Funke Egbemode is Osun’s Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation. With a wealth of professional experience in journalism spanning over three decades, she’s managed the information team of Osun State for the almost four year – old administration of Governor Adegboyega Oyetola. Although she confesses managing a good product which she says Oyetola’s personality represents in politics and governance, Egbemode, works round the clock upholding the concept of “Oyetolaism”, especially through accurate dissemination of the administration’s projects and programmes to the public.
The former President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, in this interesting session with Bukola Aderibigbe and Moshood Suleiman, spoke deeply about the person and personality of Governor Oyetola, his style of governance that makes him a good product for a media manager, the positive turnaround the governor has given the information sector, his plans to rejuvenate OSBC for greater efficiency, and why Oyetola is the man to beat from the list of other 14 co-travellers in the contest of “The next Landlord of Bola Ige House”, come Saturday, 16th of July 2022. Excerpts:
You have been working round the clock to such an extent that one wonders if the job of being an Information commissioner is not taking its toll on you as a woman.
I am up to the task. I don’t see it as more tasking and challenging. Mark you, journalism is my professional constituency where I have invested over 30 years. I enjoy journalism in any form. It is in the blood of Funke Egbemode (laughs).
Let’s have a peep into your day-to-day activities as a manager and image maker of the Oyetola-led administration.
First, let me establish the fact that I am a Journalist by professional calling who finds herself by the sheer grace of God, to be in charge of the image-making mechanism of the Oyetola-led administration. When I first got the portfolio of being in charge of Information, I remember vividly that Mr Governor specifically instructed me on what my day-to-day duties and responsibilities should be. In particular, he told me that he would be very much interested in me saying the truth and nothing but the truth about his activities, programs and policies without fear or favour. He was emphatic on the need for me to avoid propaganda. I remember him again and again saying, ” Funke, please don’t respond to distractions, always stick to what we have done as a government and what we will be doing as a government”. With this in my mind like a compass that gives direction to a sailor on a high sea, my brief as Osun state Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation has always been tailored towards doing things in line with the maiden brief given to me by Mr Governor.
As a former media executive who rose to the pinnacle of the exalted position of the President Nigeria Guild of Editors, how do you find your present assignment?
Being a journalist for the past 30 years, journalism has become a comfort zone for me as a mother and career woman. Be that as it is, my present job is distinct from core practice of journalism. It is about politics, governance and image making. It is not about digging for information as it used to be while I was completely on the field, but it is now about managing information and disseminating it to the appropriate quarters on behalf of the state government.
Has there been a time you got to a cross road in the scheme of things in the course of this new assignment?
I have never had any, so far, and I don’t think I may get to such crossroads by God’s grace. Do you know why? The product I am managing is a good one. In other words, Governor Adegboyega Oyetola is a product. He gives me no stress in my day-to-day duties as information commissioner. He doesn’t give me any Public Relations nightmare. He doesn’t make my job miserable as his image maker. I have never for once woken up with the fear of having to clean up after the governor in terms of image laundering and reputation management. Here’s a governor who is highly refined, easy going and more measured than what anybody can think of. When an image maker has a bad and difficult product to sell, then the job becomes hellish and nightmarish. Thankfully, there is no such challenge here.
What would you ascribe this to despite the tasking nature of the job?
The job has been a lot easier because of his Omoluabi trait. He is simply a symbol of “omoluabi”. I do not have cause to worry like other image makers.
What informed your conclusion about his person and disposition to politics, policies and governance?
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Oyetola is a person whose Yes is Yes and his No is No. He doesn’t lie. If he makes a promise, be assured that it is going to be carried out to a logical conclusion. He is a man of his words. He is a man whose words you can confidently take to the bank. He is very honest and has an easy going personality.
However, if you look at him and think you can take advantage of his easy going mien, you will end up being surprised. Majority of those who have underrated him are biting their fingers today. He is a governor with proper coordination of what he does and that completely makes him a good product to showcase anywhere, anytime. I have watched him from afar and have watched him closely too before drawing this conclusion.
Does having him as a good product to manage leave you with less work to do?
