By Muhammad Sabiu
Thirty years ago, just like yesterday, on the 11th January, 1994, I was employed as a Sub Editor in the now rested Democrat Newspaper, with headquarters in Kaduna. Armed with a degree in History from the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, i stepped into the newsroom with nostalgic feelings.
The News Editor, Mr. Shoyebi, a gentleman, who l was told, now heads the Corporate Affairs department of the Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG), took me round and introduced me to the editorial staff. Thereafter, he handed me over to the then Chief Sub Editor, Mr Pat. That was how my career in Journalism began 30 years ago.
Looking back, i want to thank Almighty Allah, first for the gift of life and again for all He has done for me. Indeed, I can’t deny any of His favours.
To say the least, I am privileged to have, apart from being a reporter, held, at different times, various responsibilities, which contributed to my career progression.
As an active member of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), I had the opportunity of being elected into various offices at the Chapel level, such as Auditor, Vice Chairman, Secretary, Chairman, now Secretary of correspondent’s chapel, Kaduna.
At the State Council, I’ve have been Vice Chairman, two terms Council Secretary, Ex-officio; Ex-officio of Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), State Chairman of SWAN, Chairman as well as Secretary of several committees at the Chapel, State and National levels.
I have participated in several Delegate Conferences, as well as Constitution Review Conferences of our great Union among others. Permit me to thank the past and present leaders of our Union for their unflinching support.
I will also like to thank the first Executive Governor of Zamfara state, Senator Ahmed Sani. He gave me a job when he was vying for the Presidency of Nigeria around 2006.
I traveled the length and breadth of this country recruiting Journalists for his presidential bid. It was a lifetime experience, as it brought me in contact with so many fantastic journalists and great minds who contributed immensely to our presidential campaign.
Unfortunately, we were in Makkah for the holy pilgrimage when we heard that the former governor had stepped down for Gen Muhammad Buhari (retd) who later became the presidential candidate of the All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP). Though we were not happy about the decision, but it was the will of God.
Also, I want to thank a former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Sani Takori for giving me the opportunity to be his honorary media adviser.
The former lawmaker and I have come a long way. It was a great honour to know him and I did not take our friendship for granted. I remain grateful to him.
At different times, I was also a member of Zamfara United Football Club management committee as well as Media Officer of Zamfara United Football Club, and member of various sports committees.
All these were possible due to the support of the following personalities, Late Isa Aliyu Gusau a former Director of Sports, Late Shehu Gusau, a Director at the National Sports Commission, as well as the current Chairman of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Ibrahim Gusau.
I also want to thank a former governor of Zamfara state, Alhaji Mahmoud Shinkafi for giving his nod for i and two other Journalists to write a book on the achievements of his government.
The book, “MAS government in the eyes of the National Dailies” remains a reference point to those interested in knowing what happened during his tenure (2007 to 2011) in the state. I remain grateful to the former governor for the rare opportunity.
Let me quickly say here, that I remain grateful to my editors, Debo Abdullahi (Daily), Sina Oladeinde (Sunday), Dr Lasisi Olagunju (Saturday )and my MD, Edward Dickson for the trust and confidence they bestowed on me to Head the Northern Bureau of Tribune as the Northern Bureau Chief (NBC).
For emphasis, the Bureau is made up of all editorial staff in the 19 states. Since my appointment I’ve been enjoying their support and cooperation as well as that of my colleagues across the region. I thank them most sincerely.
My MD and editors were beacons for my personal progression in life and career. I really don’t know the correct adjective to use to thank them enough.
Also, worthy of mention is my first editor at the Democrat Newspaper, late Alhaji AbdulHamid Babatunde. Infact, my late editor was my first Journalism teacher. He assisted me greatly.
He took his time to teach me some basics and was never tired of correcting my mistakes. I am short of words for his magnanimity both in and outside the office. May Allah forgive his short comings and grant him Aljannah Firdausi.
Professor Ladi Adamu and Dr Bello Gwarzo, now with Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, also assisted me in my career. Professor Ladi then the Deputy Editor of Sunday Democrat published the draft of my book “The Price of Friendship” on her Sunday page.
While, Gwarzo also a Deputy Editor always took out time to counsel me on how to succeed in my reportage.
Mayo Adeyemi, who heads the feature desk, was another great guy. He was a fantastic writer with a unique style of writing.
Other great personalities who touched my life when I was climbing up the ladder were Sam Otitolaye, a senior colleague, late Nababa Sanda Gusau, publisher of the Legacy Newspaper, Late Garba Dauran, Tafidan Zurmi, former commissioner and late Malami Yandoto, a prince and former commissioner.
Ibrahim Danmaliki, former commissioner, Ibrahim Birnin Magaji, former commissioner and my Village Head, Late Alhaji Abdullahi, who gave me the title of Danmaliki.
