The scourge of ‘media aides’ and what is good for them

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Gov Caleb Mutfwang of Plateau 

By Katdapba Gobum

Caveat Emptor: This is not in any way directed at anyone, group or intended to malign same; even as it is meant to draw the attention of those who appoint media aides to fight their battles.

The era for the conscription and usage of untrained media aides has become the vogue. As soon as public officials are sworn in, young men and women are taken off the labour market and made media aides, without any formal training in the art.

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Truly, I agree that they have helped them in the ways they may have wanted. What we always have not been told is the nature of their salaries and rules of engagements, while it lasts.

It may not be far from what has always been thought of: Paltry sum of money that is not sufficient to transport them to the boss’ house in a month, but enough to buy data as arsenal to engage his opponents; and settle some cheap scores.

Those who are aware know almost all of them are not formally trained in journalism or mass communication, which will equip them for their tasks.

Media work is assumed by many Nigerians to be an all-comers’ profession until they are handed  pen and paper to go on an assignment.

Their skills are expressed in the Android phones either bought by the boss, or by the user who may have hustled over time to ‘remain relevant’, in the estimation of those he serves.

They are easily referred to as ‘Data Boys’, as much of their assignments would be to sing their praises, and churning poorly constructed releases and or attack perceived opponents or those who attacked their boss.

On being appointed, they get into command mode and are ever ready to devour the ‘enemies’ of Oga as soon as they officially begin.

It is their way of offering ‘assistance’, however, to know that they are involved, sometimes, they go for the  overkill; reducing persons and institutions that do not share same opinion or are not in the same camp with them.

There is nothing wrong when you offer to use your skills to serve a benefactor. There is everything wrong when their unprofessionalism puts the boss in harm’s way.

The social media has become a battle field, and indeed it is. Given that Bloggers, vloggers, influencers, and content creators are interested in having credible content, it would be appreciated that more of them can initiate storylines that sell their principals and advance their causes, if they are well trained.

It is possible to change the narrative of having just anybody as a media aide. We think they should not be addressed as such on account of unprofessionalism. There are better ways that they can be addressed.

There are many appellations that may be used to address them. Consider for instance: Change Agent, Legislative Assistant, Research Assistant, Administrative Assistant, Executive Assistant, Administrative Coordinator, and Administrative Specialist.

It is understandable why the ‘wars are fought’ on different new media platforms. These platforms are mostly populated by young people, thus, reaching them could be easy and accessible. Don’t be used and dumped, be the change that you are needed.

From this end, it is possible to achieve the mileage needed having brought them on board. They need training in the art of writing and in public relations.

Who can make the training possible? The offices of the Plateau State House Speaker, Rt Hon, Hon Commissioner for Information and Communication, Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and the Nigeria Union of Journalists should step in and organise an intensive training workshop for them.

The Speaker, Rt Hon Gabriel K Dewan, the Commissioners, Hon Musa Ibrahim Ashom and Hon Ephraim Usman and the NUJ Chairman, Comrade Ayuku Pwaspo are forward looking and organised to want a change in these areas. And more importantly, give the youth who have been appointed a purpose.

Young people who have a long stretch of quality life ahead of them cannot continue to dissipate their energies and goodwill now. The future holds a lot of prospect for their principals, but much more for them, as they have much ahead of them,.

We must think about what the future holds while they are alive and kicking well. We must secure their future and the positive contributions they are able to make.

Let’s save Plateau State and its youth and create order and a future for them.

Gobum, a distinguished professional journalist, is a former NUJ Chairman, Plateau State.

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