Obviously not. You can not because you have a good product, then go to sleep. Never! There are a lot of seen and unseen things to do to further showcase an ideal good product. As manager of a governor, you have to keep promoting and oiling his person, programs and activities not only to the people of his state but the larger world. In the last four years, he has proven his worth and mettle in this regard. There’s therefore the need to constantly put this on the front burner. As the Information Commissioner, you have to constantly be on your toes day and night by telling those who have heard and those who are yet to, that you have a product that is not only good but priceless. I have found the personification of those beautiful ideals in governor Oyetola as a good product in Osun’s marketplace of governance .
Some naysayers are of the view that you have been using your wealth of national media background and connection to curry the many awards and recognitions from various newspaper houses for the governor from time-to-time. How true is this?
I am sorry to say that this is far from the truth. In fact, it is fallacious. It is an assertion that is baseless and unfounded by the so called naysayers. But all the same, naysayers as a matter of fact are expected to draw empty conclusions. It is political and one can understand. To clear the air on this, I want to tell the whole world using this platform that I have had no influence of any of the awards given and the yet to be given my governor, Mr Adegboyega Oyetola, by media houses, especially the ones from the newspaper houses. The only time I usually know when such an honor will be conferred on Mr Governor is when they call me to say they want to come and present such an award of recognition and excellence to him at a given day and time. For instance, the one from The Champion Newspaper, I was outside Osun to Lagos. I did not know that they were already in my state to present the award to Mr Governor. I had to tell them that I was in Lagos. Can you now see the import of my argument? So, all the awards given to Mr Governor by all the nationally recognized newspaper houses, I had no iota of influence over them. And the beauty of each of the awards is that each of its givers usually justify it before the glare of the public on why Mr Governor deserves it. However, it gives me joy and satisfaction that Funke Egbemode holds fort as the Information Commissioner when such priceless recognitions are being doled out to our state Chief Executive. Nothing can be more soul-lifting and exhilarating than this to any state Commissioner for Information. I am proud to be associated with Governor Oyetola’s success stories in this regard and several others.
Congratulations Honourable Commissioner.
But, let’s take a look at the core mandate of the state Ministry of Information and Osun state Broadcasting Corporation.
How would you say it has been with the Ministry of information and Civic Orientation f so far ?
Thank you very much. My mandate basically is to strictly and professionally ensure that the Oyetola-led administration does not wink in the dark by making sure that at all times, all the activities, programs and policies of the administration are projected in good light. To this end, as the head of the Information arm of government, I make sure that all the platforms of the media in the state and beyond are awash with all there is to be known about Oyetola and his government. Additionally, when new programmes and policies are rolled out, it falls within the purview of my office to showcase them to the world. Where there are doubts or misconceptions, it falls under my professionally-defined mandate to clear the air on such issues. Specifically, the Ministry decides what goes out to the public in form of news and that informed the idea behind one newsroom mandate given to me via my Ministry during a retreat we had at Ada when this administration came on board.
The Information Ministry under your watch has recorded quite a number of feats. Can you highlight some of them?
A tree, they say, cannot make a forest. Let me first acknowledge the love and support of the entire workers in the Ministry, who, overtly and covertly are partners in progress to drive the core mandates of the Ministry leading to the series of achievements made so far under my watch. I am the head of the newsroom, and today, every worker in my Ministry is a member of the Osun newsroom. The state has a website but the Ministry has a news portal called Osunnewsroom.com. We started with our digital news bulletins on a per story basis where we push out stories that will attract people. Similarly, we engage people for discussions on the day-to-day workings of government. On the part of the governor, we highlight his activities to the delight of the people of the state. However, we are not operating as an island, we send our stories to over 600 platforms on a daily basis. We have moved from there to printing the hard copies of the osunnewsroom as a newspaper of Osun State Government. In the course of time and all things being equal, we are hoping to go commercial by selling the newspaper to the larger public. Similarly, to the glory of God, the conference room that got burnt seven years before the administration of Mr Adegboyega Oyetola came on board, has been renovated. I use this opportunity to appreciate Mr Governor in this regard for approving its renovation. We now have a conference room that can compete favourably with others in terms of space, facilities and equipment where governmental and non-governmental organizations can come for their meetings seminars, workshops and even social functions, among others, at a very minimal cost. Last year, the Conference room of the Ministry hosted the