Ikharo Attah is a media personnel who wears many caps. He heads the Covid-19 Compliance Team in the FCT, the Traffic Management Team as well as the FCT Team on City Sanitation. In this interview with TAOFEEK LAWAL, he spoke about how he has been carrying out his assignments with the support of his team and the media and what the award he just received meant to him.
You bagged an award recently. What is the award for and what is it all about?
The award is for the work we did during the Covid-19 pandemic. The award was given because of what the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) felt was an excellent performance during the first and second wave of the Covid-19 lockdown from March 2020. The second wave came around December same year dovetailing into the early part of 2021. We actually went out enforcing Covid-19 restrictions in the FCT. It was a very tough one here. We had to go to religious places of worship; the mosques and the churches. We shut them down as well as get contravening clerics arrested and who admitted that they even go against what the holy books preach and the laws of the land. We brought them to justice and told them to comply so that we can fight Covid-19 together. We did so much within the framework. At a certain point, we had full lockdown and at another time we had the issue of no movement. Then we had to come up with full Covid-19 compliance protocols. The second wave we had to shut the Wuse Market, the Mall Plaza and the UTC Market. The FCTA felt the Covid-19 enforcement across the country was well carried out by our team, the Covid-19 Compliance Team. They felt it was a job well done and had to give me the award and give some other persons such as Mr Kaka Bello and Peter Olumeje of the Security Department awards as well.
What collaboration or relationship have you had with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Covid-19 in carrying out the compliance protocols in the FCT?
It has been very good and they (PTF) have been working closely with us. When it became the steering committee we are still working very closely. Dr Sani Aliyu had worked very closely with us. At the highest level of government, the FCT Minister, Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello, is working closely with the Secretary to the Government, Mr Boss Mustapha, who heads the PTF and working as well with the Incidence Manager, Dr Mukhtar. What we do is that when they give guidelines we follow them very strictly. And we ensured that in Abuja, the guidelines are strictly complied to. We are very happy, we are very fulfilled that we did what we as a city believed and ensured that we complied strictly with the guidelines and the instructions of the PTF. We are doing our best and we are collaborating very strongly with every stakeholder.
Have you noticed or observed that since the introduction of the Covid-19 vaccination or inoculation, people have let off their guard and what do you think could be the cause?
It is across the world. We have what we call fatigue. Even the media who reports news get tired of our reporting at times. What we are seeing now is what I will call Covid fatigue which has been with us for some time now. Imagine me wearing a mask throughout the period. Sometimes I wore a mask to sleep. People wear masks, use soap to wash their hands and sanitize them. Simply put, it is all about Covid-19 fatigue. Although I have taken my second jab, I still wear a mask. It is a very challenging period for the world at large. When people show fatigue to Covid-19, we can only appeal to them for more understanding because sometimes we do enforcement and mix it with advocacy.
You are a man of many caps. You head the Covid-19 compliance team in the FCT, head of the traffic management team as well as the head of FCT team on city sanitation. How do you juggle these responsibilities together to achieve success?
If you watch what we do in journalism because that is my background and we are very good at what we do. You can write for daily or weekly papers, write feature articles, be an editor and at the same time just be yourself. In journalism, we are very dynamic and ever forward-looking and we combine so many things to grow and develop the society. I became the chairman of Task Force on City Sanitation on September 19, 2019 and others too came. We are doing it all together and we are doing very well. It is a difficult task here but some of the tasks are adhoc. They are tasks that you need to do some cleanup work for about three or six months and you come back to your job. It is beautiful.
What support have you been enjoying from your teams?
It has been very wonderful and you can see what we are doing here at Nyanya this evening to control the traffic. I had to bring all of us here because Nyanya is becoming more problematic traffic-wise. We have to bring out the FRSC unit commander, the District Police Officers of Karu and Nyanya, VIO area commander, Mr Kaka Bello of the AEPB is here, the divisional traffic officer for Nyanya and Karu are all present here as you can see with high senior officers. I enjoy extreme support and I have come to observe that many people work with their minds but for us who lead, we must lead appropriately. When we lead them appropriately, they give us all the best of what we need going forward and that is the beauty of how we can make Nigeria work.
Have you ever encountered public resistance in the course of carrying out these assignments and how do you always come out of this as a media person who understands human relations?
