ODEY AND HIS REVOLUTIONARY APPROACH TO PUBLIC INFORMATION
When President Umar Musa Yar Adua announced Vision 202020 as the ultimate goal of the policies of his administration, there was no doubt that as a leader, he clearly had a dream about Nigerian greatness. Like every good dream, adequate steps must be taken to actualize it and the President embarked on this in earnest with meticulous care to select the team that would drive the Agenda that will position the country towards attaining the Vision. After the selection of Ministers and sharing of portfolio, the task of information management fell on John Odey. The President must have seen certain things that escaped the perception of many Nigerians on the person of Odey being the most suitable Minister to handle Nigeria Image under his administration.
One year in the saddle, Odey has justified creditably well the wisdom of President Yar Adua. He has handled the affairs of the Ministry in a way that is conducive to the stability and consultative profile of the Yar Adua administration. It is a general consensus that as Minister of Information, Odey has not plunged Nigeria into needless controversy as was the case during the tenure of several of his predecessor. In virtually every event and functions handled by Odey, there has been clear demonstration of maturity and sense of patriotism.
The first sign that Nigeria might have at last appointed a matured and seasoned Minister of Information and Communications was manifested last year in Geneva during the World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC 07). John Odey led the Nigerian delegation to the Conference, which also had delegations from world leading economies such as the United States, Switzerland, France, Germany among others. It was to the credit of Nigeria and Odey that Nigeria became one of the major countries courted by other nations’ delegations in taking decisions at the Conference. At the end of the day, Nigeria got elected as Vice Chairman of one of the Strategic Committees of the International Telecommunications Union, the body in charge of frequency usage allocations and telecommunications matters.
Apart from this, immediately after the Big Brother Africa Show in South Africa, the Minister did not vacillate in giving honour to the Nigerian Representative at the Show, Miss Moukelu Ofunneka, who was adjudged as having done Nigeria proud morally and in general conduct while at the House. Odey, rightly, made her part of the heart of Africa project, an action that served as an elixir for Nigerian Youths. This is in line with the philosophy of the Human Capital Development in the Seven Point Agenda of the present administration.
Apart from the recognition given Ofunneka, the Minister has also been consistent in his message during meetings with various stakeholders in the Nigeria project. At each of these meetings, the Minister has always underscored the fact that public officers have a godly role of serving the people and ensuring that the future of the younger generations of Nigerians is guaranteed and protected.
Addressing the 38 th Meeting of the National Council on Information and Communications at Jos in November last year, Odey said,“ for Nigeria to remain relevant and indeed maintain its position among the comity of nations, we must as a matter of utmost necessity and urgency, begin to think of how to perform even better on the Information and Communications super highway, under a democratic dispensation.”
It was on the basis of this that the Minister has made it his policy to re-engineer the way information about government is managed. One salient operational modality of the Minister is to facilitate easy access of media practitioners and stakeholders in the industry to crucial information about government policies and activities through consultations and collaborations. This policy was well acknowledged and commended when he met with the cross-section of desk editors of Nigerian Media Houses in Lagos recently. At the meeting, with him, were also Ministers of Finance, National Planning and Minister of State (Power).
His colleagues the Ministers were invited along to the meeting to afford the Editors minutest details about issues concerning the core areas of the Seven Point Agenda especially power, gas availability, fiscal and financial matters all of which the Minister believes are essential to the success of the 7-Point Agenda. In deed, at every meeting and forum, the Minister has been consistent in emphasizing the fact that access to information is crucial to the success of every government. According to him, in order for democracy to be celebrated, people must be made to be aware of the conducts and activities of government. He reiterated this again at the commissioning of Grace Television studio in Lokoja recently, the Minister pointed out that information is the currency with which democracy thrives. He pointed out that the present administration would continue to encourage every venture that makes Nigerians gain more access to information, as this will enhance more popular participation in governance and encourage accountability.
Every observer of the conduct of the minister since he came to Radio House will not fail to realize that the Minister has organized the Ministry in a way that will build it up as an institution that will be relevant in a economically viable democratic nation that Nigeria is fast becoming. Unlike in the past when actions and activities centered around only the occupant of the office of the Minister, John Odey has made every officer of each of the Departments in the Ministry as well as the Agencies under the Ministry to function in line with their respective statutory duties. He is a team player and astute administrator. He has consistently demonstrated good knowledge of management of men and resources.
Odey is a Minister who believes that the media has great role to play in the development of Nigeria economically, socially and politically and as such, they should always be carried along in policy formulation and implementation by public office holders. He does not believe in ditching out propaganda in order to deceive Nigerians but rather prefers to tell the story as it is. This he believes will help our country to grow and make government more accountable to Nigerians. Odey’s approach to information management has brought about integrity to Government more than ever before.
BY ANTIA NNENE
Asst. Chief Information Officer
Federal Ministry of Information and Communications