Why Gov. Ahmed patronises private stations – Akorede


Senior Special Assistant on Media and Communication to Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed in this Interview with MUMINI ABDULKAREEM speaks on the ongoing renovation of media houses in the state among other issues in the polity. Excerpts

Why are you embarking on the renovation of the media houses now?

Well, Governor Ahmed believes firmly and strongly in the value of efficient communication as a tool of governance and he had signalled that interest very early since the beginning of his administration. There is the question of whether we should run the media as profitable ventures or as a media propaganda organ keeping in mind the need for a strong organ to propagate government activities. The notion of government as a Father Christmas will have to stop. They need to deliver on their statutory mandate and be able to sustain themselves. At the beginning of this administration, the Governor wanted to take personal control of this project out of personal conviction and brought the media houses under his office relying on the provision setting them up to reposition them in terms of the equipment, ways of operations and operate at optimal capacity to cover their own cost even though they are not contributing anything to government. We put out a tender and got very interesting responses but eventually we selected two. The governor wanted a project management approach where instead of doing three things at once, you take them in piecemeal. But there was need to quickly do something about the physical infrastructure of Radio Kwara and Kwara TV. The latter was the most troubled of them and we completely overhauled it, we have reach 95 per cent on that. Today, they have a new extension for the staff, new reception area and a new studio. Kwara TV is the best equipped government funded station today in the whole of north central and even at par, if not more, than some of the best national stations around. The reason we didn’t buy a new transmitter was based on the advice of the DG of NBC that the N26m equipment doesn’t fit into the new ecosystem of digitisation and will not be useful in the next one year. So we bought a microwave link. What they need now is just a new generator with the capacity to power the additional electricity needs. We have also purchased a brand new studio equipment for Midland FM besides its repairs. The next phase is Radio Kwara and then The Herald.

How soon are we expecting the viability of these huge spending of government?

The idea is to finish with the repositioning first and give them all the needed tools before setting targets. Give them the structure, equipment, training and manpower they need and on a phase basis, take it piecemeal. For instance, Radio Kwara requires about N15m monthly for salaries and operational expenses, Kwara TV and The Herald hover around N7m and N2.8m respectively. Where we are going eventually is give them half and require them to generate the remaining which still has to pass through TSA. But it will be in a phase process.

What is the timeline for all of these?

Well, our timeline was initially June and it will interest you to know that because of the seriousness the Governor attached to this project, it is the only non-infrastructural project that is in IF-K to make sure it is funded to completion.

But it seems The Herald is not getting much attention?

That is not true. Kwara TV was really bad and you would be embarrassed such was a government station. When we started its renovation, we were also doing some work at Radio Kwara and The Herald. For The Herald, we got brand new computers, some air-conditioning systems, did some training and gave them some vehicles. We also opened three zonal offices in Ibadan, Niger and Kogi in addition to the ones in Lagos and Abuja. You will also notice that the orientation has changed to a regional newspaper covering the southwest and the north central with a strong online presence and one of the things in the pipeline by the Governor is to build a new structure subject to financing.

Critics see all these as just cosmetics and a kind of window dressing without the staff being carried along?

Project management is like building a house which is done in phases. If the staff are trained but no equipment to work with when they come back, is that not worse? In Kwara TV, we have done presentation and technical trainings. The next is on programme production, marketing and news writing when we have fund. Same for Radio Kwara and the Midland equipment is one of the best in the state today. Next is to get them a 10KW transmitter. We have good staff on ground already but we just need to make them much more contemporary. Midland FM is streaming online now complete with a new live studio and Kwarans in the Diaspora can listen to what is happening at home from all over the world.
There are fears in some quarters that based on the unpredictability of government, these project might surfer neglect if they are not completed…
They will be completed before the end of this year, Kwara TV, Midland FM and The Herald by the grace of God. People should not entertain any fear about their completion which was why they were domiciled in the IF-K. The Governor is also the chairman of the Implementation Committee that also includes the Ministry of Information, myself and the KP3 office which shows the seriousness and commitment to bring it to fruition.

The ruling administration appears to fancy patronage of private stations at the expense of the growth of government establishment, why is this?

