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Garba Shehu @60: Destined for the top

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Garba Shehu

Ali M. Ali

Let me wish my mentor, Malam Garba Shehu, media aide to President Muhammadu Buhari a happy birthday as he turns 60 on November 27. I doubt, very much, if there would be any fanfare to mark this milestone. 10 years ago, when he turned fifty 50, to my knowledge, there wasn’t any beating of drums to mark his entry into the “golden” club, at least, not in the public space. I am not too sure this time, it would be any different.

Certainly three “scores” is momentous. I pray to Almighty Allah (SWT) to increase him in good health and wisdom.

To many people, Shehu is just another “spokesman”. This, indeed, has been his main turf in the last twenty years or so. Before his foray into the difficult terrain of Public Relations and managing the image of politicians these past two decades, he had been a brilliant journalist, media manager and communications teacher. Long before he spoke for Atiku Abubakar and now President Buhari, he had been the image maker of Aluminum Smelter Company (ALSCON) in the twilight of the 90s.

Further back in history, he was once  a reporter with the NTA before crossing over to the Triumph newspapers in kano, his home state, where he was, at various times, editor of all the titles before exiting as Managing Director /Editor -in-Chief around 1998 at 39 or there about.

Visionary Media Manager

Shehu was destined for the top in his chosen path, which is   journalism and PR. He made marks in both fields. As a  newspaper editor and media manager, he was brilliant and a  visionary.He had a keen eye for both talents and details. Thanks to his vision, he constituted a  world  class editorial Board whose membership  was drawn from the academia, the intelligentsia, the business community and top notch  technocrats.

The Board used to meet every Monday. I was the youngest member. It   had my former college principal, the no nonsense   Ado Gwaram. There was also Malam Ibrahim Muazzam of the political science department of Bayero University (BUK) and Marxist Ibrahim Bello Kano of English department. Foremost economist, Kassim Musa Bichi, Dr Hafiz Wali, former DG of National Teachers Institute (NTI), Nuuman Habib, sociologist and journalist and a host of others.

I christened the weekly rendezvous the “Monday School”. I learned more and developed the confidence to engage even my tutors without being disrespectful.

Shehu also helped recruit or head hunt young promising reporters regardless of creed or   status. In the newsroom of the Triumph, wholly owned by government of Kano state were Nigerians from across cultures.There were many voices on the editorial board and the newsroom but Shehu was able to “distill” the tower of babel and produce a paper whose views were   respected and its stories often quoted by foreign media.  I recall one instance when I was the News editor; the coverage of the June 12, 1993   debacle that earned the paper rave reviews by the Lanre Idowu edited Media Review Magazine. Other times, the BBC and VOA will quote stories from the Triumph as their trusted  reference. As government paper under military regime, Shehu found a way of telling truth to power without   appearing belligerent.

One day in 1994,the then Commissioner of Information late Bashir Karaye accompanied a visiting military   governor of the neighboring state of Katsina. After a tour of the company, the visitors sat down for a chat and as unit heads, we all had a question or two to ask but the Commissioner   was throwing his weight trying to control the flow until Shehu stamped his feet on the ground and made it clear that it was “our show”. The visitor backed down.

Shehu was “encyclopedic”. No subject was Greek to him. Politics, Economics, Sports, Entertainment, you name it, Shehu was at home discussing. I have seen him engage intellectual power houses at close quarters. In 1991, I was nominated to attend a workshop organized by the Centre of Democratic Studies (CDS) in conjunction with the Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE). I was still wet behind the ears. Alhaji Wada Maida was then the President of the Guild.I saw Shehu taking on Late Professor Omu Omoruiyi, the Director -General (DG) to task throwing up different alternatives and postulating different theories concerning the Transition Programme of the administration at the time.

Not a Gerontocracy

In between running a newspaper with a few hot heads like me, he found time to teach undergraduate and post graduate courses  in the Mass Communications department of BUK. In my formative years in journalism, Shehu taught me many lessons in management .I learned from him early that knowledge is power and it’s the best guarantor to ascend the ladder. Once, during the general staff meeting, he pointedly said that “ability” not seniority in age was  the consideration in promotion.

“This is not gerontocracy” he said and rested the contrived agitation in the company that “greenhorns” were becoming line editors.

