US government responds to President Buhari’s request, trains governors’ spokespersons

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Media advisors and chief press secretaries of the 17 state governors in southern Nigeria, Monday, began a four-day training workshop organized by the United States government in Lagos.

‎Dehab Ghebreab, Acting US Consul-General, said the training is aimed at enhancing their skills to better serve Nigerians.

“These types of workshops and US based training opportunities that we offer through the International Visitor Leadership Program and other programs demonstrate our commitment to the deep partnership that we have long enjoyed with Nigeria,” said Ms. Ghebreab in her opening remarks.

“These trainings, funded by the people of the United States, come in response to President Buhari’s request for help training spokespersons, at both the federal and state level, in effective press office operations.

“A particular emphasis will be placed on countering radical narratives‎ and helping you to create a strong network of colleagues throughout the government of Nigeria.”

Two similar workshops had been held in Abuja and ‎Kaduna for presidential advisers and spokespersons of the 19 northern governors respectively.

Ms. Ghebreab said effective government press operations are critical at the federal, state and local level (to) communicating clear and timely information to the public.

“Your ‎ability to deliver President Buhari’s messages about counterterrorism, ending corruption, and furthering economic development are important to the future of Nigeria. It is also important for you to convey the state governors’ priorities to the citizens of the state.”

The media aides are expected to be taught the critical components of an effective press office operation, how to develop inter-governmental talking points, as well as techniques to enhance relationships with the media.

Eduardo Cue, a US media consultant, said the training would involve a lot of interactions, including interviews.

“As the week goes on, we’ll be doing some interviews on tape with a number of you,” said Mr. Cue, a former spokesperson for the United Nations, who will facilitate the workshop.

“I’m going to ask you very very difficult questions, trying to make you as uncomfortable as possible to see how you’ll deal with real life situations.”

Mr. Cue advised the media aides to “be on top of the crisis situation in Paris” to monitor the media coverage and the government response.

Folarin Adeyemi, the Permanent Secretary of the Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy, ‎highlighted the importance of effective communication of government programmes and policies by spokespersons.

“I’m so happy that most, if not all, that are sitting here are journalists par excellence in their own rights,” said Mr. Adeyemi, who represented Steve Ayorinde, the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy.

“‎So my own little advise as a communication person, for communication to be effective… there will be cultural challenges, political interference, even our own colleagues who also pose a serious challenge to us.”

Mr. Adeyemi urged the participants to be IT-compliant and have a broad knowledge of social media platforms.

“The trend of information management has now changed since the world has become a global village,” he said.

“We are moving from the traditional media to the online media and that’s where the people are.”

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