That decision is strategic because private stations have a unique audience different from ours and if you want to reach those other audiences as well, you have to go to them. We are courting these stations to cover our stories because using government media alone would not make us succeed. The first episode of the “Governors Explains” was held live at the lodge and about five editions thereafter came up at Radio Kwara before the government decided to diversify. Penultimate week, we were about to hold another edition at Midland FM but it had to be shelved because the Governor had to travel to Abuja. We would take the Governor to any platform that can serve our communication interest. We need to give all the media houses in the state patronage and sense of belonging.

Is the renovation targeted at 2019 election as being insinuated in some quarters?

This project was moved to the Governor’s office in 2015 within the first year of his second tenure and he couldn’t have been preparing for 2019. It has nothing to do with elections or targeted at it. The point is that the government wants to ensure it’s able to communicate efficiently with his people who have struck a connection with some of our platforms.

Why did government allowed things to degenerate to this level before intervention?

Things will naturally deteriorate and one of the things the Governor wants to do is ‘future proof’ and that is why we are putting equipment that will not warrant us changing them in the next five years or more. It’s not that we neglected them before now because there have been some smaller interventions during the first term to ensure they get to certain level.

What kind of stations are you expecting at the end of all these?

Optimally performing state media houses and the plan going forward is to demarcate their audiences. It’s not strategically wise for two government radio stations (AM and Midland) to be serving the same audience. Increasingly you will see an AM more conservative and grassroots oriented and if you pay attention to Midland now, it is more youth orientated and contemporary and we are not even there yet. Gradually we’ll change the sound, feel and character of Midland through its programming and we’ll migrate that to Radio Kwara which has an important and iconic symbol. We have achieved a regional orientation for The Herald and the next step now is to achieve a community orientation. And we are already seeing the results as people from neighbouring states have been calling to work with The Herald based on the new orientation. Agreed they cannot compete with Tribune and ThisDay among others because of available resources but we should be able to reach southwest and north central states and we have increase patronage for all of them.

Will there be any foreign or external partnerships?

We are very open but that is not in the plan at the moment. The idea is to train the people there to be able to carry on because we have good professionals and like everybody else, they are not perfect. We just want to expose them to more modern ways of working by bringing people to do that here. When we unveil The Herald, you will see a much more contemporary newspaper.

How do you react to the allegation that your office has overbearing influence on state media houses? Do you give them free hand to operate?

I don’t think there is any complaint of such. Being government station, obviously there will be parameters within which we operate and most times I’m completely unaware of the opposition person they are bringing until he gets to the studio. They didn’t have to ask for permission. Where the government draws the line is when they bring somebody on radio or television that will be making wild unsubstantiated claims and you don’t give them a presenter or producer that will be able to check them. You cannot do that in national/private stations of repute. We only tell them not to allow people to come on board to make claims without evidence or to incite the people and create hatred. Now if you watch Kwara TV, not all their stories starts with Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed. We have told them to look at the news worthiness of stories in their bulletin and prioritise the item. So there is no intervention like that but of course you cannot discount the influence of ownership

The recent hullabaloo on alleged moves to ban political broadcast generated concerns in the polity between the ruling and opposition party, what is the issue really?

There is no freedom without limitations. There is a law in place and whether you agree that it is consistent with our democracy or not is a different issue. But the law is clear and if you noticed, the national body of the opposition don’t do what we are experiencing in the state but just focus on issues. Today (Thursday) for instance, the opposition was on radio claiming that the local government monitoring committees that had just been appointed by the Governor would be paid by the local government councils which is completely false. Same with the issue of water where they alleged that the tanker used for the distribution are killing people without any shred of evidence and yet the presenter is sitting there and letting them get away with it. The other time, one clergy man went on his facebook page to claim that members of another religion were raping girls in the premises of another religion during the new-year eve fracas in one of the churches in the state, when in fact, it was the Christians who were actually protecting the Muslims. Now imagine if some youth took to the street based on that. That is what the government and House of Assembly want to check. We need to be very careful about what we put out there and like the Governor would always say, criticise me if you feel I have done wrong or have reneged on my promises instead of making wild claims without evidence to indict government. Look at the issue of the Underpass, the opposition felt we should have used the money for another project, that was their prerogative but the government felt it was right and even about to finish it now. So there is a difference. Nobody is saying they shouldn’t criticise but do it with responsibility and with respect for other persons right, that of the state and the community to live in peace and harmony and avoid crisis which they cannot even withstand. You don’t use the media to fan the embers of hatred and incitement, it’s wrong and the government will not take that.

Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button