My voyage on the (River) Niger
By Jibrin Baba Ndace
‘Everyone needs a strategy…’ – Lawrence Freedman
Three years ago, precisely in November 2015, I was entrusted with the responsibility of being the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the dynamic and amiable Governor of Niger State, Alhaji (Dr.) Abubakar Sani-Bello.
Three years down the road, I can look back with utmost satisfaction and deep sense of fulfilment that I executed my mandate diligently, ethically and professionally in line with global best practices.
All these years, I approached each task as every arrowhead should: with passion, dedication, courage, loyalty and an unquenchable desire to make a difference. I took on my assignment with Aristotle’s concept of work in mind: “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work”. I also imbibed Muhammad Ali’s dictum: “Don’t count the days; make the days count.” I aligned with Maya Angelou on creativity: “You can’t use up creativity; the more you use, the more you have.”
For me, like a professional photographer, every moment counts! Above all, I was never afraid of making mistakes. As a military brat, I was very mindful of the advice given to newly promoted military officers that: “It is not what you do to get to a rank that matters, but what you do on the rank.”
In my years as a journalist and public relations practitioner, I have learnt the art of sacrifice, hard work and commitment as my guiding principles. It is with this mindset and temperament that I handled the onerous task of managing the reputation of my former principal.
In executing my mandate, I stood firm on my principles of doing my job professionally and ethically in line with global best practices in reputation and brand management for the governor and for the good of Nigerlites.
I set out with a vision to consistently and strategically deploy PR and media expertise in the reputation management of my principal in line with the cardinal priority of the administration.
To achieve the set goal, I galvanized the human and material resources available to me nationally and globally. Fully aware of the challenges of being a reputation manager in the age of social media, I deployed appropriate PR strategies in closing the inherited lacuna through creation of subtle, truthful, believable, and timely narratives acceptable to various publics on traditional and online platforms.
In line with the corporate values of professionalism, teamwork, creativity, dynamism, integrity, commitment and innovation, I rebranded the department from ‘Press Crew’ to NIGGOVMEDIATEAM (an acronym for Niger Governor Media Team).
In the last three years, with the robust collaboration of my staff and the support of other professional colleagues, we conceived creative and dynamic ideas as well as laudable initiatives to support the agenda of the Governor, such as the establishment of the FOSCIN (Forum of Spokespersons of Critical Institutions in Niger State), which we established to engender synergy and coordination in managing security information in the state; and the introduction of a special magazine (POWER STATE) which profiled the work and administration of Governor Abubakar Sani-Bello. We also introduced a media monitoring project to ensure adequate feedback to assist the people-related policies of His Excellency. In all instances, we employed the best tactics in media engagement and conduct.
Small wonder, our efforts were commended by national and international organisations. In recognition of our creative and innovative disposition, I won the Outstanding Chief Press Secretary Award by the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), FCT Chapter for my extraordinary role in promoting ideals of public relations in Nigeria, as well as the African Public Relations Certificate of Excellence Award for my outstanding accomplishments in managing security information in Niger state through the formation and activities of FOSCIN.
This period which I considered as a ‘Command Appointment’ is one of the defining moments in my career as a journalist and PR practitioner – very exciting, momentous and eventful. It offered me first-hand opportunity to know more about democracy and democrats, politics and politicians, traditional institution and traditional rulers, journalists and journalism, traditional media and new media/social media insurgents, information and disinformation, sabotage and saboteurs, bootlicking and bootlickers, public relations and Public Relations Practitioners, public servants and public service, eye servants and eye service, election and electorate, government and governance, leadership and followership, power and power play, power and corridor of power, detraction and detractors, political appointees and political service, loyalty and loyalists, lobbying and lobbyists, youth and politics, women and politics, activists and activism, unionists and unionism, fake news and fake folks, … must I go on?
I served, bearing in mind that like all those who served before me, there would be different verdicts of my stewardship, fully aware that as Albert Einstein famously noted: “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything”. I also realised that as the first African-American 4-Star General, Collin Powel, said, “Command is Lonely ….” I, therefore, take responsibility for all decisions I took as the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to Governor Abubakar Sani-Bello from November 2015 to May 2019.
As I reflect on my momentous years as the CPS to a man I call the master of Blusukan, I give thanks to Almighty Allah in whose hands my destiny lies.
I thank Governor Sani-Bello most profoundly for giving me the opportunity to serve the state at this critical time. My work was made easier due to his exceptional personality and disposition as he never stopped believing in my judgment, counsel and professionalism.
As I return to base, I reflect on the preface of one of my publications thus: “The joy of leaving and the pain of having to leave”; the joy of leaving those who wanted me to leave and the pain of leaving genuine friends and colleagues.
As I bow out as the 14th Chief Press Secretary to the 14th and 5th elected governor of Niger state, I reflect on General Stanley McChrsytal’s thought on Leaders in his memoirs, ‘My Share of the Task’: “Leaders are not necessarily popular, because the choice between popularity and effectiveness is ultimately no choice at all; leaders walk a fine line between self-confidence & humility. All leaders are human. They carry the same range of emotions and frailties common to mankind.”
I remain committed to the service of the people as my zeal to serve is resolute.
I leave with firm conviction that as Lawrence Freedman posited: ‘Everyone needs a strategy…”
I thank all those who were part of my voyage on the (River) Niger. Mungo Park must be acknowledging me in his grave: his was a voyage of discovery; mine was a voyage of service!
Jibrin Baba Ndace,
Former Chief Press Secretary to the Niger State Governor.