Knowing the role of the media in politics, informed politicians will always try to use the media to their own advantage. Members of the public see journalists as their eyes and ears. The media has the ability to shape peoples’ perception about politics because they determine what gets published. Editors and their reporters will tell you the tedious task they face in selecting from a whole gamut of issues and events what will be appear on pages of newspapers and television screens.
Journalists through their reports and analyses can shape public perception of issues and policies, thus, help in setting political agenda. When journalists scale their reports and analyses on issues of governance, accountability, corruption, public service, and personal lives of politicians, they are often criticized as being sensational, negative and bias. Those affected term it as ‘bad news’.
The media place equal blame on both the political parties in power and the opposition parties. The public value and will want to see the impartiality and objectivity of media establishments in reporting political personalities.
For Obong Bassey Albert (OBA), the media has scaled him positive, and he is getting everything right, including his relationship with the media.
That OBA’s political image has been so elevated within a short span could be attributed to how the media has mirrored him in the public. Although he has received a little ‘baptism of negative press’, yet he remains the only political figure in recent history to be so heard both in the mainstream media and on social media. On the first day he opened his facebook account, he had an instant hit of 1,000 friends. His comments on facebook usually receive overwhelming response.
With a flurry of social media networks, millions of people, especially the younger generation are getting drawn into politics. Social network sites have not only become a kind-of-compulsory marketing tools, but savvy and smart platforms to communicate. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube have become extensive platforms used by governments, institutions, and politicians to reach to their audiences. Through the social media, politicians increase their political mileage by building good will and connecting with a vast array of events and ideas that shape their decisions.
OBA is widely seen as a friend of the media, for a man who came from the conservative banking world to assume public office, one would have expected him to have shrouded the office of finance commissioner in secrecy, but the reverse was the case for the seven years he held sway. Apart from the information commissioner, OBA remains the only public officer to have interacted with the media consistently on issues and policies of government.
It was a routine for him to constructively engage the media on all issues of public finance, government revenue and expenditure. As a way of boosting the capacity and productivity of journalists, OBA donated laptops and digital cameras to a cross section of chapels in the state council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists. The first government project (solar water) to be sited within the premises of the state secretariat of NUJ was constructed during his days as the chairman of the state inter-ministerial direct labour projects. The Nigerian Union of Journalists under the present leadership of Elder Patrick Albert recently got a financial assistance of two million naira courtesy of OBA’s desire to identify with the activities of professional bodies in the state.
His recent visit to Mr. Uko Umoh , the publisher of Community Pulse newspaper resonated the political sphere of Akwa Ibom state and beyond, it was a media event that attracted a great number of journalists, and a crowd of well-wishers and supporters. As expected, he was accorded a warm and media-friendly reception. His interaction with members of the fourth estate of the realm was purposeful and rewarding in two ways; it afforded him opportunity to cement the bond of relationship between him and the media, and to show regards to the media for its role in nation building. In his brief, but thought provoking remarks at the event, OBA charged the media to be on guard in order to ensure free, fair and people-oriented PDP primaries.
He stressed that his governorship aspiration was inspired by his absolute belief that, “power comes from God”, and that in the upcoming PDP primaries, “God will reflect his power through his instrumentality in the collective will of the people of Akwa Ibom State”. He prayed for a governor that will be loyal to the people of Akwa Ibom State. He maintained, “I am a very good student of the leadership ideologies of Governor Godswill Obot Akpabio, and I believe that I am better positioned, and I have the capacity and the tenacity to continue the uncommon transformation in Akwa Ibom State”.
As a man who empathizes with the plight of the masses, OBA’s message to the Akwa Ibom people was comforting, caring and assuring, “I will make my government to be the government of the common people by the common people and for the common people”.
As politicians step up their consultation and campaign processes, one thing becomes clear, the media will be expected to x-ray contending aspirants, political parties, and their progammes and strategies they will deploy to get their programmes through in such a manner that will give delegates and voters adequate and correct information to take decisions. And OBA’s politicking programmes, and manifesto will certainly dominate the media.