By Sumaila Ogbaje
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, has advised Army public relations officers to be more proactive and responsive to information and public relations management and practices.
Attahiru gave the advice at the opening of a capacity building/training workshop for public relations officers of the Nigerian Army facilitated by Centre for Crisis Communication on Wednesday in Abuja.
The COAS, represented by the Chief of Policy and Plans, Maj.-Gen. Ben Ahanotu, said that the workshop, with the theme; “Repositioning the Nigerian Army Public Relations Towards Addressing Contemporary Communication Challenges”, was timely.
He said that in view of the continuous emergencies and flashpoints across the country, the Nigerian Army, as the linchpin in internal security operations, required effective crisis communication strategy.
Attahiru said that the duty of the military is to neutralise the threats that terrorists, bandits, militants and sundry violent elements posed to peace and stability of the country by ensuring that the adversaries are separated from the population.
He stated that the fight ought to cover the physical, psychological and information domains to be able to achieve a holistic result.
“As you all know, the battle field for us in the war against terror and other internal security operations which we are engage is not just in the trenches.
“Even more ferocious is the battle in the media where the attritional war of narrative is daily raging.
“Bear it in your minds, therefore, that there are elements in the society whose mission is to attack the credibility and professionalism of our institution and operations using the media.
“To sustain the necessary momentum of security operations, public relations officers must strive to salvage the credibility of our operations from those who are bent on discrediting our efforts at every stage.
“It is our responsibility to counter those who unduly punch holes in our operations and malign our personnel through all kinds of accusations and allegations aimed at diminishing the integrity of officers or the military authorities in military operations,” he said.
The army chief expressed concern that the counter-terrorism campaign of the military had been a victim of misconceptions and falsehood that were disseminated and effectively sustained in the public domain through the instrumentality of the media.
He said that there was need to brace up for the antics of those intent on undue fault finding, blame trading and negative story slanting to distract army’s mission.
According to him, the Nigerian Army must remain conscious of these responsibilities which must be inspired, driven and built on the fundamentals of good reputation that creates goodwill, respectability and acceptability.
Attahiru stressed that maintaining credibility and respectability with different groups, institutions and personalities for good corporate image was the hallmark of the spokesperson.
He also urged the officers to be conscious of the good reputation needed to create or generate goodwill and acceptability.
He added that personal reputation and integrity, as well as the Nigerian army’s image or reputation were both important, urging that delicate balance must be maintained at all times in the discharge of their responsibilities.
The Director Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Mohammed Yerima, said that the workshop was in keeping with Attahiru’s vision to have “a Nigerian army that is repositioned to professionally defeat all adversaries in a joint environment”.
Yerima said that the training workshop was aimed at the harnessing the capacity of the participants to surmount the challenges of communicating the activities and operations of the Nigerian Army as public relations officers.
He urged the participants to pay rapt attention to the training, adding that the COAS expected that a more positive reflection of the training would be seen in the participants through their actions.
Executive Secretary, Centre for Crisis Communication, retired Air Commodore Yusuf Anas, said that the Nigerian Army had continued to play a pivotal role towards eliminating the security challenges confronting the nation towards enhancing peace and stability.
Anas said that the event would provide the participants opportunity for frank and robust discussion on contemporary communication challenges facing the Nigerian Army in particular and other security agencies in general.
He said that the centre believed that security matters and issues should not be politicised, adding that some individuals and groups in the country had regularly engaged in castigating the security agencies.
Anas, however, called on leaders at all levels and the public to rally behind the security agencies and encourage them to eradicate most of the current security challenges bedeviling the country.
According to him, the workshop was packaged towards enhancing the capacity of the officers in key areas of contemporary communication challenges, public relations and media management.