Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Presidency Can Communicate Better

19 January 2012


President Goodluck Jonathan's administration has had one unique problem: the inability to articulate its position properly.

This flaw in communicating with the public has, more often than not, put the administration (and, by extension, the whole country) in dire straits. The latest of this was exhibited during the nationwide protests by the organised labour and civil society groups over the removal of subsidy on petrol.

The president's public statements often neither give hope nor imbue a sense of belonging to the citizens. For instance, the president recently stated that members of the Boko Haram sect had infiltrated his administration.

There was nothing presidential in that comment. Rather, it lowered his rating in the public sphere and further weakened his support base both locally and internationally.

It is left to be imagined what would have been the fate of the president of the United States of America, Mr Barack Obama, if he had announced that al-Qaeda had infiltrated his administration.

Similarly, the reaction of the presidency concerning the resolution passed at the end of the emergency session held by the House of Representatives on the removal of subsidy was uncalled for.

The House only exercised its constitutional duty as a legislative arm of government. It smacks of poor crisis management for the presidential spokesman, Dr Reuben Abati, to have described the resolution as "a mere opinion" of a session convened as an attempt to "incite the people against the government".

Also, while the labour strike was on, government officials contradicted one another both in content and specifics. It was obvious that there was no coordination. We believe that, if government officials had a coordinated communication approach, they would have achieved their objective with minimal ease.

As it is, the president and his aides need urgent re-orientation on the importance of getting their communication right. A functional clearing house must be created for all formal communication from the presidency. Competent specialists should also be engaged to help improve the performance of official aides. The office of the minister of information should perform its responsibility by ensuring that any piece of information emanating from any agency of government reflects the official position of government.

Not a few believed that the total halt Nigeria experienced last week due to the strike and protests by labour, civil society groups and the masses was exacerbated by the communication mechanism of the Jonathan administration. We subscribe to this.

What's more, the manner with which the president and his aides are still conducting themselves, in terms of putting the matter to the people, has not helped in dousing the tension created by their shortcomings.

Indeed, communication breakdown or mismanagement has been the hallmark of this administration.

A government that is unable to explain to its people its intentions in a manner that is effective will forever be misunderstood.

No comments:

Post a Comment