into its development agenda. What is happening here in Rivers State within the past four and half years is like a revolution. You will recall that in early 2015, he was told ‘we will see where he will get money to pay salaries. We all were owed salaries for three months then. When he came in as governor, he cleared those arrears, has been consistently paying our salaries, and has turned Rivers State to a construction site”, Nsirim noted.
The commissioner urged all management and staff of both RSNC and GPP to reciprocate government’s kind gesture in ensuring regular payment of salaries so as to make him leave shining legacies at the end of his tenure. Towards achieving the NEW Vision of the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, Nsirim also charged the workers to justify the governor’s confidence in them by redoubling their efforts for improved productivity. The commissioner noted that the governor’s decision to appoint a professional journalist that has grown through the ranks in the ministry as commissioner amounts to a vote of confidence in journalists in the state, which needs to be justified.
“The governor has made a strong statement by looking within our rank and file, and deciding that we have the potential to produce a commissioner (for information). What that means is that we must justify that confidence. In justifying that confidence, we have to change our mind-set towards our work in order to be more productive”, he stressed.
While noting that this is the first time such appointment has been made in the history of the ministry, Nsirim harped on the hackneyed common mind-set of staff who feel that working for a government-owned media means doing anything they like, saying that he believes that The Tide has the quality of men and women needed to recreate the newspaper and make it the envy of the world. “Everyone has the potential to recreate this organisation. The idea that this is a government parastatal, so, people can come to work any time they like has to stop. It is time for productivity. It’s only someone that doesn’t want to make progress that will keep doing something the same way repeatedly, and expect better result”, he said.
Nsirim, therefore, directed heads of all departments to draw up a template for appraisal of staff’s performance, saying that such templates should take cognisance of each department’s peculiar circumstances and functions. “If you are in Advert, your template will be different from those in Administration and Editorial”, he said, and tasked the various departments to complement each other while exhibiting the highest competitive character.
Noting some key challenges experienced by staff, such as obsolete equipment and depleting manpower, the commissioner charged staff to do their best with what is available to justify being given attention. “We are going to work collectively to show the world that this is a government-owned newspaper house where we can excel, be productive, and make profit. His Excellency is desirous to make Rivers State the destination of choice in this country, and he is not paying lip service to it. He is rather building the right environment, providing the appropriate infrastructure to promote health care, education, agriculture, and improving human capital development. I’m challenging both management and staff to think outside the box, be creative and innovative. Let’s demonstrate to the world that we have men and women in these organisations that have the potentials to turn things around. We are demanding from you greater productivity and efficiency”, the commissioner added.
“My tenure must make a difference. That is why I have come to challenge everybody now that we need to roll up our sleeves to work. It is when you work well that you become my friends. The general manager is my personal friend and my boss, and I am demanding a lot from him. So, he is going to push the heat to you. When he pushes the heat to you, don’t think that he hates you, we want results. The truth of the matter is: if we throw away the cap and that mentality that ‘this is a public corporation’, and make up our minds to work, we will succeed, because there is a spiritual import about synergy.
“There are so many people, let me say 20% of the population of this place just come to earn salary. There is nothing that is happening here that I don’t know. Of course, you know I should know. I can even call names department-by-department because here is my family. So, my appeal to everyone is that it is not going to be as it used to be. The Tide newspaper must be repositioned. We won’t stop at three editions per week anymore because we shouldn’t be publishing stale news. So, whatever it will take you to reorganize and bring everybody on the same page to make sure that we have more editions of The Tide, do it. The work is starting tomorrow, not next week, not next month.
“I don’t want to hear anything about challenges. I don’t want to lose the fire power to succeed. We are in a hurry to develop the state. The governor is in a hurry to develop the state. So, let’s keep aside the challenges confronting the corporation. I have talked with management heart-to-heart, and you will see things happening here from tomorrow because it is possible”, Nsirim said.
In his remarks on behalf of staff of Editorial Department, Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), The Tide Chapel, Comrade Amadi Akujobi, thanked the commissioner for the visit, describing it as home-coming to celebrate his appointment with his colleagues and family members, as according to him, the commissioner began his journalism career from The Tide.
Akujobi harped on the need for more training and retraining of journalists to sharpen their skills and competences on emerging trends in the profession, saying that as a dynamic profession, it was vital for Reporters and Editors to undertake regular retraining to enable them compete favourably in the technology-driven media industry.
Also speaking on behalf of the RSNC Chapter of National Union of Printing, Publishing and Paper Products Workers (NUPPPPROW), the National Vice President of the union, Comrade Godwin Williamson, noted the various welfare initiatives of the new management designed to motivate workers for improved productivity, but solicited for more government attention to address the poor conditions of working tools in both organisations.
