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
Electronic transmission of results: The joke is on NASS, INEC, not NCC
In the heat of the debate over Electoral Act Amendment Bill and the propriety and workability of electronic transmission of result, the House of Representatives invited the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, the nation’s telecoms regulator.
The House also invited the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to answer to some questions. But as it has now turned out, the invitation to NCC was needless, baseless and at best a futile exercise in red-herring. The NCC, it must be stated, is one of the best performing public institutions in Nigeria with its exemplary culture of good corporate governance noised abroad even as far as Switzerland, the head office of the International Telecommunications Union, ITU.
The NCC has over the years become a worthy Ambassador of Africa in the ITU family. It has not only represented Africa on the international circuit, it has sponsored young Nigerian techies and tech nerds to ITU-promoted competitions on innovation and in most cases, these fecund Nigerians have come out tops, beating competitors from Asia, Europe and the rest of the world. NCC has functioned as a truly independent regulator, inspiring confidence in investors, telecom consumers and other stakeholders including the media. It was therefore needless and a clear act of mischief to drag such an untainted commission into the nation’s murky political waters.
Dragging the commission to testify before the House on the feasibility of electronic transmission of results is mischievous on the part of the lawmakers. It’s a joke taken too far by a body that was supposed to understand the basics of the nation’s Grundnorm, the constitution. They feigned ignorance of relevant sections of the constitution just to scapegoat the NCC and make themselves look squeaky clean.
The Senate itself was fraudulent and duplicitous when it pushed the responsibility of Electronic Transmission of result to the NCC in spite of what the constitution says about the powers of INEC to determine the electoral process including the pattern of voting and mode of transmission of result. Some senators, including the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, a man who once desecrated the hallowed chamber when he sponsored and promoted in broad daylight the ignoble venture of stealing the Mace, the symbolic authority of the Senate, were quick to quote obviously false statistics which they dubiously ascribed to the NCC. What a show of shame that persons elected to make laws for the good governance of the nation and who should know the rudiments of extant laws including the constitution would feign ignorance of aspects of the law that makes utter nonsense of their tomfoolery and moral somersaults in the chambers of the Senate.
For the avoidance of doubt, Section 78 of the Constitution provides that ‘The Registration of voters and the conduct of elections shall be subject to the direction and supervision of the Independent National Electoral Commission’.”
The Third Schedule, Part 1,F, Section15 says: “INEC has power to organise, undertake and supervise all elections to the offices of the President, Vice President, Governor and Deputy Governor of a state, and to the membership of the Senate, the House of Representatives and the House of Assembly of each state of the Federation.”
The Constitution further provides that INEC operations shall not be subject to the direction of anybody or authority.”
This, therefore, renders the action of the NASS nugatory. By inviting NCC and INEC shunning its own invitation, it appears the House was acting a devious and utterly treacherous script intended to do harm to the purity of the electoral process, and only conscripted NCC into the plot to draw legitimacy from the globally acknowledged good governance rectitude of the telecom regulator. It was a wrong decision meant to hoodwink Nigerians and clearly intended to make the lawmakers smell like rose flower while the NCC and INEC appear like villains of a political plot.
Electronic transmission of result is not rocket science. It is a universal norm in the 21st century. Smaller and poorer nations across the globe have achieved electronic transmission of result even with their limited infrastructure, Nigeria should not be an exception. It’s as simple as sending a text message, WhatsApp message or using any other platform recommended by INEC, not NCC, not NASS. Even if network is weak or non-existent in a particular unit, moving further away from such unit until you access a place of better network still will not vitiate the authenticity of the result already tallied at the polling units. The electronic copy only complements the physical copy which must have been signed by all agents relevant to the election. Electronic copy as a back-up copy helps to strengthen the electoral process and reduce incidents of ballot-snatching and primitive manipulation of the physical copy. There ought not to be a debate on this especially when INEC, the only body mandated by the constitution to organize, undertake and supervise all elections has categorically stated that it can achieve electronic transmission of results.
The joke truly is on NASS and an inconsistent INEC.
Aliyu Momodu, is a public affairs analyst.
