The appointment of a foremost journalist, Mr. Steve Ayorinde as the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, is clearly one to help bolster the image of the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode administration, writes Shola Oyeyipo
Either by sheer accident or conscious decision, the choice of Mr. Steve Ayorinde, a foremost journalist with many years of active practice and experience is certainly a good one for the administration of Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State. Lagos, no doubt, has always had it good with the media, not necessarily because of the handlers of the various governments that had held sway, but because the core of the Nigerian media is domicile in the state. The home advantage is therefore at play and perhaps, inevitable.
Beyond that, the personalities of those manning the information of the state government had always, over the years, added significant values that money cannot buy. It is often referred to as goodwill, which anyone on that seat usually leverages. The goodwill factor is however not limited to Lagos, but more for housing the media as it were and for this, Lagos has always had it good with positive media exposure over the years.
Since his election, the goodwill enjoyed by Governor Ambode is generally believed to have waned drastically, because not only has it taken him about five months to assemble his team, but because everything had begun to go wrong in terms of effective and efficient administration.
Suffering here the most is the image of the governor and the government he leads, which has almost inherited the famous clueless tag. That the world is equally watching to see how Ambode intends to level up with the strides of his predecessor, Babatunde Fashola, now a minister-designate and surpass him further compounds the challenge at hand.
It is for this reason that when Ayorinde was announced as one of the many eggheads and professionals to help develop and translate the vision of a different Lagos as being conceived by the Ambode government, not many people had a problem with his choice of the information commissioner, especially the core media practitioners, who would vouch for the competence of the man that had edited and managed a few leading national dailies in the country. That the image problem of the government would change is not in doubt and that truth and not propaganda would guide the operations of his ministry is equally not in doubt.
Call it a big catch for the government and it would not amount to mere flattery because the general perception amongst the media practitioners is that the government had just put a round peg in a round hole – the right man for the job.
Fact is, if one would list some of the best hands, who had paid their dues in the media practice across the length and breadth of Nigeria, Ayorinde’s name would easily come to mind. Not only that, he also enjoys a cordial relationship with his colleagues, both senior and junior.
Soft spoken and a man of calm mien, the choice of Ayorinde, who was the Director of Media and Communications of the Ambode Campaign Organisation, as the Commissioner for Information and Strategy is seen as a welcome development among journalists, who see him as a thoroughbred colleague capable of cultivating a robust working relationship between the Lagos State Government, journalists, Lagosians and the public in general.
Ayorinde, an author, film critic, media consultant and CEO of Relentless Media is a multiple-award winning journalist and editor. He started his career with Nigeria’s foremost Newspaper, The Guardian Newspapers and reached the peak of his career, working with other reputable media organisations.
He was a former editor at one of the leading newspapers in Nigeria, The Punch Newspapers and also the immediate past Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of National Mirror Newspaper. He resigned from National Mirror, when he was ordered to proceed on leave by the publisher and Chief Executive Officer of Global Fleet, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim for allegedly granting the then Editor of the paper, Mr. Seyi Fasuba permission to travel to China without consulting with him, an issue many believed was still within his powers as the managing director of the organisation.
The decision by Ibrahim to make editors of the various titles Editor-in-chief and autonomous of the MD, which has been restricted to the management outside editorial matters was another issue that Ayorinde, a journalist of many years found to be out of tune with current trend in journalism and had to bow out honourably rather than rubbish the reputation he had built for himself.
But with his new appointment as the Commissioner for Information, Ayorinde would be able to close the gap between the government and the people through information flow, provide quality advice to government at all times, educate the populace on government policies and importantly, regularly interface between the government and the citizenry.
Ambode has also made it clear, what he wants from his cabinet members and it is a people that can collaborate with his administration in noticeably moving Lagos forward. During the swearing-in of the commissioners, Ambode said: “Lagos is on the brink of greatness and you have all been given this platform to write your names in gold. You must work to leave a legacy that will be spoken of in glowing terms in years to come.
“The challenges that come with the boisterous profile of the state as one of the world’s fastest growing cosmopolitan city-state are as many as the opportunities that abound in it. We have all the ingredients to compete globally in all sectors; and we must. We owe it to the people of Lagos and to ourselves. You are today, being handed the reins to the government of Lagos State and together, we must fulfill the massive potential of our State.