national delegation of top government officials in Nigeria from the Nigeria Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos (Plateau state) who were on a week-long study visit to Osun. The administration of Oyetola also inherited a Government Printing Press that was, for many years, not functioning. It became so groundless in activities that it became reptile and rodent infested. Wild animals took over the premises. I became so worried about the poor condition of the Printing Press that I took a photograph of it and presented it before Mr Governor who equally felt bad about its situation. Added to this was the blown off roof of the printing Press. The intervention of Oyetola led administration reversed all the uglies with the approval of money with which the Ministry undertook the repair of the whole press. Today, we can boast of a functional press where we print and do other activities. In the Osun government press, which falls under the purview of the Ministry of information and Civic Orientation, we can proudly boast of a printing press that publishes all manner of printing jobs; we print all the gazettes of government which hitherto were being printed outside. Copies of the Osun news hub which we christened Osunnewsroom.com are now being printed there. Secret documents of government which were hitherto being printed by the roadside printing companies are now being efficiently printed secretly and professionally here in Osun Government Printing Press. There’s virtually nothing about printing jobs that we don’t do or carry out in the Ministry. Other achievements made by the Ministry are in the area of adequate documentation of the activities of government in both audio and video formats. There are legions of other activities, printing wise, currently being carried out by the officials of my Ministry. Away from printing, from time-to-time, media executives from different states of the federation are usually being invited to come and have a look at what the people’s governor is doing in Osun in terms of activities, programs and policies. The one we had last had top media executives from both thr print and electronic as well as the new media throughout Nigeria. Alongside Mr Governor with some members of the state Executive council, they went round the various parts of the state for a first hand feel of what Mr Adegboyega Oyetola has done and still doing in Osun state.
Osun State Broadcasting Corporation, OSBC, is also under the purview of your office for its day-to-day running. How much of efforts have you put in place to give the station the needed broadcast journalism leeway to be able to compete favourably on the air waves with other radio and television stations, particularly the private ones that are on a daily basis gaining entry into the broadcast space of Osun?
Thank you so much. I want to emphasize that the previous administrations in the state didn’t do much to give OSBC the needed bite in terms of purchase of modern equipment that would have allowed the station to thrive the way one would have expected. But without sounding immodest, I want to say that Oyetola’s administration has done
quite a lot to change the face of OSBC for good. Change, they say, is the only constant thing in life and that exactly is what the present administration is exploring for OSBC. However, it is a gradual process.This government has been very very sensitive to the growth and development of OSBC. As a matter of fact, in order to move with time, digitization of the entire broadcasting gamut of OSBC is underway. Not only has Mr Governor approved the purchase of an uplink equipment for the station so that OSBC can be readily watched by the people of Osun and beyond, the uplink allows the station to operate on cables like Star-times. We are equally looking at other platforms. In addition, modern cameras with other state-of-the-art broadcast equipment are underway for OSBC. We are aware of its many challenges as a state-owned media house, we are equally not unmindful of turning things around in the station to enable it compete favourably and even better with other privately-owned broadcast stations making Osun a place to be in recent times. Just recently, we had two more privately owned radio stations in addition to others that are currently existing in Osun. However, anytime the issue of OSBC comes up for discourse, Mr Governor is always passionate about his resolve to support the media conglomerate called the OSBC . It also gladdens my heart as the Information Commissioner that Mr Governor has given an approval for the purchase of new transmitter for OSBC. But like I earlier told you, it is a gradual process but the Oyetola-led administration will not relax on its oars to take OSBC radio and television to greater heights.
INEC has rolled out names of 15 governorship candidates to slug it out in the coming guber election. How do you rate the governor’s contenders?
Let me be frank with you as usual, Oyetola has all it takes to dust others completely in the coming race. With all the indices of achievements on ground made by him, coupled with the love and support of the people of Osun state, Governor Adegboyega Oyetola, Omo Abulesowo, remains the governor to beat. The people of the state have seen the dossier of his performance. He has been tested and trusted by them. Have you ever seen where the service of a driver who cannot drive is sought? Oyetola is a good driver who for almost four years now has been driving the people of the state smoothly. Would the people of the state be prepared to disengage his service? Definitely No. Majority of the remaining 14 others in the race are not in consonance with the reality on ground. Let’s close this chapter please. Oyetola has no rival in the coming guber election.