Minister-designate, Mr Sunday Dare, has relived his experience working as media adviser and chief of staff to former Lagos governor and national leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
According to Dare, who is currently an executive commissioner in charge of stakeholders management at the Nigeria Communications Commission, NCC, the long hours he spent on the road, and in the newsroom prepared him for the tasks.
He explained that “I have had people so many times say politicians cannot do without journalists. But the media is practically dead without the politicians.
“They are sometimes best of friends, other times worst enemies. I think, for my role as a Chief of Staff then, my work as a journalist prepared me, unknowingly. It simply brought it all together. I found my experience as a journalist invaluable. My network became valuable in managing Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. As many people who love him, there are also a bunch who disagree with his political philosophy.
“Sometimes when I read the stories they write about him, I wonder where they get them from, because I work with him. As a journalist, I know they are not true. So, I have to manage, not just his politics, in terms of communicating what he stands for on every issue in such a way that the public understands his perceptions, but also his reputation.
“I had to be bold sometimes in defending my principal or defending a particular idea he believes in. Fiscal federalism, progressive politics. We were in opposition for a while, defending and staying with the opposition and contesting for power at various levels. The long hours I spent on the road, and in the newsroom were vital, because with Tinubu, there was no start or end time. It was at twenty-hours-a-day job. You just keep going, day folds into night.”
Speaking on his smooth transition from active journalism to politics, Dare said that “It has been smooth to an extent, but also, it has been a bit of a learning curve because they are two different worlds. The journalism world is a fiercely independent one where you are more like a prosecutor that investigates. You can ask people questions and write your stories. I come from an investigative journalism background. When you compare that with a political appointment in government, it is a totally different kettle of fish. You become a public servant, and there are rules and regulations. You also have to deal with people who have been in the system for years.
“So, it demands from you some extra hours to bring yourself up to speed about, not just the rules and regulations of where you are working, but also of that particular sector. It has been a learning curve and I have already turned it, and I’m comfortable in my skin. But then there is also a striking similarity, when you look at the digital revolution. It has revolutionised everything, particularly journalism. We have moved to digital platforms. The advent of web 2.0 changed everything. Then you look at how journalism itself has become digitalised. And who are the guardians of this technology? It is the telecom sector, primarily because of the platforms provided by telecommunications. So, it’s like moving from an analogue world to a digital one.”
He also spoke on the role he plays at the NCC.
“Basically, it’s Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management. Every sector has stakeholders, but my own is to manage the stakeholders in the telecoms industry. Don’t forget, as a regulatory agency, we have a number of licenses we issue to operators in different segments of the industry. We also monitor their activities to ensure compliance. But beyond that, we also protect the interest of over 172 million subscribers in the country. We insist that the consumer or subscriber is king. We ensure they enjoy quality service and that the operators do not exploit them. We make sure tariff structure and pricing is right. We make sure there is no dominance.
“I manage the various levels of stakeholders. We have the MDAs, the MNOs, both the big and small ones, corporate bodies, and the security agencies. Virtually all the state governments are stakeholders. They all need and enjoy telecommunications services. So, it’s a balancing act. We protect the interest of the providers of these services and that of those who enjoy the services. As a stakeholder manager, you also try to guide the processes within the commission that has to do with the overall regulatory efficiency of the sector.”
Asked if he missed the newsroom, he noted that “Yes, I do. Given my years of experience, I have worked in print, broadcast, and also a bit of online journalism. My background is print. I have worked with The News magazine and Tempo in the time of military rule, part of the radical guerrilla journalism era. I’m glad we survived it. The excitement or adrenaline you get, when you either get an exclusive interview, or when you are investigating a story and you know that no other paper has the exclusive.
“But also, as a journalist, you know how it feels, especially when you have risen to the top of the pack. The role of the media is critical in any society. Remember what the former American President, Jefferson said, if he had to choose between ‘a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter’. It explains to a large extent when they say the media is the Fourth Estate. You also know it is a function of how you as a journalist are able to prove your mettle.
The quality of work you do, and the respect you earn. When they see your byline they say you write well, or you write the right stories. So, over the years you have gotten that validation, meeting deadlines in the news room and so on. So, I do miss journalism, but I take care of that because I write a lot. I am much more a writer now. Sometimes I write on Facebook or opinion articles in newspapers. I’m still a journalist at heart, you could say. Once a journalist always a journalist.”