Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, says social media has made the task of spokespersons of government difficult.
Speaking at the annual conference and general meeting of the National Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) in Kwara state, Mohammed said the challenge of spokespersons have defied everything they may have been taught in school.
He expressed concerns over the situation where anyone with a telephone and internet access could easily give out information to a large “fanatic followership” which may not be true.
He advised government spokespersons not to be discouraged by this, encouraging them to possess qualities such as integrity, courage and “abnormal capacity for hard work”.
“There is no better occasion than this to examine the increasingly tough, and almost impossible, job of a public relations practitioner,” he said.
“Tougher still is the task of the government perception manager, whether he or she is the minister of information, commissioner for information, spokespersons for the president or governor or for any government agency.
“The challenges faced daily by the perception managers have been exacerbated by the social media. Today, the challenges have defied everything the practitioner may have been taught about perception management, public relations and all.
“Today, anyone with a phone and data is a journalist, a blogger, owner of an online publication, an opinion moulder, etc. And they do all this simply because they can. No regulations, no sanctions.
“The spokesperson is at their mercy. Regrettably, they have a fanatic followership in the largely uninformed masses, whose experience over the years has primed them not to trust government and public office holders. The masses are daily served incredible menu and unbelievable tales which they swallow hook, line and sinker.”
He also denied claims that he diverted $1.2 billion.
“How else can you explain that people will believe and circulate a fake report that the minister of information and culture; that is yours truly, has $1.2 billion in his imaginary bank account? Let’s examine this for a moment,” he said.
“$1.2 billion is about N400 billion. The entire yearly budget of the ministry of information and culture, where I preside, is under N15 billion, and these include salaries, overhead and capital projects. Assuming, without conceding, that the minister somehow manages to transfer the entire budget into his personal account, it will take 25 years for him to amass N400 billion.”