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Opinions of Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Columnist: The Median Newspaper

Gov’t spokesman or CPDM Sapeur Pompier?

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For a government that is traditionally silent on important public issues, the minister of communication, Issa Tchiroma Bakary deserves enormous praise for his efforts at getting the public to know the government’s position on many issues especially issues of controversy.

Until Tchiroma became communication minister and spokesperson (some people say he auto-proclaimed himself spokesperson) for government, the government rarely communicated on public issues, even important and sometimes very controversial issues.

This silence of government only created an atmosphere of uncertainty and lack of direction. In fact, it only left the wider public especially the press, with no other option than to speculate. Rumour mongering and speculation easily became the order of the day in Cameroon.

But since the appointment of Issa Tchiroma as communication minister and government spokesman (The Median was reliably informed that President Biya personally instructed Tchiroma to be the spokesperson for his government) the lack of communication by government on important issues has become a thing of the past.

In fact, it has also put an end to the situation whereby an official will take a position on an issue, only for another official to come out and present a contrary position as the official position of government.

The Median understands that the role that Issa Tchiroma is playing is very soothing to Paul Biya. After realizing that he was too cut-off from the public and that he was not communicating enough (if at all he does communicates), Biya resolved that subsequently he will either direct his Prime Minister or the government spokesman to give the government’s position on important national issues.

We understand also that President Biya took this decision in order to prevent rumour mongering and speculations, especially when he knows that his decision on a given issue will not be soon.

Usually before Tchiroma is allowed to give a press conference, a committee is first summoned by the president to sit and discuss the issue at hand and advise him on which position to adopt as that of the government.

We understand also that Issa Tchiroma has played his role of government spokesman so well that he has become the “chouchou” of his boss, President Paul Biya. Tchiroma’s admirers compare him only with Joseph Goebbels, Hitlers war-time propangandist, and Tarek Aziz, Saddam Houssein’s propaganda chief during Operation Desert Storm.

But The Median also understands that Tchiroma’s performance as Communication Minister has made him the target of jealousy and envy by his colleagues in government especially CPDM ministers.

Recently, when some CPDM ministers decided to accompany Issa Tchiroma in doing the “communication gouvernementale”, like was the case with Laurent Esso and Nganou Djoumessi, it turned out that the press outing was never as lively as it would be if it were done by Tchiroma alone.

In fact, during one of these press conferences a minister who took upon himself to talk in Tchiroma’s place could hardly convince his hearers. The minister used a lot of technical language to explain a subject which Tchiroma would have easily thrashed using politics. Many pressmen left the press conference disappointed.

Apart from his role as spokesman for government, Issa Tchiroma is also credited to have bridged the gap between the private and public media. Today, the presidency is covered by journalists from both the private and public media. Before Tchiroma came, only CRTV and Cameroon Tribune covered the prime minister and the president.

But if Issa Tchiroma is lauded for putting an end to government’s silence and thus, bringing the government close to the people, apart from helping enormously to polish the country’s image and bridging the gap between private and public media, he is at once faulted for not doing enough to better the lot of journalists.

Commentators contend that it is only when Tchiroma would take the bull by the horns and also do something to better the status of journalists in Cameroon, that he would merit the epitaph of Biya’s best communication minister ever. Until Tchiroma does this he will only be seen as Biya’s variant of Saddam Hussein’s Tarek Aziz or Hitler’s Joseph Goebbells.

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