How Col (rtd) Cyrus Oguna inspires the Communication and PR industry » Capital News

Written by on September 17, 2022

He came to national limelight in 2011 during Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) incursion in Somalia. As KDF Spokesperson, he became the face of the Operation Linda Inchi, and successfully managed to give KDF a human face, a credible public image and brand reputation. Colonel (Rtd) Cyrus Oguna, the military man from Pap Nyadiel in Alego Usonga, Siaya County, then disappeared from the public limelight until his appointment, in 2019, as the government Spokesperson.

Colonel Oguna came to the limelight at the time when I was on a work-related assignment, teaching at a university in Liberia. His eloquence and refreshing manner of articulating military-related issues against the backdrop of a number of terror attacks that had shaken the country was reassuring. All my colleagues at ABC University in Liberia, especially Americans were so interested in Operation Linda Inchi and I had to get first-hand news to keep up with their questions. It was always Col Ogunas updates and his reassuring demeanour that gave me the facts and I was at the cutting edge of what was happening.

Then he was appointed the government spokesperson at a time when I was deep into my PhD studies at Daystar University and enough times, he featured in our seminar classes as a point of reference. You see, public communication is a complex art that needs both expert understanding of the content of communication and the context within which the communication process takes place. As a military man, he did have the content and the expertise to speak to the people about the military and he had the dexterity to do it in a humane fashion that resonated with the masses. However, the business of the government is the business of the people and as a government spokesman, he found himself in this space where any message would be seen to come from a homogenous source enjoying the privilege of power and almost always the recipients are the heterogenous mass public known as the wanainchi.

The diversity of issues coupled with the political undertones with which all government communication is understood and mediated by different political players meant that he had to consult widely, learn and unlearn and rise to a new level of public communication plus statecraft. He probably hit the wrong notes sometimes and chances are he sometimes rubbed many the wrong way. For instance, in 2021 he seemed to have turned a blind eye to the communication context at a time when Kenyans were reeling from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. He rubbed it on Kenyans by urging them to stop whining and pay taxes in support of the government business. Well, that was good vibe at the wrong time, and he did not help by reminding Kenyans that our taxes are nothing compared to what is paid in Europe. Kenyans did not hesitate and rightly reminded him that in Europe, everything works from the health system to all the social amenities that afford the public quality life.

Despite occasional bad days in the office, he has had an impeccable stint as the government spokesman. Kenyans vividly remember how he was thrown into the deep end during the Likoni ferry disaster in Mombasa. He stepped in with military precision when the country was on the edge. The disaster management became his responsibility, and he diligently led the recovery activity, the retrieval of the bodies and Kenyans were in awe after the debacle that had characterised previous government operations. He announced himself to the public and since then, the crises he has handled have all enhanced the profile of the government Spokesperson Office and taken the government closer to Kenyans.

Undoubtedly, innovative and alive to the changes in media consumption behaviour of the emergent generations, he launched an online platform dubbed SemaNaSpox. This platform has provided the opportunity for the citizenry, especially the youth to engage directly with government, ask questions and get an immediate response. SemaNaSpox has ushered in a more deliberative approach to government communication that puts the citizenry in a well-poised position to not only understand what the government is doing, but also deliberate on government activities and programs. Such initiatives and his dexterity have built the stature of the office and certainly maintained the sanctity of the office at a time the allure of politicising state offices was fairly high. You see, the proclivity of holders of such offices going political in an electioneering period is always high, but the government spokesman bestowed honour and integrity on the office by remaining apolitical. Credit to him because he has set very noble standards for future office holders, a fete that puts him in very good stead as a servant of the people.

He came in as a military man but served as a media savvy government spokesman who departed from the hitherto taller than life know it all aura of government spokesmen and strategically cemented a mutually beneficial relationship with the media. Communication scholars would argue that he successfully leveraged on the Operation Linda Inchi relationship he had with the media, while serving the country as a military man, to build a mutually beneficial relationship with the fourth estate. Col (Rtd) Cyrus Oguna came with strong goodwill from Kenyans, justified his appointment on the back of solid credentials, changed government communication; and might probably leave with expanded goodwill as the government spokesman who served this country with distinction.



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