There are three major traditional roles performed by the mass media. They are to inform, educate, and entertain. In carrying out these roles, the mass media attain other ancillary functions such as persuading/influencing the society; socialising, and integrating the society.
Through the persuasion role of the mass media, the masses attune themselves to the programmes and policies of the government to make them a reality. It is one thing to articulate a policy and another thing to carry the masses along.
As the Fourth Estate of the Realm, the press take it upon themselves as a social responsibility to explain, interpret and urge action on the part of the masses. Thus, it is only when the press have created the awareness about the necessity and desirability of such governmental policies and programmes that the masses are convinced and persuaded to lend support to them. Persuasion takes the form of constant and consistent efforts to socialise and make people both receptive and responsive to the desirable policies of the state or any other responsible corporate authority.
According to a media expert, “the mass media of communication are not mere watchdogs of the society. They are rather active agents that manipulate the minds of men; influence their values and beliefs; shape their views and lifestyles; take them to places or hold them hostage. In other words, the mass media are both agenda setters and opinion moulders.” Media practitioners,especially in Abia, have enormous roles to play in not only showcasing Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s development strides in infrastructure, small and medium scale enterprises, agriculture, trade and commerce, but to highlight deeply the positive implications of these strides in the economy of the state now and in future.
Indeed, the giant strides of the governor in infrastructure is not disputable but the citizenry have corresponding efforts to complement these. The media should highlight the negative attitudes of the residents on these infrastructure and dissuade them from from engaging in them further. By this, the huge resources expended in attaining these infrastructure strides must have been.
The media should equally go further to highlight that Aba which glory was almost lost is glory, and that the narrative of the artisanship spirit city is fast regained. This will go a long to informing the public that shoe manufacturing in Aba is retooled and that the shoe making in the city is now automated.
Gov. Ikpeazu’s efforts in rewriting the negative trend that once dogged Aba shoe manufacturing is apt and visionary considering the fluctuating situation of the oil economy which substantialky drives the nation’s wealth.
Economies in the world are now becoming futuristic by diversifying their economies with an anticipation that one day the oil economy will be nothing to write home about. This is captured recently by Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State “And for us as a state, I like to let us know that our oil is diminishing, there is a forecast that very soon, nobody will trade on oil again, the European countries have already started doing away with fossils, therefore, while the oil still last, even though we have only 13%, and 87% is appropriated to the Federal Government, we will continue to talk about it, but as we keep talking about it, we have to look for other ways of diversifying our economy in Bayelsa State”.
It also the duty of the media to highlight seriously the cluster for garment, shoe, belt and bag workers . This cluster would be equipped with a resource centre that could enable businessmen to register their trademarks, do quality control and open them to markets beyond the shores on Nigeria. The mindset of Gov. Ikpeazu is to conquer the Nigerian market first and make forays into West and Central Africa.
The benefits of the cluster are multifarious. It will also ensure that the leather workers enjoy economies of scale.
The concentration of men with similar skills will promote competition and then innovation and will provide the common spirit that is necessary for cooperation and cross fertilisation of ideas. By bringing the shoe manufactures into clusters, they will easily learn about changing economic conditions, adapt and benefit from the changes. The physical proximity of these would encourage interaction and promote the exchange of ideas and expertise and this will, at the end, stimulate innovation and economic growth.
Gov. Ikpeazu, in his usual manner, envisioned that the greatest challenge this stride would suffer was dearth of manpower to man these machines, and thus his introduced the “Education- for- Employment (E4E) project which is conceptualized around creating employment and to ensure that education leads to employment by imbuing the youths with the technical skills that would enable them become either self-employed or sought after by others.
“If you remember, some people are thinking about bringing equipment and all kind of devices to make shoes and garments. But it also requires critical manpower that is vast in technical things to service that industry. And that is why we are going back to technical education. We have brought back to life the Technical School Afara and Technical Ohafia simultaneously. These two schools we serve as model for other technical schools”.
On the other hand, the recent resolutions by Abia Executive Council should attract prominent attention. The resolutions adopted are approval of the bifurcation of Abia State Ministry of Education into Ministry of Basic Education and Ministry of Post Basic Education; approval of the conversion of Abia State Polytechnic to become Abia State University of Science and Technology, Aba,Abia State College of Education Arochukwu to become Abia State University of Education, Arochukwu,Abia state College of Health Sciences and Management Studies to become Abia State University of Science and Management Studies, Aba,subject to approval by the State House of Assembly, to Universities;Abia State Polytechnic to become Abia State University of Science and Technology, Aba,Abia State College of Education Arochukwu to become Abia State University of Education, Arochukwu,Abia state College of Health Sciences and Management Studies to become Abia State University of Science and Management Studies, Aba; expedition of procurement processes for the establishment of Abia State Automated Garment factory, Aba, with more than 500 new jobs expected at take off in December 2021;special funding for Abia State Scholarship Board to enable them deliver more foreign scholarships to desiring Abia Students as well as award local scholarships;review and approval of further release of funds for the new Government House project in Umuahia to ensure realization as scheduled; expeditious completion of work at the new JAAC building in Umuahia;approval of valuation of outstanding work at Ohobo Afara Housing estate and private public partnership arrangement to complete and allocate the buildings to Abians; approval of the rationalization and development of the land behind NTA Aba through public private partnership;approval of the renaming of two Technical Schools in the state as follows: Boys Technical College, Aba, now to be known as Government Technical College, Aba,Secondary Technical College, Afara, now to be known as Government Technical College, Afara, among others.
Also, the unrelented efforts of Gov. Ikpeazu- led administration in actualising that Abia Inland Cargo Depotat Avor, Ntigha, Isiala Ngwa North local government area, deserves a profound reportage. If not for anything, the benefits associated with the project. The facility is was a product of the Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) agreement the federal government signed with concessionaires in 2006.
The agreement, which identifies the federal government as the guarantor and concessionaires as operators, stipulates that private investors would be licensed to build Dry ports at designated sites, operate them for a stipulated time and transfer ownership to the federal government. The system enables private investors to partner with the government in providing port facilities.
Unarguably, Aba is the commercial hub of the South East and the idea behind the establishment of the dry port was to save importers the trouble of travelling to the coast for their business transactions, thereby bring goods closer to the owners.
No other time is apt to mobilise the support of the Abia masses for Gov. Ikpeazu’s development strides than now, and the media have a crucial role to play.