Verbatim: Your appointment came at the last lap of the restoration government. What should Bayelsans expect from you as commissioner for information?
Markson: I am coming in at a time when the state, especially His Excellency, leading this restoration team, has done so much to transform the state and impact on the lives of the people. And therefore my role, essentially, is to communicate effectively all of these cute and wonderful policies and programmes of government that His Excellency has put out there to transform the state and impact on the lives of the people.
Let me repeat what I said shortly after I was sworn-in; We will take the message to the grassroots , out to the people in the hinterland , because sometimes we get carried away thinking that information dissemination should just be within Yenagoa or when we do it we assume that it will get to everyone. One message I got from a teacher in Southern Ijaw, precisely from Koloama is instructive about what I need to do quick. The man called and appealed that I should do everything within my powers to boost the capacity of our radio station so that he can receive the broadcast signals where they are because they don’t get the broadcast signals of the our local stations, Radio Bayelsa from where they are. The only station they listen to is radio Gabon. There and then I realized that what this simply means is that all the wonderful things we are doing in government, some of our people who live faraway in areas like Southern Ijaw, Agge, and Brass, are sometimes cut off because information does not get to them. So I made up my mind about what we are going to do as a government, and as a ministry; to take information about the good things this government has done to them.
Verbatim: How do you intend to implement the vision? Would you reintroduce the posting of information officers to Local Government Areas?
Markson: Yes. We will do that and much more. One of the things we have already put forward as proposal before Exco and I’m glad to say that His Excellency, the Governor has graciously approved that proposal, is the establishment of Community Radio that will broadcast in indigenous languages of our people. The Community Radio will be established in each senatorial zone. The other way to do it is to empower Information Officers in our ministry and have them stationed in each of our Local Governments where they can have access to the communities and help in the dissemination of government information down the ladder. So we will do that, and that is why one of the things I quickly did was to organize a two-day workshop for information managers in the ministry so that we can have the capacity to deliver right to the grassroots. It’s going to be a two way thing. Information dissemination – but we also need a feedback from the people. We will ensure that our Information Officers who will be working in our Local Government Areas and our communities will be able to take feedback from our communities to us. This is because we need the feedback more than anything else because that is essentially what government is all about – to serve our people , and what better way to serve them than to get feedback from them regarding what we are doing .We will do a lot of reorientation as well.
When this government came into power in 2012, the governor was very specific that one of his major mandates will be to change the paradigm shift of governance. A lot of that also requires some of the things we are doing now, public sector reforms. What we need to do as a ministry, as we have identified, is to carry out the message of this public sector reform to every nook and cranny of our state. And, a lot of them would require orientation. This ministry is the ministry of Information and Orientation; meaning, we will have the need to do a lot of orientation. Our people need to be reoriented, on the need for them to go to work and earn their salaries. Not that they will go to work one day and go home and sleep and wait till when they will go and collect their salaries. Others, for example the teachers need to go to their classrooms every day to teach. Also, there is the need for Nurses and Doctors who are posted to our communities to serve in our referral hospitals and even our Local Government Clinics to be there in their duty posts; not for them to stay in Yenagoa and go to work once a week. There is a whole lot of orientation that will be done. So we are going to strengthen our capacity in the Public Enlightenment Directorate. We are going to equip them with vehicles, operational vehicles, and they will be touring our communities. There will be lots of Town Hall meetings across all our communities where we will also have the opportunity to disseminate government information and government policies and programmes. These are some of the ways and means we are going to reach out to our people about the much-needed information on what we are doing for them.
Verbatim: You were the Deputy Chairman of the government information team. Now you are at the helm of affairs as the Chairman of that team. What new innovations do you intend to bring to introduce in the state?
Markson: I have already mentioned some of the new changes I hope to make in disseminating government information. However I want to add that this government has been very magnanimous in appointing very qualified people to man government information. I am lucky to have a team of experts, and together with my team we meet every week, every Tuesday. What we do is to review the strategies and look at what we need to do to respond to issues and developments happening in the state. When we work as a team we are effective, even the governor is a team player. He has set up several teams, the media team, the health team, the finance team, the tourism team, education team; and that is a model that we are also looking at – to work as a team. We are also to work with the various media organisations in the state. They are also incorporated as part of our larger team. I have received in audience, the NUJ on a courtesy call. I have also received the BAFEMPA. The truth is that a number of our journalists need to be trained. You cannot overemphasize the need for constant training and retraining. So for us in the Ministry we want to champion that, because we need Journalists in the state to be in the same page with us regarding what we are doing in government. Once you are in the same page with us it makes things easier for us to work together.
These are some of the things we are doing to change the face of communication in the state. Our whole effort and drive is to change the narrative. We want Bayelsa to be perceived as a place where things work. We have a government in place that is racing to make things work. And we would like to say that Six years into the life of this administration a lot has changed. Bayelsans appreciate the work this government has done to transform our lives and the state. Look around, you will see that a lot of developments have taken place.