A former Special Adviser on Media to the former President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr. Reuben Abati, has said many journalists failed to appreciate the delicate and sensitive nature of his job, as they pestered him to react to some national issues while he held the post.
He said this on Monday in Abeokuta on the sideline of the 2015 annual lecture of the Ogun State Correspondents’ chapter of the Nigeria Union of Journalists.
Abati, who had earlier spoken on the theme, ‘Media and Economic Renaissance,’ said some journalists covering the State House did complain that he would not pick their calls whenever they wanted to get his reactions.
He noted that some of them failed to realise that he was a government spokesman and not a ‘journalist’ at that point in time, as they still expected his scathing criticisms and personal conviction.
He said, “Once you are in government, you are no more a journalist. It’s just like a royal court, the king does not go out there, he sends someone to deliver his message to the people. You are an agent to a principal.
“The job of a government spokesman is delicate and sensitive. If you are a careless spokesperson, you will blow up a country. It is not everything that a hunter sees in the bush that he talks about.
“But my colleagues, the journalists, still wanted me to talk as Abati, the columnist or Abati as a panelist in Patito’s Gang. Loquacity is not an asset when you are a government spokesman.”
Dwelling on the topic of the lecture, Abati called on media owners and journalists to be abreast of the economic policies of government, since such policies would affect them and their organisations.
He said, “We must prioritise issues of economic diversification. We must be interested in economic policies, we must acquire the skills to interrogate and analyse economic policies and we must interrogate people at the helm of affairs so that we can be crusaders of good society.”
He urged journalists to put political office holders on their toes to implement viable economic policies for national development.
Abati, who was the former chairman, The Guardian Newspaper Editorial Board, noted that most of the past economic policies put up by successive governments failed due to lack of dedication and continuity on the part of public office holders.
He bemoaned the idea of a new administration wanting to start everything afresh even when the immediate past government had some viable projects and programmes that would put the country on the path of sustainable development.
He said former President Jonathan introduced over 60 economic reforms which, he claimed, had been discarded by the incumbent administration, noting such lack of continuity in economic policies would breed socio-political instability.
He noted that the agricultural policy of the Jonathan administration dwelt on the entire value chain in that sector.
Earlier, the chairman of the occasion, the CEO of Rock City FM and a former Commissioner for Information in Ogun State, Mr. Niran Malaolu, advised journalists to stop ‘crucifying’ their colleagues when they were appointed as commissioners, advisers, or senior special assistants.
Rather, he said, they should support them and make them succeed.