Shehu matured early. He became Managing Director of the Triumph at 33 and President of the Guild of Editors at thirty seven 37. Clearly he was gifted. He had a way with people. He is quick witted, always ready with a sharp one liner. Among his peers, when excited, he has a patented throaty laughter. Among his subordinates, he projects a tough exterior but deep down he really is a nice guy. Once, he assembled all of us in editorial management and chastised us for being “too nice”. The title editors were quiet. But not hot headed me who retorted “you are the nicest of them all”. He challenged me to give an instance and I did. The following week, a reporter did the unthinkable-he assaulted his unit head after being queried for dereliction of duties. He was dismissed at the recommendation of a disciplinary committee.

Shehu and I

I met Shehu 30 years ago. I didn’t know him from Adam. He was then editor of the   TRIUMPH. It was a chance meeting. One day, I accompanied   a classmate Abdullahi Mohammed Doki to see a relative of his, called Muktar Magaji who had taken up a job there, a year earlier. Magaji was a brilliant student of Mass Communications. He was editor of the campus newspaper at the time called Bayero Beacon. The dream of every Communication undergraduate was to edit the Beacon back in the day.

On the way out, we bumped into Shehu in the corridor apparently on a mission. There was a hurried introduction by Magaji. Shehu acknowledged without breaking his pace as he headed upstairs probably to meet with the Managing Director.

A year later, I came looking for a job. Armed with nothing but my NYSC discharge certificate and photo copies of a couple of published articles in especially the Guardian and the Sunday Triumph, Magaji convinced me to meet with Shehu. I   did. It was very brief. All he asked was if I had “written” any articles in the past. He took a bird’s eye view of my    “prized” article in the Guardian on Sunday when Amma Ogan was editor under the weekly “Campus Experience” column.   I think that helped made up his mind to persuade Management to give me an offer.

In the mid-80s, getting published in the Guardian as a student was huge. In the whole of Bayero University, only a few of us were that lucky to have met the high linguistic standards of the Guardian. There was a taciturn guy called Ibrahim Mohammed Sheme who blazed the trail in writing for the Guardian. He got paid the princely sum of N100. I followed suit.

From that moment, Shehu ran from pillar to post until I got the job despite a suffocating   embargo on employment nationwide by the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida.

Within weeks, I was employed as Features Writer and member of the editorial board, thus began my career as a reporter with Shehu as my mentor.

Before I left the Triumph, I had been everything except Managing Director. I edited the Weekly broad sheet Sunday paper intermittently for five years, removed thrice by the powers that be. The first time was by Shehu himself. At the time, I heard later, I was still not ripe to be editor. I was 29.

Years later, after my sojourn as the pioneer Group Politics editor of Daily Independent, ThisDay both in Lagos and Editor of Abuja based Leadership newspaper, Shehu came looking for me to head the management of Peoples Daily. He convinced me that I had what it took to run it. I was Chief Operating officer for a record six years.

The Triumph of the 80s and early 90s produced brilliant journalists like Kabiru Yusuf Chairman of Daily Trust, late Rufai Ibrahim, the only northerner to edit the Guardian, Saleh Mari Maina, the first editor of Thisday,Sani Zorro, who was an editor in African Concord  International Magazine, Late Hajiya Bilkisu Yusuf and several others.

Once again, happy birthday sir! May your days be long. Thank you. We are here because you were there!

Ali M. Ali writes from 1st Avenue, Gwarinpa, Abuja

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Opinion

Combating banditry through Public Relations

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Hassan A. Karofi

By Hassan A. Karofi

The Public Relations (PR) community should rise up to provide a panacea for the increasing insecurity in Nigeria through providing and leading the drive to design, and advocate for adoption of a national strategy on tackling banditry through public relations.

Using a behavior change communication strategy, the PR community can advocate to and convince state governments and the federal government to adopt its proposal to combat these menaces through a saturated media campaign using traditional, cultural and religious sentiments to quench banditry.

The Fulanis, more than any group listens to the radio. Lets us use the radio, social media, outdoor advertising, community spaces, and drama in our stations to appeal to the sensitivities of our brothers to stop the killings.

Using the Fulfude language and Hausa language in a saturated media campaign will reach the bandits, using our respected scholars in these languages to appeal to cultural and religious sensitivities can reduce the negative and destructive impact of insecurity.

The Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) should design a discursive communication strategy as a national.intervention programme and use its influence   through deliberate advocacies to get governments to adopt its proposal.

NIPR can make a significant impact by talking directly to the  perpetrators of these heniuos crimes through cultural communication.

I hope NIPR will embrace this call and come up with a national strategy to combat banditry through PR

Karofi is a veteran journalist and communication specialist.

