Thursday, May 29, 2014

Buea Council ’s Failing Communication Policy: Who Is Misleading The Mayor?

By Christopher Ambe
When Ekema Patrick Esunge, on October 16 2013, was elected as the Mayor of Buea, this commentator, in fairness to the new mayor, penned a commentary titled “Mayor Ekema Patrick, Fight The Good Fight! The article, which was published in The Recorder of October 28, 2013, was a piece of advice on how Mr. Ekema   can make great strides in his new office and keep the trust of the public.
Mayor Ekema Patrick: Will he revise his communication policy?
The piece advised Mola Ekema to work in collaboration with all development stakeholders within his reach who have the modernization of the municipality at heart if he must transform his victory into concrete project realization”.

The development stakeholders mentioned above include the independent and public media. After all, one of the surest ways for an elected public figure to be accountable to the electorate is through the media. Many a political observer had thought that, Mola Ekema would maintain a warm relationship with the media -so to communicate his executed projects and his blue print, as his predecessor Charles Mbella Moki (now Senator) did for years and won public confidence.

Mayor Ekema himself admitted to have read The Recorder commentary, which also cautioned him thus: “There is no doubt that [you] will face challenges in the performance of [your] mayoral functions. Like it or not, there are people surrounding you and pretending to be friends, who will be secretly pulling you down. But a development-focused manager has the moral duty to identify his challengers and transform them into admirers”

 But that is not the case as Mayor Ekema -certainly ill-advised by some of his closest but pretentious supporters, has reportedly opted to cut links with the vibrant private press purportedly because some media institutions have always spotlighted his setbacks. This CPDM mayor too rarely makes himself available to the official media especially CRTV even when serious allegations are leveled against his person and or management style.

If there is one thing a public office holder must do very often in this ICT –conscious era, it is for that officer to mass-communicate his actions and plan of actions to the public, his electorate. That is accountability, which is what is expected of any public figures-no more, no less!

 As a public figure, Mayor Ekema should know that he has –knowingly or unknowingly opted for public scrutiny of his activities and his lifestyle. In fact, he is under the public scanner. He must learn to live with this,instead of thinking that, any criticism about his leadership by some newspaper has been sponsored by his detractors.
Mayor Ekema must be informed that, democratically –elected leaders fall in love with the media and not the other way round.  When the media criticizes a leader constructively, it is helping him/her to take correctional measures for the common good. That in another way is free consultancy for him.

In appreciating the important role of the media in the development of society, Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States of America and the spiritual father of the US Bill of Rights, on January 16, 1787 said,“…were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter”

Recently, a drivers’ syndicate in Buea filed a complaint against the mayor telling how he had pulled out a pistol and threatened to shoot members for trying to operate in the town .As serious as the allegation was, journalists tried to get the Mayor’s re-action to the allegation but he deliberately maintained sealed lips

As tension mounted and many wondered why he was not arrested, the mayor had a second thought and then refuted the allegation over the state-owned broadcaster CRTV and elsewhere, claiming it was the handiwork of his detractors.

In Cameroon, the private media is more vibrant than the public media and Mayor Ekema knows this too well that, millions of Cameroonians rely on the former for information and critical analyses of the country’s socio-economic and political landscape.

If the Mayor was initially reluctant to speak out on the gun issue, at least his Communication Unit would have issued a statement. But unfortunately, the communication unit of the Council did not. What kind of Communication office that does not communicate to the public?
The duties of the communication unit of any public office include helping the boss reach out to the public. But that of Buea Council has little or nothing to do with the Media. The Journalists working in the Council’s Communication Unit, according to my investigation, are not allowed to do their job when the image of the Council is at stake, on suspicion that they may not be loyal to Mayor Ekema.Yet, they are paid !

 There is no doubt that since Mola Ekema became Mayor of Buea he has launched a war against the vibrant Independent media,for their critical reports on his leadership. Several Journalists have complained how apparently on instructions of the mayor they have been chased away from the office of the mayor as they try to have access to him. What a shame!
The Mayor should be informed that Law no.90/052 of December 19, 1990 on Freedom on Mass Communication gives Journalists the right to access information. Section 48 (1) of the above cited law states “Unless otherwise provided by law and regulations, Persons shall be free to have access to official documents. Section 48(2) defines the documents concerned as “files,reports,studies,minutes,statistics,directives,instructions,circulars,memoranda and all documents relating to acts of positive law"

How can the media perform its duties well, when the mayor-a public figure has blacklisted some media organs making it rather too difficult for them to report on the Council activities?

Surprisingly, as the Mayor’s communication policy is failing, Dr. Ngange Lyonga kingsly, a communication consultant and journalism lecturer (of the University of Buea) is one of the 41 councilors of Buea. Why can the mayor not ask him to develop a public relations/communication strategy for the Council, instead of ignoring him?  Dr. Ngange Lyonga, I think, is an added advantage to the Mayor, in so far as public relations and public communication are concerned.

Charles Mbella Moki (now Senator) who was Mayor of Buea   for 11 years was a true friend of the press. He was constantly in the news not only because of his successes; some media outlets sharply criticized his leadership style, yet Mola Mbella Moki never launched a war against any media house. Instead, he drew lessons from his media critics to forge ahead with his blue print. And he succeeded to modernize the city of Buea, now known as the Town of Legendary Hospitality

Isn’t it time for Mayor Ekema to revise his communication strategy and start reaching out to the public, instead of paying attention to so-called friends and advisers, who want to see him fail by encouraging him not to work with the Media?

This commentator thinks it is time Mayor Ekema put a full stop to bad advisers who pass for his supporters but are envious of his position. Mr. Mayor, “Time flies and waits for no body!”
The venerated Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time”.

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