Director-General National Orientaion Agency, Mike Omeri has the duty of educating Nigerians on the policies and activities of the government. In this interview with SOLOMON NDA-ISAIAH, he bares his mind on his drive to make the difference.
How do you do the balancing act; coping with work and family?
It has been interesting. Most times when I come home late, my kids are already asleep. By the next morning my wife is taking the kids to school and she is off to work. They hardly have my time because even at weekends I am engaged. The only day I reserve for family is Sundays, that day is for my God and family. I try as much as possible to create that time for them but it is not easy. I say this because expectations are high, we have a lot of friends and by the nature of this work we have to keep the friends.
Saddled with the responsibility of enlightening Nigerians on government policies and activities, how well have you been able to reach out to the youths?
The youths are the primary concern of any country that desires to develop because they have the talent, energy that is needed to build a country. Conscious of this, we have decided to commence the Citizens Responsibilities Volunteer scheme which will largely be made up of youths. It is an empowerment scheme in the sense that it provides you with information, activities and a world view of how to do things because of the nature of interaction that will be engendered. This is in the sense that although you work in a community, you will have linkages with people undertaking social responsibility projects in your neighborhood and you can also interact with the rest of the world from your neighbourhood modern media facilities that are available. So, young people who are graduates can participate in the scheme and also be able to access the best jobs in the world from their neighborhood. That is what we want to encourage so that we have an organised society that is helping itself, protecting itself and supporting one another.
How has the road shows organized across the country impacted on the people?
We are even more encouraged by the action of the people. We thought initially that it would be only NOA staff on the road but when we started, other Nigerians joined. It was encouraging both from the government and private sector. We have seen one thing at least, that Nigerians are desirous of change, they want to help a system that will do the right thing, so once we get it right, the people will get it right. So we will intensify the campaign to ensure that the message gets into their minds, to their places of work and worship, and hopefully, it will remain in their subconscious.
Where is your favourite holiday spot?
I have not gone for holiday in my life. If I have to go out for holiday, I would like to visit the village or I go to Liberia because that is where my wife comes from, I can go there with her. But if I am given a choice it will be to one of the African countries like Cameroun, Chad, Senegal and so on. There is so much I want to learn about the story of Africa.
Do you have a favourite Nigerian musician, actor or actress?
Yes I like a lot of them. We are quite friendly with Stepahnie Okereke, she is married now. I associate with Sammie Okposo, Zacky Azzay, I like their music a lot. There are some young musicians I like as well, though I cannot recall their exact names.
There are complaints that Nigerian movies are to shallow in content, do you agree with this?
I would not say that they are shallow but they need to enrich their content to tell a story that is unique in itself and portrays the real Nigerian story. Every country that invests in culture will showcase itself to the world. Like the American movies, you sometimes see the American flag hanging in the background. It is deliberate and that is what we should also bring in. I am not saying that we should copy the Americans but that is how it should be. There a lot of people that needs to know the story of Nigeria, some may say that those stories don’t sell, that they are not interesting but I don’t believe so. If you begin to tell the young ones the real story of Nigeria, it is enough to keep them glued to the television because they need to know where they are coming from. The story of Nigeria is very interesting and captivating. So I hope those in the movie industry will expand their scope and content to reflect the culture, history and attributes of the average Nigerian. That ‘Never Say Die’ attitude; that resilience, that spirit that says nothing is impossible should be shown in our movies.
What is your favourite food?
I like gote from the Jos area. I like tuwon shinkafa and bean soup, the kind that is made by my mother which I am making my wife to learn.
What would you consider the greatest challenge of your job?
People, people… Expectations are high, lots of people have different ideas and advises that they think will help you. You have to listen to them even if you will not take the advice because a public officer is open to all. You cannot shut the door against them. So the challenge on this job is the people, and listening to them and choosing which advice to use. Most times when they come with their opinions, I ask them if they can situate their advice within the context of what I already have on ground.
What role do you think the media can play to change the perception of the international community about Nigeria?
A lot, by telling our story the way it should be told. It is not all the extreme challenges that are reported in the media that is true of Nigeria. For every negative thing that occurs in the country, there are 101 positive things that can be reported daily. Recently, I used some of my savings to negotiate for a new bus for my staff to encourage them in their work and because of the way I went about it I was given two buses for the price of one, which is a good story to tell. Also, another story where a lost document was returned by a taxi driver to the owner of the document. These are good stories to tell, must someone be knocked down by a car before it becomes news? These are the issues we are talking about! We should celebrate the success and achievements of one another especially when they are legitimate.
Do you think the entertainment industry has a role to play in national orientation?
Of course it does. If our movies show case our true story then it will go a long way. If I ask you about some of your primary school class mates, you may not remember them but you can remember some old movies from childhood. That is the case with movies; they leave lasting impression on the minds of people for a long time. If it is negative, it will give a negative impression and if it is positive, it will leave a positive impression. If we all do the right thing, it will leave the right message.