The picking of former Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) Colonel (Rtd) Cyrus Oguna to replace former National Police Service spokesman Eric Kiraithe as the government Communications Secretary is a welcome relief.
A relief in the sense that by the time of his appointment last month, there was something of a dearth in the flow of information from nearly all State offices such that even Kiraithe himself appeared to — understandably — have lost steam.
Welcome because Oguna assumes office at a time when public confidence levels in government can do with a boost. Matters are not made any better by the fact that the same government is at war with itself with a number of top-notch managers reading from different scripts in so far as moving the country’s development agenda is concerned.
None other than the Housing Principal Secretary Charles Hinga confessed recently that the government is finding it difficult to push its development agenda forward because the public mistrusts the State.
In a nutshell, Oguna will have the misfortune to deal with a quarrelling government, a sceptical public and a cynical media. That is, no doubt, a full plate. Nevertheless, Oguna will hopefully take some lessons from his predecessor.
It is incumbent upon him to realise that his work is clearly cut out. Everyone agrees that Oguna excelled during his stint as DoD spokesman.
Media people remember him as the person who went out of his way to give a human face to KDF and its officers deployed in the challenging Linda Nchi operation in Somalia and endeared our men and women in uniform to the masses. Great work that was. Which is why his appointment in the current office has been welcome by many.
But it is not going to be a bed of roses for the Colonel. He should quickly take some tips from Kiraithe and learn that he now occupies a quasi-political office and therefore, most of the hurdles he is going to be confronted with are of a political, and not State, nature.
He should be ready to deal with and tactfully ward off all manner of distractions from the political arena. It is an office for bare facts and hard tackle yet one that’s vulnerable to open ridicule, sabotage, mischief and political witch hunt.
Like Kiraithe before him, Oguna will need to be very well grounded in constitutional matters and general operations of government.
He will need to honestly maintain the delicate balancing act between dissemination of useful information to the hungry— and sometimes angry— public and placing national security and government policies ahead of all his work.
One hopes that he will embrace his new responsibilities with the same zeal and professionalism that characterised his tenure at DoD.
Overall, the national government’s communication approach has been dismal. State officers only react haplessly to reports raised by the media or a fractious Opposition, thus leaving a huge hiatus between the government and utilisers.
Honestly, there is very little to write home about on how the government markets its policies, courtesy of a dormant communication line within its corridors.
It is not in question that President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto are efficient and effective communicators in their own right. However, they too are politicians and therefore, what they do or say are often swallowed into the muck that is politics.
Most Kenyans do not know what goes on in government even though it has initiated numerous development projects. The State has failed to explain its agenda to the public by way of providing relevant information. Which is why citizens may have lost faith in government. It does not help when government policies and achievements are noisily propagated at political rallies and funerals by not-so-well-informed politicians.
Oguna must stand up to be counted on this front. He has to ensure that the government reaches out to her people, directly and effectively so. The best, and only, way to do so is by making maximum use of its communication systems across all its ministries and departments. – The author is a Revise Editor at People Daily newspaper. [email protected] —CNN