Abu Shekara, a former Deputy Editor (Daily) in LEADERSHIP Newspaper and now Director General, Media and Public Affairs to Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal in this encounter with ANKELI EMMANUEL maintained that members of the public holdsmedia practitioners in high esteem
My name is Abu Shekara. I was born in Sokoto on 10th July 1960. I did my Primary school here in Sokoto and Secondary school in Government Teachers College, Bida, Niger State. From there I went to the College of Education, Sokoto where I had my NCE in Fine Arts and Geography. I later went to Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto where I had my BSc in Geography.
Yes, after my NCE, I worked at the Sokoto state ministry of information as a Graphic Assistant before moving on to The Democrat Newspaper in 1987 were I worked as the Chief Cartoonist and later appointed Chief Proof Reader around 1990.
I left The Democrat in 1993 and returned to Sokoto when the State Newspaper Company was established to assume duty as the Chief Proof Reader and Arts Editor. Much later at different times I was the Chief Sub-Editor Special Projects and around 1997, I became the Editor of The Path Newspaper.
In 2003, I was appointed as the General Manager of Rima TV until 2006 when I joined the LEADERSHIP Newspaper in Abuja as the Daily Deputy Editor. Though, I returned to Rima TV in 2007 to resume again as General Manager. In 2008, I moved to Rima Radio as the General Manager and then in 2009, I moved to the Newspaper Company as General Manager. In 2010, I joined the NTA as Assistant Director Programmes in Abuja but was later deployed to Sokoto as Assistant Director programmes and Head of the programme Department of the NTA Sokoto Network Center.
Much later in 2012, I was transferred to Kaduna to head the NTA Hausa channel, which was one of the new language channels. NTA Hausa, NTA Igbo and NTA Yoruba, so I was deployed to Kaduna as Assistant Director and Supervisor of the NTA Hausa channels.
I later left NTA in 2014 back to the State ministry of Information as Director, Information Services before my appointment as Managing Director of the Sokoto State Media Corporation in 2015.
In 2017, I was upgraded to the position of Director General before my recent posting and redeployment to the office of the Executive Governor as DG Media and Public Affairs.
Relationship with people at work places
Right from Democrat newspaper, it just gave me the impression and through experience, I have come to learn that the media industry is a very free environment where your colleagues give you the opportunity, help you to discover and realize your own potentials and capacities.
From the Democrat to NTA and State Media Corporation where I worked, I have come to discover that it is simply a fraternity of professional friends who give each other the opportunity to realize their potentials.
Believe me, the media community is a model in that relationship, where professional colleagues help each other because it is an industry that is based on responsibility. Everyone is responsible for something and everyone’s job is depended on the success of the job of the other person. No one can claim sole responsibility for the success of the media house be it a newspaper, television, radio house or whatever kind of a medium.
It is a collective work where everyone does his part. They give you opportunity to excel and it does not matter which medium it is. Whether it is local newspaper, Rima TV, Rima Radio, the National Dailies, NTA or International media, the atmosphere and the environment is the same.
The media world has very enlightened people. Of course, the media community is the most enlightened community anywhere in the world. It is a place where you share knowledge and intelligence about so many things that affect nature.
Relationship between media practitioners and the outside world
Practitioners in the media industry enjoy great respect and admiration from the outside world. What they say is taken as truth. Yes, of course, no doubt, interest will surely come in to make particular audience depending on their inclination to believe or disagree with a story. It all depends on who they are.
Nevertheless, the larger public tends to have trust, admiration and repose a lot of confidence on media practitioners. They believe that the media practitioners know what is happening in the society and they have the capacity to make the audience adopt their own opinion. The vast majority of the public will not make an opinion on anything until they read an informed opinion from the newspapers, listen to the radio or watch the television. And in most cases the opinions of commentators, columnist, producers or talk show host in the media often times get adopted unconsciously by members of the public as their own opinion.
Therefore, I think the relationship is that practitioners in the media industry enjoys trust and confidence from members of the public and they equally endevour to justify such trust by being above board as much as they can.
Even though, they are equally being influenced by other societal factors like every other professionals, but largely, I think they enjoy mutual respect from the public, which comes with some degree of responsibility.
Work as DG, Media and Public Affairs to the governor
I believe as a spokesperson or an image-maker to the Chief Executive of a state and an administration that also carries out policies and programmes, deploy and expend funds for the good of the people, I think the first responsibility is to make members of the public understand the rationale behind any action of the government.
You are to basically make them understand that whatever action taken by the Chief Executive is for their collective good in the first place. Rather than trying to convince the people, I think the best way is to let them understand the rationale behind the action and how it is in their best interest is very fundamental.
Hence, each policy and programme has its own objective; the people whose interest those objectives are meant to serve should be made to understand them. In addition, to make members of the public understand that the Chief Executive has their interest at heart as an individual that has the capacity to deliver on their interest. That is his primary and personal interest that you cannot divorce from his schedule as the governor of Sokoto State.
Second, my job is to try and defend the interest of the government like people do say. You are now defending the interest of a government whose governor is a representative of the people because he was given the mandate of the people through votes, so he represents the entire people.
The government might carry out policies and programmes which the people may sometimes not understand to be in their favour, but you are to make them as understand that as their leader he is thinking and reasoning together with other arms of government. These arms of government alongside the excos, commissioners, Advisers, traditional and religious leaders, youths, women, CSOs, NGOs, traders and other relevant stakeholders have the responsibility to reach compromises and understanding after interpreting the aggregate interest of the people before implementing any policy.
I think it is the responsibility of the media and public affairs officer to ensure that the people understand some of these fact and know that the actions, policies and programmes of the government is to their best interest.
Though, I don’t like the term, image-maker because every individual has an image already. Maybe, it is better to say, such a person simply explains how good the man is. And if a man is already good, what other image do you want to make other than the good image he has? So, you only try to make the people understand and believe better that the man is a good man.
My predecessor, the late Imam Dalhatu Imam (May his soul rest in peace) was a young man who had a lot of energy, capacity and lots of experience who was able to accomplish much within the short period of his existence and practice. He was able to accomplish so much because of the natural gift and drive he has for meeting lot of people as a media practitioner.
Do not also forget that he handled the media and public affairs responsibility for Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal at the National Assembly in one of the most trying times that the former Speaker had. Imam Imam did that very successfully by cultivating a good relationship, first with his principal, second with colleagues of his principal and thirdly with his own colleagues in the media industry.
Imam Imam was able to strike that balance and bring about the best in his job coupled with his energy, which also matches with that of his principal who is also a very young man who has a lot of energy and enthusiasm for what he does. To fill the vacuum left by Imam, I think is going to be a challenge but of course is a challenge, which I think I can make a very good attempt to take. First, to carry on with the very good work he has done and bring in some other things that if Imam Imam were to be alive today, he would have also brought to match with the exigencies and priorities of the time, which keeps changing.
Therefore, what is necessary is to first re-establish and re-enhance good relationship with the principal, the media industry and the public. One would strive to gain the confidence of the Chief Executive just as Imam Imam had and to continue to retain the confidence of the principal who had tremendous confidence in the late Imam Imam through performance, good work which are the priorities.
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