Indeed, while the Democrat provided the training ground for me, the Nigerian Tribune moulded me to become what I am today. I benefited a lot from Tribune National Conference.
The Conference usually brings reporters from all over the country to discuss about the current trends in the media industry as well as strategies to be adopted. The Conference is another school of its own. Reporters are exposed to so many things that will make them excel.
May be in the future, if time permits, I will write a book on Tribune as my own parting gift.
Changes in the print media
Looking at the print media in the last 30 years, it has gone through many fundamental changes. I recall 30 years ago, newspaper production was done manually – from news gathering, news writing, photographing, editing and publishing everything you can think of. Then, there was no internet, no computer, no iphone, no ipad, no android etc.
However, today, the story is different.The advent of technology, has made our work faster and easier. But, it has at the same time made some of us lazy. It’s almost becoming a norm for Journalists to syndicate their reports even when avoidable. Some just sit down to copy and paste instead of trying to write their own stories.
You can’t stay in the comfort of your room to write on banditry etc. you have to go to the scene and do your findings. Relying on internet for your source is not enough.
Though, technology has come to stay, but we have to change the narrative. It is not late because people still believe in the power of the Media. That’s why Journalists should be truthful, fair and objective in their reports.
For me, a classical example of good work is the recent report by Umar, of the Daily Nigerian, who exposed the racket of obtaining a degree in six weeks in Benin Republic. If he had stay in the comfort of his room, simply because someone had hinted him about it, he wouldn’t have been celebrated today. I think he deserves the best investigative reporter of the year award.
The print Media today is not the same as it were some 30 years ago. So also is Television and Radio Stations. Thirty years ago, newspapers only produce hard copy of their news no more no less. But today it is different.
Most newspapers today have their websites.They break news like any other online platforms, they don’t wait till the following day. Today apart from hard copy, they also produce e-copy. Some newspapers have even added Radio and Tv Stations to their stables like the Daily Trust etc.
Also the print Media make use of other social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Whatsapp, X (Twitter), Telegram to reach out to readers and the public.
A Reporter can only work for the Medium that employed him 30 years ago, but today a Journalist can have his own website and blog in addition to the Medium he works.
Today, the media space has become very big, It can accommodate whoever is interested in becoming a Journalist. So, the issue of joblessness in the media industry, is no longer an issue now except one is lazy. Journalists should take advantage of this window.
Self development an important tool
There is something important that I want to share with my colleagues. To remain relevant, a Journalist must develop himself.
He has to acquire the basic tools. He must acquire the basic education and skills to survive today. I came into the profession with a degree but thirty years after, i have added four additional degrees.
Computer education is mandatory for every Journalist. If you are still a manual reporter, sorry, I really don’t think you belong here.
A good Journalist must read people’s work too. It helps him to improve. As for me, I took it upon myself to read people’s work. I saved money to buy magazines and newspapers to read other people’s work and learn from it.
I was an avid reader of Late May Ellen Ezekiel (Publisher of Classique Magazine), Mike Awoyinfa (former MD of the Sun), Dan Agbese (founding member of Newswatch), Dele Momodu (Publisher of Ovation), Shola Oshunkeye (former MD of the Sun), Muhammad Haruna (former MD of New Nigerian), Late Bilkisu Yusuf (former Editor of New Nigerian), Tunde Thompson (celebrated Guardian reporter jailed by General Buhari under decree 4), Nosa Igiebor, (Publisher of the Tell Magazine), Yakubu Mohammed (former editor of New Nigerian). These are/were great minds whose works inspired me greatly.
High points and low points
In everything one does there is usually the high points and the low points. For me, while there are many high points and low points during my 30 years sojourn in Journalism, I will take only few for emphasis. One of my finest hour was, when I first broke the news of the Zamfara amputee, Buba Jangebe (Kare Garke).
That day, a nurse told me about the amputation and I took advantage of the information. I did not only locate Jangebe but spoke with him about how he stole the cow, his family and how he felt when he realized his wrist was amputated. It was really a vintage interview. The story was the front page main lead of my paper.
That day, according to my former MD, Segun Olatunji, another cerebral writer, Tribune sold like hot cake. He told me during a visit to Zamfara state with my Publisher, Wole Awolowo, that there was no unsold copies, in the whole of South Western region.
According to him, the following day people were still coming to the office to ask for the edition. The amputee and I later became friends. I even at some point became his ‘unofficial’ media adviser.
One day, I took him to former governor Sani and he was given half a million naira. He was very happy with the monetary gift. Today, Jangebe has memorized the complete chapters of the holy Qur’an. I promised to visit him during the forthcoming Ramadan Fasting in his town.