Unusual signs may emerge on Laylatul Qadr – Alakarmawi
A renowned Islamic scholar in Kano Sheikh Muhammad Nazifi Alkarmawi said it is sometimes possible to witness unusual signs on Laylatul Qadr.
Kano Focus reports that Sheikh Alkarmawi revealed this while delivering his Friday sermon.
He said Laylatul Qadr is one of the most sacred nights in Islam found in the last ten days of Ramadan.
According to him it is sometimes possible to witness unusual signs on the night.
Some of the signs highlighted by the Imam is the night is serene, quiet and shining where the temperature is neither hot nor cold and the moon shines clearly.
Sheikh Alkarmawi said Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him used to double effort in the last ten days of Ramadan aimed at witnessing the night.
He described as a weak a narration wich declared twenty seventh night of Ramadan as Laylatul Qadr, and urged adherents to seek the night in the last ten days of the holy month.
On the recommended acts in the night, Sheikh Muhammad Nazifi Alkarmawi cited a hadith narrated by Nana Aisha which prophet taught Muslims to recite ‘Allahumma innaka afuwun, tuhibbul afwa, fa’afu anna.
He also admonished faithful on supplication, forgiveness, upholding good deeds and assisting the needy.
Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu at 65
By Ibrahim Sheme
On this day, April 25, the immediate past Vice-Chancellor of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu, clocked 65 years.
He was the VC of NOUN from 2016 to February 11, 2021. When his tenure ended, he returned to his former duty post at Bayero University, Kano, but then took sabbatical work as Visitor at Kaduna State University (KASU), Kaduna, on March 1, this year.
Born in Kano City on April 25, 1956, Adamu is unarguably one of the leading academic lights in Nigeria. He obtained a professorship each in Science Education and in Media and Cultural Communication, both from Bayero University, in 1997 and 2012 respectively. Indeed, he is one of very few academics in the country to have attained the feat of a double professorship.
Adamu is an international scholar, having taught media and science education courses in many Nigerian universities and around the world, including serving as a European Union Visiting Professor at University of Warsaw, Poland, in 2012, visiting professor, Rutgers University, New Jersey, and visiting professor, University of Florida in 2010. He was also Fulbright African Senior Research Scholar in 1991.
One other remarkable achievement he recorded was the development of ‘hooked’ Hausa language character font sets (ɓ Ɓ ɗ Ɗ ƙ Ƙ), which were not present at the advent of the Internet. The emergence of these fonts, which he created as part of his various extracurricular activities, has helped many authors, publishers, scholars, students and ordinary users in conveying the Hausa language in a way that it should be written.
Two years ago, on a day like this, I penned a birthday tribute to Professor Adamu to help celebrate his 63rd anniversary. In that write-up I did not dwell on his unfolding accomplishments at NOUN in the area of infrastructural development of the university because others had done so already. Instead, I emphasised on the then VC’s human relation, which I have always found unique. And I wrote: “On that score Prof. Abdalla has remained the same person I have known for about two decades – easy-going, humorous and understanding towards all. I think this essence is a great contributory factor to the achievements he is making as a leader and chief executive.
“His approachability is rare. I know chief executives who are ‘feared’ – and consequently loathed – by those working under them because of their stiffness and unbendability. Some, you strictly need an appointment to see them, and their secretaries become lords because they emulate the ‘man inside’. Not Baba Prof (as we used to call him). He runs an open door policy, with a secretary (Esther) just as approachable and nice as he is.
“Once you get into his office, you immediately feel at home. He has a joke for everyone. You will never find him mirthless or sad as if the whole world rests on his shoulders. If it is lunch-time, he offers you his food.
“That sense of humanity, for me, are as important as the infrastructure he is putting on ground at NOUN. That sensibility, plus the infrastructure and the policy transformation, will no doubt count as his best legacies when his tenure ends in February, 2021.”
I daresay many at NOUN would remember him for such virtue. Happily, his successor as VC, Professor Olufemi A. Peters, is another approachable chief executive who doesn’t put on airs. Even though the two men do not necessarily share the same character traits, one can say there are several points of convergence that one can easily point at – but that is a story for another day.
Meanwhile, I’d like to use this opportunity to wish Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu happy birthday and many happy returns.
Sheme is the Director, media and publicity at National Open University of Nigeria, Abuja
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