From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

Vice President Kashim Shettima has emphasised the crucial role of diligent and objective communication in combating the deceptive tactics of fake news merchants.

He stated this on Tuesday at the opening ceremony of the maiden edition of the National Spokespersons Summit, organised by the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) in Abuja.

Represented by his media aide, Stanley Nkwocha, the Vice President Shettima highlighted to dignitaries and professionals from various sectors Ay the event, the pervasive threat of false narratives and targeted agendas in the public sphere.

Shettima who officially declared the National Spokespersons Summit open, stressing the importance of unity and vigilance in the face of misinformation and disinformation said: “Your Excellencies, Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, those of us in the public sphere know very well, that at some point, falling prey to false narratives and targeted agendas is inescapable. These are usually aimed at undermining and misrepresenting one’s ideas or perceptions.

“The importance of diligent and objective communication is never more evident than when confronted with deceptive tactics of fake news merchants, who dedicate their lives to casting shadows on noble efforts on aspirations to inform and enlighten the world”, he said.

Shettima commended President Bola Tinubu’s commitment to citizen engagement and stressed the importance of providing truthful and timely information to the Nigerian populace. He called upon experts and professionals to partner with the government in crafting narratives that would reshape the country’s story and reinvent society.

He said: “Time and again, His Excellency, President Tinubu, has reassured the nation of his belief in citizen communication and engagement. He believes that the citizens of Nigeria must, by right and necessity, be informed, truthfully, accurately, and in a timely manner. This is the most practical antidote to the waves of partisan and sectional agendas promoted by hacks, invested in tearing the nation apart.”

“As experts and professionals, this is an invitation to you to partner with us in crafting the right narratives to change the Nigerian story and reinvent our society. Indeed, we owe the whole world an obligation that ensures that each and every one of us looks at ourselves as partners, in building the Nigeria of our dream.

Acknowledging the complexities of the evolving media landscape, the Vice President underscored the responsibility of spokespersons as gatekeepers of truth and defenders against fake news. He emphasized the need for timely and evidence-based responses to misinformation and disinformation, recognizing the pivotal role of communication professionals in national security.

Furthermore, Shettima urged spokespersons to actively engage with diverse perspectives, foster dialogue, and build consensus to address the nation’s needs and expectations effectively. He emphasized the importance of inclusivity and collaboration in promoting national integration through effective communication.

“The power of the spokespersons comes with great responsibility, to communicate with clarity, the evolving global media landscape makes your job makes your job more complex than ever before. The rise of social media has not only given birth to a two for 24/7 news cycle, we our information spreads at lightning speed, but it is also has stretched your sanity into another dimension.

“Today, you’re not only the spokespersons, a gatekeeper of truth but also a defender of the public at the mercy of fake news. My chance and they are impressionable machineries every day before that, we are confident further convinced that we can never win the war against misinformation and disinformation or less our responses to them are timely and evidence based.”

In conclusion, Shettima expressed optimism that the summit would strengthen the collective efforts of spokespersons across various platforms and industries, leading to outcomes beneficial to the national interest. He eagerly anticipated receiving the report on the summit’s outcomes and proposed initiatives from the Minister of Information and National Orientation.

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In his remarks, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, stressed the important role of the spokespersons in shaping perceptions, disseminating accurate information, and fostering trust.

Idris said: “Nigeria, a diversely blessed and vibrant country, grapples with the need to create a cohesive national identity; one that transcends ethnicity, religion, and political affiliations.

“Crafting a compelling national narrative becomes paramount as we strive to live up to our vast potential.”

The summit therefore, he said “is a pivotal event aimed at transforming the landscape of communication in Nigeria.

“The theme of the summit, “Change Narrative, Change Society,” he said resonates deeply with the challenges facing us as a people.

He added: “Indeed, the nation’s peace, stability, growth, and development can only be attained by how we communicate.”

He expressed hope that the summit “would facilitate the emergence of a national consensus for effective communication, based on a collective narrative of our shared values, regardless of our backgrounds.”

He assured that the ministry “will be unveiling the Nigeria Values Charter, which embodies a social contract between the country and its citizens and will serve as a blueprint and policy for a national value system, defining us as Nigerians and reinforcing our.”

The President and Chairman of Governing Council of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), Ike Neliaku in his opening remarks, regretted that at a time when survival has become the issue, people now take roles that they are not called to do.

He said: “At a time when survival has become the issue, people now take roles that they are not called to do. And once that happens they become disasters on two legs because they cannot do what they have assigned to themselves that they will do. That is why you have a lot of chaos and confusion and violence and so on and so forth.

“The word we speak is life and is spirit, therefore, what will happen at the summit, we will be able to teach spokespersons how to first of all realise that they are Nigerians. I keep telling people, this is the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, remove Nigeria we will not function here. Therefore, we take our life from the life nation.

“Our primary responsibility is to see to the development and growth of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We are saying that professionals have a role to play in governance, leadership and nation building. What many of us don’t realize is that we cannot build a successful nation without the functions and tools of public relations. Those who have done it before, will tell you that reputation is a core asset, the reputation of any nation determines the kind of people that will come to such a nation. Therefore, it is time for us to take issue of reputation seriously. And only one organisation is given the mandate by law to drive the process of communications and that is the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations.”