Kudos Yushau, Award-winning Communicator, By Chidi Omeje

Posted by News Express | 21 November 2016 | 2,338 times

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One of the critical challenges that confronted the Nigerian government during the ascendancy of the Boko Haram insurgency was how to contain the dangerous propaganda machinery of the terrorists and their collaborators who, not surprisingly, infiltrated a section of the media. Apart from their ceaseless heart-chilling violence campaign across the northern part of the country, the terrorists were also having a field day in the realms of media publicity. The truism that publicity is the oxygen of terrorism was playing out. The publicity Boko Haram enjoyed in a section of the media that were influential in the north emboldened them and galvanised their recruitment drive. They were exuding confidence and a sense of invincibility, while the image and respect of the country were dragged in the mud, and national security threatened.

It was at this trying period that a certain Yushau Shuaib was introduced to the then National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki. As the National Security Adviser, it falls within his purview to halt the escalation of the Boko Haram Islamist insurgents, which was creeping into the media arena. He desperately needed the best hands he could get to reverse the dangerous trend, but he also needed an efficient, result-oriented performer who could effectively carry out critical campaigns without attracting unnecessary attention to self. And he got one: a consummate public relations practitioner, an avid writer and media manager with tremendous contacts and network of friends in both the media and public relations fields, Yushau was the man; and his brief was very clear: counter the growing terrorists’ propaganda and also help promote campaigns on security consciousness among Nigerians.

So, as Consultant to the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) on Crisis Communication, he became an intermediary between the media and critical stakeholders in crisis management, that is, the military, security outfits, and response agencies. Yushau knew that the job was not going to be easy, but he also knew that the job must be done. National interest was at stake. He threw his all into it and brought to bear the true worth of his professionalism and doggedness in the course of the assignment. First, he proceeded by creating a formidable online news platform – PRNigeria – that functioned like a newswire service, where most media houses get first-hand information on any security and emergency reports, having established a relationship with the military, security and response agencies such that there were seamless sharing of information and breaking news. He, along with the likes of Gen Chris Olukolade, the former Director of Defence Information, facilitated the establishment of the Forum of Spokespersons of Security and Response Agencies (FOSSRA), for a cohesive and co-ordinated crisis information management and dissemination.

Yushau’s relentless efforts and professional interventions expectedly succeeded in developing and sustaining mutual understanding and synergy within the relevant security agencies on one hand and a coherent interface between them and the media. For the three years that he took the brief from ONSA, the narratives drastically changed. Boko Haram conspirators and collaborators who hid under the toga of religion and sectarian interests and sentiments to stoke the embers of hatred against the government and the military were at least getting a match. The public were getting the true picture of the dynamics in the war on terror. There was a better management of information, as the security and response agencies began to harmonise information, unlike when it was a cacophony of conflicting voices and reports by different security and response agencies in times of emergency or crisis.

Prior to Yushau’s engagement, there were weak (or even non-existent) co-ordination and harmonisation of information released to media by the agencies. It was more like unhealthy competition and bitter rivalry, as agencies that were working or ought to be working towards a particular goal strived to outwit each other in the rush for media attention or popularity. Yushau effectively used the instrumentality of his highly-successful online platform, PRNigeria,and the FOSSRA, structure to turn around the fortunes in the narratives of the fight against terror.

Despite his non-partisanship, phenomenal commitment to duty, dogged loyalty and patriotism, Yushau remained unsung in Nigeria. Not many people knew about the efforts of this one man in the management of information about the true activities of the insurgents and harmonisation of details of the field operations of and the collective efforts of Nigeria’s military and relevant security agencies involved in the struggle. Most Nigerians knew nothing about him except, may be, some of us who worked closely with this crisis manager.

As Editor of the Nigerian Defence Magazine in those heady days, I recall how the Directorate of Defence Information not only leveraged effectively on the instrumentality of his PRNigeria to communicate the prosecution of the counter insurgency operation, but also relied on his counsel to engage some rabidly compromised and biased section of the media who were determined to undermine the efforts of government.

Most Nigerians may not know the roles he played in managing crisis in those momentous days, but the international community was certainly watching and taking note. So, in recognition of the invaluable role he played in helping the country to manage crisis communication at the peak of Boko Haram insurgency, the International Public Relations Association (IPRA) early this month of November 2016, in far away Doha, Qatar, presented Golden World Award (GWA) on Crisis Management to Yushau Shuaib. According to the citation, Yushau used his PRNigeria to effectively manage the adverse consequences of the growing Boko Haram propaganda machinery. In our climes where everything, including issues of national interest and security ars politicised, how can Yushau’s efforts be acknowledged? It took the discerning eyes of the global public relations organisation to point out one of us who has served us well in his own little but very consequential way.

Kudos to Mallam Yushau Shuaib and PRNigeria!

•Chidi Omeje, Head, Planning, Research and Statistics, Centre for Crisis Communication, Abuja, can be reached viaatchidex1@yahoo.com. Photo shows Mallam Yushau Shuaib.

Source: News Express

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