Communication is said to be one of the key components of good governance. As a government is elected by the citizenry to perform a particular service, it is important that it communicates effectively with its employers (the citizens). Thus, it is said that a good communication strategy can even make a bad government look good and that a bad communication strategy can make a good government look bad.
It follows therefore that every government must make it a priority to set up an excellent communication strategy in order to sell itself and its ideas to the public. In addition to informing the people as a part of its obligations, an effective communication strategy will help the people participate and take part in the implementation of government policies.
Every government has a priority, a focus; and the tools and manners in which it wishes to achieve the said goals must be clearly understood by the people to enhance easy running of the affairs of the state. The idea of a government running in exclusion to the people it is serving – or it is meant to serve – is just self-defeating. That is why communication is key to good governance.
Since the inauguration of the new government, and the New Gambia, as we like to put it, there have been a series of communication problems between the governors and the governed to such an extent that some people are beginning to think that the government is not serious about the reforms it promised to deliver. This is a cause for concern and corrective measures must be taken immediately to ensure that the misunderstanding is removed.
Although there is a host of people working in the area of communication for this government, there seems to be a lack of coordination and proper channeling of information resulting in the many miscommunications that have caused quite a challenge for the government. In addition to the Minister of Information, the Government Spokesperson, Press Secretary Office of the President, there are at least four or five journalists working at the Statehouse – or so I heard. One would have thought that with all these, there wouldn’t be any ambiguity in government communications.
Furthermore, each ministry is supposed to have a public relations unit. Putting all these together, it is not – should not be – difficult to coordinate and harness expertise to ensure that whatever form of communication comes from government or government departments is perfect and comprehensive enough to satisfy a given need.
Unfortunately, this has not been the case. From the very beginning, we have seen the government mangle communication repeatedly. To be a little more precise, we heard about the ‘magnanimity’ of the president when he was said to have donated fifty-seven vehicles to the National Assembly Members. When there was an outcry, they sought to clarify that it was from an anonymous donor. The question was: ‘Why didn’t you say that straight away?’
Then there was the instance in which it was said that the president will construct sixty mosques around the country every year from now. It was again the noise raised by citizens that the information metamorphosed into ‘it is the Barrow Youth Movement’ that wishes to construct the mosques and not the state. ‘Why didn’t you say that straight away?’
When the president and delegation returned from the donor conference in Brussels, it was announced that the 1.45 billion Euros was all grants. In fact, it was said in such a way that it seemed that they had come with bags of money thus the huge welcome crowds to the airport. But obviously grants like that from the International Community cannot be given in that manner. This only happened because of the poor way the information was delivered. It was only after an ambassador from one of the European countries clarified that part of the pledge was loans and the other part grants that the government started making it clear that part of this amount was grant and the other loans. ‘Why didn’t you say that straight away?’
During the course of last week, two major communication breakdowns again hit the nation. It was announced on national television that His Excellency the President had ‘magnanimously’ donated eleven million dalasis to the batch of pilgrims for 2018. As was to be expected, there was an outcry again complaining of the misplaced priorities of the government. The government spokesperson came up with a statement to clarify that in fact, it was a Saudi National who had donated that amount to Gambian pilgrims and not the president. ‘Why didn’t you say that straight away?’
On the day of Eid-ul-Adha, commonly known as Tobaski, the Ministry of Justice released a statement stating that the president had magnanimously pardoned some prisoners as part of the festivities of the Eid-ul-Adha. Unfortunately, there was a Norwegian national who happened to be a pedophile among the pardoned prisoners. Of course, child rights activists spoke out against his release. The Ministry of Justice came out with clarifications that the truth was that he (the Norwegian) was not being released but being handed over to the Norwegian authorities. ‘Why didn’t you say that straight away?’
It is quite clear from all the above that communication remains the bane of this government and until the government fixes this problem, it will continue to be bogged by scandal after scandal which may in the long run affect its credibility in the eyes of the public. It is high time therefore that the government started seeking solutions to their communications problem for better governance.
Tha Scribbler Bah
A Concerned Citizen