Since the outbreak of the coronavirus in the country, the National Orientation Agency has continued to educate and enlighten members of the public on how to contain and curtail the spread of the disease. The Agency has organized a nationwide publicity and enlightenment campaigns to galvanize support and create awareness on the precautionary measures announced by federal government and health institutions in the country. The campaign is still ongoing. The Agency’s structure which makes it a grassroots organization enhances quick and effective enlightenment.
The Agency is an official advocacy organ established by Federal government for grassroots communication. It has the mandate to inform, educate, and enlighten citizens on policies, programmes, and activities of the government.
The Agency possesses the necessary expertise for advocacy and has a robust history for highly successful programme implementation since its establishment. It enjoys the confidence of both rural and urban people and it is regarded as a credible source. The strength of the Agency lies in the fact that it is the only organization of government with the capacity and capability to simultaneously reach all nooks and crannies of Nigeria with public information on all issues of national relevance.
It was not surprising therefore that following the outbreak of the coronavirus in the country and in order to arrest the situation, the Agency mobilized all its resources and publicity machineries into swift action. An in-house training of staff of the Agency nationwide was the first step taken to properly prepare and equip them for the public enlightenment to be carried out.
The in-house training of staff precede nationwide grassroots orientated awareness creation and sensitization campaign by the thirty six state Agency’s Directorate offices and Federal Capital Territory and the seven hundred and seventy four local government areas offices in the country.
The focus of the campaign was on thoroughly explaining the safety measures for the curtailment of the Covid-19 pandemic through inter- personal channel of communication. The Agency has also issued several press statements and public announcements on the need to stay indoor during lockdown and embrace safety measures. Considering the vastness of the country and the limitations of both the electronic and print media in reading out to some of the remotest areas, the Agency undertook massive production and distribution of information and educational materials such as posters and handbills as an effective strategy of enlightenment. The Agency’s social media platform like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter were equally massively used to educate Nigerians on the scourge of the disease. The efforts of the Agency has been appreciated by the presidential committee on Covid-19 through the Honorable Minister of Health during the committee Press briefing in Abuja recently when the Minister said that the Agency has performed up to expectation.
Despite the proactive efforts of the Agency, there are negative propaganda by some persons on the media against the Agency. These critics believed that the Agency has not really done much with regards to the on-going campaign against the Pandemic. It is no longer news that when husband and wife fight, the Agency is accused of not carrying out enough re- orientation to avert such incidence. The Agency does not believe in propaganda and would never resort to using its meagre resources to inform Nigerians on what it has done or doing, taking into consideration the fact that media publicity is expensive. It would rather prefer to use such meagre resources to implement programmes and activities for the benefit of Nigerians. The critiques of the Agency have also failed to realize that the Agency is unlike the defunct Directorate for Social Mobilization (MAMSER) that was well funded by the three tiers of government and was equally a parastatal under the Presidency. The scenario is completely different now.
The Agency in spite of its current challenges should not relent in its effort at adequately educating Nigerians on national issues and also mobilizing favorable public support for government programmes, policies and activities.
Government on the other hand, should ensure that adequate funds are made available to the Agency on regular basis to enhance its operations. The Agency also needs the support and cooperation of the critical stakeholders such as donors, media, civil-society among others to bring about effective and efficient discharge of responsibilities.
Dr. Davidson Aminu writes from Abuja