It is normal to encounter public resistance. Some people just want to be critical and of course they have the right to their opinions. When we went to the churches in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, some said we had not gone to the mosques to arrest the Muslims. When we arrested pastors some people said we must arrest Imams too. When we arrested three Imams and two pastors, they said we should make three arrests on both sides. We saw those religious problems here and there but I have been able to follow through very strongly every day. Sometimes you are on social media and you see people hurling all manner of insults on your personality because you are doing the right thing but you have to take that in good faith. You don’t carry out these kinds of enforcements and you think everyone will be happy with you. Those you touched are going to be very offended. So, when you see resistance, you live with it, it is normal.
What are the main challenges you have faced so far in carrying out your duties?
The main challenge is about public sentiments. Look at Nyanya where you are interviewing me, we are currently doing operations here. When we cleaned this area behind the mosque, people said you are leaving the area that Christians are staying opposite, the Gbagyis. When we went to clean the area occupied by the Gbagyis who are mostly Christians, they said the Gwandaras who are mainly Muslims are being pampered by us and that is not true. In everything, they bring tribal and religious sentiments and biases so heavily into everything we do. It is a very dangerous sentiment but for me as a media man I am used to it.
In what ways have you been able to survive these sentiments?
It is by not collecting bribes. It is very key. Stand your ground, do what is right and your Creator will speak for you. Don’t collect bribes. Everybody can blame you and say all manner of things but if you collect bribes and you are compromised, you cannot go out because those who give you bribes know that they have bought your integrity and you are worth nothing in their hands. When you don’t collect bribes and nobody can bribe you they can only insult you and claim that you are wicked and it ends there. But once they finally rope you to monetary inducements, then your character is as good as being in the mud.
As a media person, what support have you enjoyed from your constituency (the media) and the public in general?
It has been very enormous. Those of us in the pen profession are oftentimes limited to political appointments of image laundering, personal assistant or senior assistant on media, information commissioner and minister. But my own is I am giving something that is way off the media into town planning, city management and others. The media has always been with me right from day one because we believe that we are jack of all trades and master of all. We have shown to the world that we can do so much and you could imagine how successful it has been for all of us. Journalists are wonderful people and it shows that we hold any position with our heads high. I have told journalists that we should not just limit ourselves to political appointments I mentioned earlier but we can also become president of this country. We report and cover daily events which make us versed in every sphere of life.
What will this award do to you?
When you are giving an award, you are expected to do more. It shows that the people you are working for have appreciated your efforts. The Minister of State FCT who presented the award to me with the permanent secretary spoke in very good terms and everyone was very happy. There was commendation across board and we are very fulfilled that people see what we are doing and we believe we can do more. I will not be carried away by the award but rather remain more humble and do more for God and country.
As the head of the FCT Minister’s Press Corps, in what ways do you think journalists can shape the policy of a nation or country?
Journalism is key because in the triangle of journalism, there are a lot of things that we touch daily. The society values journalism and the society determines the kind of media it gets while the value determines the kind of society that exists while the journalism influences the kind of ideology or the concept the society holds. So in all that we do as men of the pen profession, standing on the tripod of objectivity, fairness and balance, we can do more and we have been able to do more going forward. The journalist and the media have been able to promote social interaction, social existence through their reports and inform people on what should and ought to be done. Abuja belongs to us all and we must do everything as stakeholders to make it better and greater. It is a project for every Nigerian. Journalists have written so many articles and articles that have been able to reshape people’s minds towards a one Nigeria and a one city project.
Who is Ikharo Attah?
Ikharo Attah is just an ordinary village boy who was born at the Eleyele Barracks in Ibadan who grew up in Bauchi. And upon my father’s retirement from the army in 1986, we moved back to Edo State where I hailed from and attended schools in Edo State. Later on, I proceeded to study Mass Communication and I majored in broadcast option. I started my journalism career in 2002 working then with DBN Television. In 2012, I moved to ITV where I am the manager for news and current affairs. I have also been with the FCT Administration since I was posted in 2003 meaning I have been there for about 18 years now as a journalist covering the place. I am just an ordinary person married with a wife and three children. I am also the chairman of the FCT Minister’s Press Corps with more than 50 journalists.