Forum urges use of social media in governance

Eme Offiong, Calabar

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Nigeria’s former Information Ministers have urged the government to take advantage of  various social media platforms  to reach the people.

The ex-ministers made the call during a colloquium titled “Managing Government Information at the Volatile New Media Age, A Matter of Theory or Question of Practice held in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital city in southern Nigeria.

Professor Jerry Gana, who was one of the panelists at the forum said that the administration of former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo laid a foundation for the growth of telecommunications services, which drives the new media.

He recalled the government was limited to the use of the traditional media to disseminate its policies. But, with the new media, more people can be reached with government information. Although, these new media has challenges”.

Open Society

Another ex-Information Minister, Labaran Maku described the call for a clampdown and restriction of social media as misplaced.

Maku argued that the social media has broken the monopoly on information dissemination and would drive the move for an open society.

He said “I do not think that those calling for limitations to the use of social media mean well for the society. Although the social media gives people, who lack the professional training access to publish information, it has come to end the era of suppressing information”.

“We must brace up for an open society and the Nigerian Government should integrate the social media into its information management strategy”, Maku suggested.

Increased Channels

John Odey, also a former Minister of Information, sees the new media as an increase of information channels, which the Nigerian Government should utilize effectively to reach the populace.

Odey, who maintained that the communication process was the same, urged media professionals to take advantage of the new media to publicize reports for a wider coverage.

Oche Elias, a social media activist, stated that the internet was widely used by millions of young people and older ones alike in Nigeria, noting “there were more than 90 million active internet users in Nigeria in search of alternative information haven due to a lack of faith in the traditional media”.

In a brief remark, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, the Bayelsa State Commissioner for Information, commended Governor Seriake Dickson for providing a world class facility and conducive work environment to enhance the ministry’s services to the people.

Highlight of the colloquium was the inauguration of the Bayelsa State Information House by Professor Jerry Gana.

Ime N