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Opinion

Childhood killer diseases: NGO gets $29m grants to reach 1m caregivers

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An International Non-Governmental Organization, New Incentive, said it has received a grant of $29 million under it project – All Babies Are Equal targeted to reach over one million caregivers and immunize their infants against childhood killer diseases in four Northwest States .

Kano Focus reports that the four Northern states are Katsina, Jigawa, Zamfara and Sokoto.

These childhood killer diseases include, tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae type B, pneumococcal disease and measles.

The Stakeholder Relations Director, of the NGO Nura Muhammad disclosed this at a stakeholders meeting with the benefiting states held in Kano.

Muhammad said the grant would be disbursed as conditional cash transfer to support the caregivers to ensure they avail their infants for the Immunization.

He said, “New Incentive – All Babies Are Equal, NI-ABAE has received commitments of over $29 million of funding over the next 3 years to reach over 1 million caregivers and their infants in Jigawa, Katsina, Zamfara, and Sokoto States.

This covers expansion to 35 LGAs with continued operations through Dec 2023.

“The organization aims to reduce child mortality through cost-effective and evidence-based health interventions.

In Nigeria, the organization operates as the All Babies Are Equal Initiative and implements the conditional cash transfers (CCT) for routine immunization (CCTs for RI) program.

“The flagship CCTs for RI program operated by ABAE disburses cash incentives to caregivers conditional on infants receiving four vaccines: BCG (against tuberculosis), PENTA (against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type b), PCV (against pneumococcal disease), and MCV (against measles).

These vaccinations are part of the routine schedule for infant immunizations in Nigeria and are provided at no cost to the caregiver through government-supported clinics.

Upon confirmation of their infant receiving a vaccine, the caregiver receives ₦500 for the first four routine immunization visits and ₦2,000 for the fifth visit.

“The cash transfers compensate for transport, lost trading income, and waiting time while creating behavioural change through awareness of routine immunizations.

“The CCTs for RI Program has been implemented in the states of Katsina, Zamfara, 2017 while Jigawa in 2018.

To date, the program has enrolled over 390,000 infants whose caregivers have received over 1 billion naira in conditional cash transfers.

An independent impact assessment of NI-ABAE’s CCTs for RI program (2017 – 2020) found that the program increases the likelihood that children would be fully immunized by 27 percentage points, and increases rates of individual vaccinations by 14 to 21 percentage points.

Beyond vaccination, the assessment found that the program contributed to improved knowledge about vaccination among caregivers in the catchment areas served by the program.

“Immunization is one of the most effective public health interventions, saving 2 to 3 million lives yearly (WHO) and there is evidence that suggests a 27 percentage points increase in the likelihood that children would be fully immunized by a conditional cash transfers for routine immunization program (NI-ABAE RCT Impact Assessment 2017-2020),” the Stakeholder Relations Director, Nura Muhammad however said.

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Opinion

Meet Abdul: The most talented Dabo Babies player of all time

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Picking out the footballing stars of the future is a tricky task.

There are so many factors which could hinder the progression of even the most professional of teenagers.

But some do seem destined to reach the top, while others display a work ethic that’s even greater than the natural talent at their disposal.

The second paragraph could be the case with Dabo Babies talented, 19-year-old forward Abdul Attacker.

He burst onto the scene when he was playing for a local club, Golden Bullet and was snapped up by famous Dabo Babes FC after the departure of former Nigeria U-20 star, Nazifi Yahaya.

And has since caught the attention of football enthusiast across the country with his brilliant display for Dabo Babes.

Abdul tormented four-time Nigeria Professional Football League Champions, Kano Pillars FC after he scored twice against the Sai Masu Gida in a friendly match before the kickoff of the second stanza of the just concluded 2020/2021 Nigeria Professional Football League season (NPFL).

He was the catalyst to Dabo Babes good run to the Kano state Tofa Premier League title driving the famous academy from game to game until they reach the final.

The dazzling forward produces mouthwatering display to earn himself accolades from the Pen Profession who could not hide their love for the next Super Star during the Tofa Premier League final.

He likes his game to that of Real Madrid forward, Karim Benzema and Bayern Munich deadly striker, Robert Lewandowski.

The 19-year-old’s talent and versatility has some people wondering whether he could be a bolster for the Nigeria National U-20 team, the Flying Eagles for their upcoming assignments.

As preparations for the 2020/21 Nigeria Professional Football League season gearing towards climax, many top clubs are interested in snapping him to bolster their squad as well as few other European top teams.

He has scored 55 goals and provided further 22 assists for Dabo Babes in less than three and a half years.

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