ON HIS BEHALF

Nigeria 2016 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President, on representing the new administration and engaging with the public through new forms of media.

Femi Adesina
BIOGRAPHY
Femi Adesina was appointed Special Advisor of Media on Media and Publicity in May of 2015. He was formerly the Managing Director of the Sun newspaper as well as President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE). Adesina began his career at the Vanguard Newspapers as a Features Writer before later moving to the now-defunct National Concord Newspapers. He was an early employee of The Sun newspaper where he became the Editor, and later the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief.

You had a successful career as a journalist before joining the President's team. How have your experiences in Nigeria helped you design a media strategy for President Buhari?

I have spent 29 years in the media, on radio, television, and in print. Most recently, I was Managing Director of Sun Newspapers. In my current role in public relations and as a spokesman, I can always draw on that depth of experience. We have to fashion our media strategy around the activities of our principles, and the principles of the president are those of clarity and straightforwardness. Whatever he has said, he will stand by it and he will own up to whatever he has done. Upon taking office, the goals and commitments of President Buhari were clear, and he has worked consistently to make the government more transparent and accountable. These are some of the values that our media strategy seeks to emphasize. Our role as members of his media team is to represent him, present his views, and defend him when necessary, by providing clarification. We publicize what he is doing openly and honestly. Another important job in this media spectrum is to ensure that the conversation remains civil. Like in any country, the Nigerian media can sometimes be more civil, and my experience in the field helps me tackle political attacks.


News media is moving rapidly towards online and user-generated content. How are you addressing the young population of Nigeria who are increasingly accessing their news through the internet?

I have a Facebook and Twitter page, and have since garnered tens of thousands of followers. We publish regular updates through these platforms and we are planning to advance our social media strategy significantly as the government settles. We are going to have a special assistant in charge of new media, who will coordinate a team that is focused on our online strategy. This means there is going to be considerably more engagement with young people and the population in general. Social media provides a unique opportunity for engagement, as people on these platforms feel closer to the presidential office than through more traditional mediums such as newspaper and television.

You have made a point of publicizing the administration's steps and successes in the fight against corruption. How do you view the media strategy and its relationship to the process of justice?

The process of justice is fairly straightforward. The president has said repeatedly that he will not charge anybody in court without obtaining evidence first. Anybody who is going to be charged with anything will have their day in court and be able to defend themselves. In our engagement, we seek to publicize the successes of the administration against corruption without jeopardizing investigations in any way. It is important to communicate a tough stance on corruption, because a great change in consciousness is needed across the country.

How do you manage what comes out of Nigeria and what reaches the international community?

We are the interface between the government and the public, and that public includes the international community. Our media releases go around the world, the international media is on our mailing list. We make consistent efforts to engage the international media during the President's visits abroad, and we stress the same principles of straightforwardness and honesty outside the country as we do inside. Internationally, this has been received very well. We also emphasize the opportunities that are present in Nigeria for international investors and businesspeople. The nation is on the doorstep of increased growth and prosperity, both things that this president will unlock.

What are your expectations for the year ahead?

I expect that we will use all the communication channels available to us to disseminate what the government is doing. We will not discount any particular channel; we will utilize all of them. Furthermore, our office will be growing. Presently there are two of us on the team, however we intend to have a number of special assistants joining us with specific briefs. We will not leave any stone unturned in communicating the administration's actions and intentions.