The story of the Lebanese Italian Journalist who lives in Beirut, Lebanon but came to Nigeria 2012 because of my work was very touching that will remain evergreen in my mind.
One day, he contacted my editor that he wanted to come and see me in Nigeria. My editor asked him the reason, the foreign Journalist replied that he wanted me to assist him on how he could get the victims of lead poison for an interview.
He said he had carried out a research and discovered that, I have written so many articles on lead poison. So, he wanted my input.
At that time the disease had ravaged many communities in Anka, Bukkuyum LGAs of Zamfara state killing so many children and women. It was a national calamity that called for urgent attention. I never knew that I’ve written so much on the disease outbreak.
Behold! When he came, I was shocked over the discovery. Here was a man who took his time to document my works. I was ashamed of myself.
To be candid, If you ask me to produce a single article, I don’t have. But this Journalist have my works saved in his laptop. That experience touched me. It also thought me something never to take things for granted especially things that provide our daily bread.
Another turning point, was meeting two former leaders, in my career. My interview with General Ibrahim Babangida at Arewa House during a function, after he left office, was memorable for a young reporter like me.
Decades later, i met the former military president at his top hill mansion during the wedding of his daughter Aisha to former governor of Zamfara state Shinkafi. Again, when he lost his wife Maryam, I was part of the entourage from Zamfara state that went to condole the former military president.
I interviewed General Obasanjo at the State House, Kawo Kaduna when he came to deliver a public lecture. I recall, after the lecture, I rushed to him for the interview. At first he declined but when I persisted he reluctantly conceded.
As a young reporter, I did not know the import of what I did until I got to the office. My editor was elated.
He asked me to write the report. Behold! The following day, Obasanjo’s story led the paper and we sold hundreds of copies. As a sign of appreciation, my editor gave me a token.
Meeting General Hassan Usman Katsina was also a turning point in my career.
The former governor of the Northern region gave me an open invitation to his house. I first came in contact with him in 1988 as an under graduate. One day, I led the executive members of the students Historical Society to invite him to our Week as chairman of the occasion.
While, Late Abubakar Rimi was to be the speaker. Gen Hassan told us he will not be available but he would send a representative. Truly, he did sent Senator Abu Ibrahim to represent him who even donated on behalf of General Hassan.
Since then we struck a father and son relationship. When I became a Journalist, the relationship continued unabated. I will come to his house and deliver some copies of our paper.
After delivery, I will sit down on the carpet to listen to him talk about the North, leadership and Nigeria.
Sometimes we shared our sentiments. But one thing you can not take away from him is his love for a united Nigeria and his love for the North to develop. I cherished my experience with him and I will die with it.
But importantly, he encouraged me to stay when one day I told him I wanted to leave journalism. He told me “young man stay behind and defend your region”. When eventually he passed on. My editor assigned me to cover his funeral.
It was like a double edged sword. I was reporting his demise and at the same time mourning. It was a monumental loss to me. After my parents, the next person whose death affected me most was the General. He took me as his son. May his soul continue to rest in peace. I will forever miss him.
The most recent event, that I intend to share is the story of the Christian community of Tudun Biri. Three days to Christmas I visited them in their households. For four hours, I was with them. They lamented that they have nothing to celebrate the Christmas. And Christmas was just few days away.
What will I do to assist them, I reached out to the Pastor to confirm the veracity of their claim. The Pastor told me the same thing. I published the interview with the Pastor on Christmas eve. Behold! It attracted the attention of some government officials and they acted positively. That was my target. I was happy for the community. At least, I was able to put smiles on their faces.
Another turning point was the Authentic Daily News Best Journalist Award. Coming few months to when I will clock thirty years, means a lot to me. It means someone is noticing my little contribution to journalism. I thank the Publisher, Jacob Dickson and the panelists who felt i deserves the award Infact, uptil now, I did not know why I was picked. I cherished it and accepted it wholeheartedly.
As for my low point, I will not share my experiences for obvious reasons. But I will summarize it this way, I was detained 14 times in the cause of my duty as a reporter. These reports that landed me in trouble were considered injurious. Let me share one experience.
In one of the reports that landed me in trouble, i was given a motorcycle. I just came home to find a motorcycle in front of my house. My neighbour, who gave me the key of the motorcycle told me the people came in a pickup van to drop it. Uptil today, nobody has come to claim ownership.
I also wanted to put it on record that I escaped two assassination attempts on my life. I don’t want to comment any further. But I thank God for sparing my life to witness today.
Elder Tajudeen Ajibade and Co today I am not only active but I am also a veteran journalist. I hope you will admit me among the league of veterans. I thank the elders too for their guidance.
I dedicate this piece to my lovely wife, Hajia Kaltume for standing by me in difficult times.
Thank you for reading.