“Lagos is a magnet for many Nigerians, who want to pursue the Nigerian dream. The dream that wherever you are from, regardless of tribe or creed, you can achieve what you wish, this is the Lagos dream,” he told the cabinet members.
To those who know him closely, Ayorinde is sure to handle his job and other responsibilities that may be assigned to him with clinical details. This is due largely to his track record and because he is truly a jolly good fellow. He has a penchant for result and quality control. He boasts the capacity to manage both human and material resources and as a journalist, his human relation is sound – sound enough to keep this government in the good books of the people. In other words, this government has a great opening to leverage on the goodwill of Ayorinde and make up for the seeming deficit it has recorded since assuming office.
Ayorinde was educated at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Nigeria and the University of Leicester, United Kingdom. He was a European Union Fellow at the Foundation Journalistes en Europe (1997-1998) and also an alumnus of the States Department-sponsored International Visitors Program (IVP) to the United States.
He is a member of the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI), a foundation Jury member of the African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) and is the current Vice-President (West) of the Nigerian Guild of Editors. He has authored two books; ‘A Critic’s Timeless Report’ (Spectrum Book 2008) and ‘Abokede: The Man, The City, The Hill’ (ArtPillar Books 2011).
In reifying the Ambode dream, he would be joining other commissioners like Gbolahan Lawal (Commissioner for Housing); Jide Idris (Commissioner for Health); Folarin Coker (Commissioner for Tourism Arts and Culture); Seye Oladejo (Commissioner for Special Duties and Intergovernmental Relations) and Ganiyu Johnson (Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure).
Others are Oluwatoyin Suarau (Commissioner for Agriculture); Rotimi Ogunleye (Commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives); Akinyemi Ashade (Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget); Babatunde Adejare (Commissioner for Environment); Olawale Oluwo (Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources); Benson Akintola (Commissioner for Establishment, Training and Pensions); Mustapha Akinkunmi (Commissioner for Finance) and Abdul-Hakeem Abdul-Lateef (Commissioner for Home Affairs).
Also on the team are Adeniji Kazeem (Commissioner for Justice); Musiliu Folami (Commissioner for Local Government and Community Affairs); Wasiu Anifowoshe (Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development); Olufemi Odubiyi (Commissioner for Science and Technology); Ekundayo Mobereola (Commissioner for Transportation); Adebowale Akinsanya (Commissioner for Waterfront Infrastructure Development); Babatunde Durosinmi-Etti (Commissioner for Wealth Creation and Employment); Lola Akande (Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation) and Uzamat Akinbile-Yusuf (Commissioner for Youth and Social Development) while the deputy governor, Oluranti Adebule has been assigned to oversee the Ministry of Education.
At a dinner organised in honour of Ayorinde, at Protea Hotel, GRA, Ikeja on Sunday, October 25, and attended by a number of his colleagues, well-wishers, including his wife, Temitope Ayorinde, close friends and their spouses, the people agreed that the government made a smart choice in picking him for the job and vowed to support him to succeed.
Former National President, Directors Guild of Nigeria (DGN) and the founder of Abuja International Film Festival, Mr. Fidelis Attah Duker, in his congratulatory message commended the appointment of Ayorinde as the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy.“Your appointment by the governor is a well-deserved one and we at the film festival and Nollywood family in general are pleased by your appointment and of course, very proud of you. It is important to mention that your enviable contribution to the creative sector, especially the film industry, has been commendable over the years. It is our considered hope that you will continue to offer your contributions to the industry,” Duker noted.
Goodwill and capacity aside, Ayorinde must know that the work at hand might have been made complex for him already. Therefore, the need to settle down to work as quickly as possible is no longer a subject of debate. The public is at the moment not impressed with the fact that the administration has not hit the ground running so far, much less shown capacity to contain the legion of challenges confronting it.
And as the spokesperson of the government, he is naturally expected to clean-up the mess of his administration. But the clean-up must be based on truth and reason, two core values the government can always rely on to revalidate its goodwill and credibility before the people. But more importantly, it is morning already and Ayorinde must know that the party is over. Thus, living up to billings is all that can make all the difference at this material time.