Williamson, who is also the state chairman of NUPPPPROW, explained that although both media outfits have quality and competent staff to take the agenda of government to the next level, but regretted that the lack of modern equipment and technology has undermined their productivity and obliterated profitability in a highly competitive media space.
Also speaking, the General Manager of RSNC, Mr. Vincent Ake, re-echoed the charge given by the commissioner, and called on staff to be ready for more work. “The commissioner has come, and he has charged us to worker harder. He has said we should roll up our sleeves, and do the much we can to ensure that the newspaper is sustained. And everybody should be ready to work because there is no food for a lazy man.
“Everybody should be innovative in whichever area you are. I am open to innovation. All we need is let the ideas come in, and we will implement them,” Ake stated, and assured staff that the management would organise training and retraining programmes to sharpen their skills and competences for greater productivity.
He explained that the welfare initiatives of the present dispensation were part of a deliberate policy to motivate staff to put in their best to fast-track the capacity and ability of the corporation to break even and step into an era of profitability. Ake, therefore, thanked the commissioner for coming, just as he reminded him that The Tide was his home, and he should be free to visit anytime.
Pay Attention To Vehicles Carrying Scraps
To create wealth out of waste seems to have become an economic trend aimed at depopulating the labour market. This is no less a noble idea. As a result of this innovation, it has become a common sight beholding big trucks conveying scraps from one point of the town to another.
However, it smacks of security lapses should these scrap-ladden trucks be granted easy passage on the highways unchecked. This is because Nigerians can take advantage of such freedom to pass incriminating elements. This alone constitutes serious threat to our security .
In this era of insecurity in the country, the right thing is that every vehicle should be checked and certify safe before being allowed to proceed to its destination.
By: Philip Ejiogu, Owerri.
Take Coronavirus Seriously
Human nature generally is wont to trivializing issues which impact is not directly felt. When catastrophes are announced from afar, they either constitute a spectacle to be viewed by others and probably be amused by it, or a trend that attracts public discussion.
This has been the case with outbreaks of deadly diseases across the globe at different point in time and the attendant attitude of the people towards it. Today, the world’s attention is drawn towards Corona Virus, currently ravaging China.
Zoonotic as it was known, meaning normally transmitted between animals and people. The novel Coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain of the virus that has not been previously identified in humans. For this novel coronavirus (nCoV), both zoonotic and person- to-person transmission has been confirmed.
At the moment, the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), officially named as Covid-19 by the World Health Organisation (WHO), has spread to 26 more countries apart from China, alarming public health authorities across the world.
A total of 69,256 (including 68,566 in China, Hong Kong and Macau) confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection including 1,669 deaths (one each in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Japan and France) have been reported across the world.
As at yesterday, out of the 68,566 confirmed cases in China, 11,272 are reported to be severe cases.This is indeed, a public health emergency of international concern which further international exportation of cases may not be ruled out in any country.
Thus, even though no strict travel or trade restriction is recommended based on the current information available, the possibility of interrupting spread is still high should countries put in place strong measures to detect disease early, isolate and threat cases, trace contacts and promote social distancing measures commensurate with the risk. The Public Health Emergency Operation Centres (PHEOCs) already established in 22 states of the federation would be tantamount to an effort in futility if they are not worth their raison d’etre.
By: Helen Peterson, Bonny.
Release Students’ Results On Time
The issue of delaying the release of students results in our tertiary institutions has become a case to worry about. Some students hardly know their academic performance status until late. Some have had to carry over courses for semesters and sessions unknown to them.
This has caused victims staying longer years in school remedying courses that ordinarily they would have sorted out earlier, had they known about it in good time. Those with plans to change their course of study after one year of academic activities, miss this process because results are not released as expected.
Schools’ examination results that were hitherto published on departmental notice boards as prompt as possible to enable students know their status in good time and decide on what next plan to take to better their academic performance, is gradually becoming history.
The most alarming is that even upon graduation, instead of releasing final year students’ examinations results promptly, lecturers take more than enough time to submit their marks and care less about the implication of the delay on the students.
Truth is that this trend has robbed many victims the opportunity of proceeding for the compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) like their colleagues in other institutions. Many of our graduates lose opportunities for job elsewhere because their schools failed to release their results on time.
Some who missed the privilege of procceeding for the compulsory one year national service, due to delayed result, end up being cut off by age, and are eventually subjected to asking for NYSC exemption letter if they must proceed in their chosen careers.
In the light of the evil this emerging trend portends to the society, it is imperative that stake holders in education, nip it in the bud before more havoc is wreaked
By: Timothy Njoku, Umuahia.
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