It is no longer news that lately, publicity secretaries and spokespersons in government offices have made the innocent/well-intentioned position become platforms for fierce political and ideological warfare in ways that negate our rationality as human beings. It is equally regrettable that through this process, a great amount of innocent human character has been spilled, wars of words waged, countless souls/ambition persecuted, and martyred. Spokespersons have in recent times failed to communicate noble ideas and ideals. This consequence of their failures is responsible for why communication from public officials/offices is ‘self-undermining and often always reputed for encouraging complacency among citizens due to overbearing and two-faced attitudes of the appointees, Despite these ugly developments which are not party-specific, there exists presently hopeful signs of improvement in that sector particularly with the latest appointment of Barrister Felix Morka, a Harvard trained Lawyer, Development Specialist, Human Rights Advocate and Senior Special Assistant on Legal and Constitutional Matters to Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, as the new National Publicity Secretary of the ruling All Progressive Congress, (APC).
Indeed, while many will definitely feel hesitant and think doubtful as to why this illustrious son of Ika Nation, Delta state that holds no background in media practice should be appointed to such a position, this piece contrary to that argument provides an answer(s) and expresses a divergent opinion to such feeling.
This author has known him for over 20 years; and out of these two decades, worked/observed/learn under his tutelage for an unbroken 15 years at the Social and Economic Rights Action Centre (SERAC), a non-Governmental, Non-partisan, and Non-Profit Organization he founded, concerned with the protection of social and economic rights in Nigeria.
SERAC under Felix Morka used three mutually reinforcing programs (the Monitoring and Advocacy Programme (MAP), The Community Action Programme (CAP), and the Legal Action Programme (LAP), to create awareness about specific rights and integrated economic, social and cultural rights issues. Through research, education, advocacy, and community, SERAC projects explore a strategy for broadening individuals’ and communities’ participation in the design and implementation of policies and programs which affect them.
Again, using SERAC as a vehicle, Felix Morka with his teaming of young but professionally dedicated staff researched, monitored, and documented Nigeria’s economic, social and cultural rights practices; Educated, created public awareness about economic, social, and cultural rights; And provided legal assistance to individuals and groups seeking to assert their economic, social and cultural rights, and litigated in the public interest. He conscientiously promoted the rights of marginalized sections of the population (e.g. women, children, the aged, the disabled, People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA).
Even after our sojourn at SERAC, the relationship remained cordial.
Definitely, he trained and practiced law. Felix is not just a lawyer but a very serious lawyer with an undying passion for the defense of the poor and vulnerable. Yet, he loves both the media sector and media players. He has very strong regard and respect for media professionals. He is bold in communication, ‘notoriously’ thorough, exceedingly creative, and has zero tolerance for laxity and failure. I believe media professionals will have a good day working with him as he is ‘the best man for the job’.
Viewed broadly, the appointment, more than anything else portrays the leadership of the All Progressive Party (APC) as a set of people laced with the capacity to recruit the right people.
To understand this claim, let’s cast a glance at the rich profile of the man Morka. He attended the University of Jos, (LL.B. Hons.); Nigerian Law School, Lagos (B.L.); Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Massachusetts. U.S.A. (LL.M.); First Martin Ennals Fellow – European Human Rights Foundation Brussels, Belgium; Reginald Lewis Fellow – Harvard Human Rights Program Chairman, United Nations Expert Committee on Development-Based Displacements, Geneva, Switzerland (Drafted the International Comprehensive Human Rights Guidelines on Development-Based Displacements), Member, Project Steering Committee, Lagos Metropolitan Development, and Governance Project (A $200 Million World Bank-Funded Project); Member, Global Reference Group on HIV/AIDS & Human Rights, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV & AIDS (UNAIDS); and Chairman, The Body Shop International Human Rights Award Jury, among others.
Thus, as the Ika nation, Deltans, APC, and PDP alike, the entire SERAC staff, and of course The Lagos Marginalized Communities Forum (LAMCOFOR), an umbrella body of over 26 blighted communities in the state you midwife, thereby, creating a platform for strategic engagement between the people and the state government while bringing development-focused organizations from different parts of the world to assist these communities, celebrate this feat, this piece will, however, draw your attention to this time-honored admonition by human development experts; you should always remember that you are being watched and observed by others and conclusion is being drawn about you and your nature and performance. Your subordinates as well as seniors form an impression and opinion about you. This is based on your behavior, performance, and actual contribution which you are making to the organization by virtue of your rank, position, status, and placement in the hierarchy over the period.
No doubt you have to be harsh, maintain discipline and pull up the people for their poor output and performance, and at times penalize them too. Your nature and attitude not to tolerate indiscipline, inefficiency, and poor performance are appreciated provided you remain patient, calm, unbiased, fair, and upright in your dealings and relationship. Your subordinates will accept your harsh and strict but humane behavior if they are convinced that you are acting in the primary interest of the organization with a selfless, unprejudiced, justified, and noble motive and sense of duty.
Thus, it is important to protect yourself forward and how you are being judged and assessed by others around you. In fact, if you keep this aspect in your mind, you will always work in an interactive environment made with positive feedback. People are bound to use and express good words about you on the occasion of your transfer/posting/retirement etc.
To therefore make this appointment and celebration a rewarding one, this time is auspicious for you to recognize that ‘every decision you make when ‘gathering, organizing, and presenting information to the media/general public requires a value judgment as different decisions bring different results. All decisions have consequences that are direct and indirect, intended and unintended, short term and long term. Those decisions may influence thousands of people’s opinions on a political issue.
Finally, while this piece again admits that politics has its own rules, one point you must not fail to remember is that Nigerians are information-hungry. What they innocently ask for is a Publicity Secretary that will furnish them with balanced, factually supported information delivered via a reliable medium and in an environment that works. You must, therefore, not miss this opportunity.
Again, congratulations Sir!!!
Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), A Lagos-Based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). He could be reached via Jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374