When DHQ Demands More from Military Spokespersons

The Nigerian Armed Forces, or better still, military have its plate full, in recent years. It has been prosecuting the Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa Province, ISWAP, insurgency for a over a decade now–since 2009, precisely.

In more recent years, troops of the Nigerian military have been deployed to various parts of the country, aside the North East. They are conspicuously in the North Central, South South and South East regions, too.

Their mission: deal with criminal elements in the guise of armed bandits, oil thieves, vandals, secessionists agitators, pirates, and kidnappers, among other miscreants.

One salient issue must be noted. The military hierarchy, indeed, has not failed to communicate to Nigerians, how its troops are diligently prosecuting the counter-insurgency, anti-banditry and pirates, and other anti-criminals wars.

They have, more than greatly, furnished Nigerians with information of not only troops’ feats against enemies of the State, but their pitfalls, and challenges, as well. That is one.

Then, aside dishing out vital information about military operations across the country, the Nigerian armed forces leadership, under the captainship of former Chiefs of Defence Staff and the incumbent General Lucky Irabor, have also intimated Nigerians of the strategic policies, programmes and activities they unveiled and organized, which were geared towards enhancing the military’s efficiency and capacity to tackle crimes and criminalities, in the country.

To say that invaluable information about the Nigerian defence sector and military, as an institution, and its activities are in public domain is irrefutable. But General Irabor wants and expects more from the spokespersons of Nigerian military.

He recently urged them to continue leveraging on the various communication techniques and platforms to tell the story of the Armed Forces of Nigeria in order to gain the trust and confidence of the civilian populace.

The CDS gave the charge last Friday during a one-day capacity building workshop organised by Defence Headquarters (DHQ) for Public Relations and Information Officers in the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN), in Abuja.

The workshop themed, “Proactive Conflict Sensitive Communication and Defence Information: Emerging Issues and Strategies in Media Relations,” was organized by Defence Headquarters (DHQ) in conjunction, with The Media Today International.

Gen Irabor who was represented by the Chief of Defence Policy and Plans, Air Vice Marshal Dahiru Sanda, stressed the need for military spokespersons to be proactive in their media engagements. He explained that when the military dominate the media space, it will help in deterring current and potential adversaries and also mitigate misinformation and disinformation of military operations.

The Defence Chief also noted that the workshop was part of the deliberate resolve by the current leadership of the Nigerian Armed Forces in ensuring that public relations and information officers are able to meet up with current and future realities of defence information management.

These according to him, include the evolving techniques and strategies in media relations.

Irabor said military spokespersons must be well trained and proactive in the management of public information and communication during conflict and peacetime within the ambits of acceptable global standards.

He said: “It is my belief that this workshop will equally facilitate the advancement of a proactive and responsive approach that would bring about the much-needed harmonisation of media relations strategy and communication management in our armed forces.

“Therefore, I implore our military spokespersons to continue to leverage on the various communication techniques and platforms to effectively tell the story of the Nigerian armed forces in a bid to elevate the trust and confidence of the civilian populace.

“This will help in deterring current and potential adversaries within and outside the shores of Nigeria as well as mitigate misinformation and disinformation on military operations.”

Gen Irabor commended the Directorate of Defence Information and Services Public Relations and Information Departments for their steadfastness in the management and projection of security information towards galvanizing public support for military operations.

He maintained that kinetic and non-kinetic campaigns are simultaneously deployed by military in it’s quest to surmount security threats. He further urged military spokesmen and women to continue to foster a more positive relationship between the media.

The Deputy Director of Defence Information (DDDI), Air Commodore Wap Maigida in his welcome remarks, said the workshop was tailored towards equipping the participants on rudiments involved in proactive conflict sensitive communication and defence information.

The DDDI averred that the available media tools, channels and techniques are panacea which the Nigerian military could use to effectively tell its stories to the right audience.

Air Cdre Miagida while disclosing that the military in synergy with other security agencies are recording successes in the theatres of operation, said the workshop would also help the participants to effectively conduct media analysis of these operations.

Meanwhile, the lead paper titled, Conflict Sensitive Communication, was delivered by Dr Okey Ikechukwu, former Chairman of Guardian Newspaper.

The Chief Executive Officer of PR Nigeria, Alhaji Yushau Shuaib spoke on Issue Management and Fact Checking in Media Relations, while Mrs Olubukola Akinlade spoke on the Analysis of Media Perception of the Armed of Nigeria.

Mr Philemon Adjekuko spoke on the Media, Defence, Information and Human Right Report, while Barrister Charles Odenigbo lectured on Measuring the Effectiveness of Media Relation Tools and Strategies.

Odenigbo, who is the facilitator of the workshop and Chief Executive Officer, Media Today International, said the military must develop strategy to be able to proactively feed the public with timely and accurate information on its activities.

Odenigbo said inaccurate or lack of information could give room to speculation and fake news to thrive, adding that it was dangerous for the country considering the current situation.

He said the armed forces were currently confronting various challenges across the country, saying that the media needed to work with the military to give out the right news.

He said there was the need for the military information managers to move from being reactive to proactive to be able to appeal to people’s consciousness.

According to him, Nigerians are very conscious either positive or negative and man’s consciousness is his property, expression, identity and what he believes and stands for.

Odenigbo said: “Where there is a relationship between the civilians and the military, communication will have to be conflict sensitive because we are faced with our own citizens raising arms against their own nation.

“In a situation of this nature, bullets kill an idea in the head of a man because once an idea spreads, it will be difficult to handle.

“It is important that every information that the DHQ is pushing out must appeal to the consciousness of the people.”

On his part, Dr. Ikechukwu, said there was the need for the military to be conscious of what could lead to conflict and work deliberately and systematically towards avoiding words, actions and public conduct and information output that could generate negative reactions.

Ikechukwu said the military must have a relationship with the media with a view to ensuring that accurate and positive information were disseminated to the public.

According to him, proactive strategies anticipate challenges, threats and opportunities, reduce the likelihood of unpleasant outcomes, or challenging behaviour and focus on the conditions that precede the behaviour.

Also speaking on “Issues Management and Fact-Checking in Media Relations,” Mr. Shuaib said for effective media relations, spokespersons must realise the importance of crisis management, issue management and reputation management.

He said while crisis management is a reactive response, Issues management is a principal focus on techniques for anticipating, planning and proactively managing issues to minimize negative impact before it snowballs into any crisis.

“A good reputation is built over time not overnight and is an organization’s greatest asset. For reputation management, It has to be carefully cultivated and nurtured because it represents the general perception on an organization,” Shuaib said.

The interactive session was moderated by the Director of Defence Information, Major General Benjamin Sawyerr, Mr Emmanuel Ebhodaghe and Mr Jide Ojo.

Mahmud is an Assistant Editor at PRNigeria

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