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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.

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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: Ese Oruru: A Post-Script

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Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed

“If you want to know the end, look at the beginning.”–African proverb

A little over four years ago, I wrote the material below in this paper.

It was intended to speak against a national hysteria being fired by our poisonous national patents of ethnic and religious stereotypes and prejudices.

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I have since followed this matter even when it threatened to disappear under our penchant for finding new causes to fight over.

Last week, there was a major development around the story.

First, though, please read my comments on the matter.

“Any responsible parent of a girl of fourteen that disappears and is then reported to be with an unknown person hundreds of miles away from home will be beside themselves with worry.

“If they also hear that she has changed her religion and is planning to marry the person responsible for her disappearance, their concerns will deepen.

“They will do everything to trace the girl and utilise every available source of redress and relief to retrieve her and get justice.

“If they meet their daughter, and then encounter difficulties in retrieving her from any quarter, they will raise their voices to the high heavens in protest.

“Everyone who hears the side of the parent’s story will line up in their support.

This is what all Nigerians have done in support of the demand of the parents, relations and the community of 14 year old Ese Oruru for her return to her home in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State from a village in Kano State where she has been for the last few months.

This universal support behind the return of Ese to her home is the only peg on which you could hang some sort of consensus.

Ese’s reported ill-advised elopement with a young man from Kano is presented as abduction, forceful detention, and conversion to Islam in many versions.

Sloppy handling and laxities in the operations of institutions with responsibilities to protect the weak and vulnerable are interpreted in other quarters as high level collusion to violate the fundamental and other rights of a Nigerian minor.

A saga that has been active for months, with many stops and gaps substantially outside public glare suddenly assumed the status of a national scandal with all the trappings and muck of our politics.

A child everyone should look at with responsible sympathy suddenly became the source of the rediscovery of all that is wrong with our politics and other values as a nation.

Ese was, a few months ago, one among millions of Nigerian children from whom you will buy pure water or snacks without a second look.

Today, she is at the center of an almighty row about faith, cultures and damaging politics.

Long after this dust is settled, this child will deal with the effects of our quarrels over her.

Whether she is a victim of childish impetuousness or adult abuse and cynical manipulation is not likely to matter.

Collectively, we would have further injured a child that ought to have been in school learning to be a responsible adult, with the support of her parents and community.

There are quite possibly many angles to this sad story that would have been permanently drowned by indignation and outrage from just about everyone who has scores to settle, or a cause to advance.

A range of persons and interests from the Emir of Kano to all Muslims and many northerners are likely to feel hard done because their status and faith are being portrayed in very bad light.

They will attempt to distance their faith from abduction, forceful conversion or marriage without consent of parents, to no avail.

Palace officials, police and community leaders will roll out all manner of evidence that they played their parts.

No one will care, after the devastating conclusions of social media warriors has reached many ears, galvanising opinions in support of a child who desperately needs to be freed from abduction and forced conversion and impending marriage.

Ese’s sojourn has attracted to the poor child an entire army of sympathisers, many of whom she does not need, and they do not deserve mention.

Minister of women affairs says Ese is a wake up call to improve the protection of women and child rights.

Hashtags in support of Ese’s return have been gaining support in social media.

Traditional and stereotype insults against people, regions and religions are being unearthed, with reminders of child marriages by prominent northerners, the Chibok girls, sponsored pregnancies, commercial baby factories and entire communities living off remittances from prostituting daughters in Europe filling all social media spaces.

In this bedlam, which says more about how we treat each other as adults than how we relate to our young, there are a few islands of sanity.

The governor of Bayelsa State went out of his way to engage governor of Kano State and the Emir of Kano, and publicly commended both for the roles they played in reuniting Ese with her parents.

The Kano Emirate Council released a measured statement distancing the Emir and the Emirate Council from accusations that they colluded in keeping Ese in Kano State, away from her parents.

On the other hand, the legion of shrill joiners piling on sensation and crude opportunism reminds us all that we are stuck in some deep gutters as far as inter-community relations go.

The Nation newspaper screamed an editorial that should lose it a substantial amount of respect.

It said: “The story which was, at press time still developing, has all the evil trappings of molestations, child abuse, sexual deviance, abduction, religious coercion, constitutional violation, a network of shadowy big men manipulating the law…”

This comment will force all people with a hint of civilised humanity to grit their teeth and read the trademark drivel rolled out routinely by Femi Fani-Kayode because it appears that he shares the same space with this newspaper on this matter.

Forgive me for giving this man who clearly needs help a few minutes of your time, but this is part of Fani-Kayode’s contribution on this matter: “The truth is that this is not a love story about two inseparable young people: it is rather a sad and tragic tale about pedophilia, child abduction, kidnapping, human trafficking, slavery, rape, impunity, wickedness, religious bigotry and ritual sex.

“Worse still, it is an unfolding drama at the end of which Emir Sanusi Lamido (sic) may well have a case to answer.

“The truth is that the little girl would have been raped over and over again and she may well have Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDs), Vesico vaginal Fistula (VVF) or some other strange sexual disease by now”.

There must be people who enjoy this type of delusion in print, because newspapers give it space.

But Ese does not need it.

What she needs is a quiet and productive reunification with her family, and a lot of time to sort out deeply personal issues.

What we need as a nation is to move on and find other grounds for a quarrel.

Everyone involved in this sensitive issue should examine their roles, or have them examined by those who police accountability.

Where amends or restitutions need to be made, they must be made.

Ese will develop into an adult and decide what she wants to do with her life.

The best way we can help her reach that stage without further damage is to create appropriate distance between her life and our many preferences and prejudices.”

Since this piece was published, Ese was separated from Yinusa Dahiru (alias Yellow) February 2016 and taken home with a five months-old pregnancy.

She delivered a girl three months later.

Yinusa was arrested and detained in prison custody, and has been on trial until last week when he was sentenced to 26 years in prison.

He had pleaded not guilty to all charges.

A newspaper that had vigorous championed Ese’s case quoted her father as saying that an attempt was made to steal the baby at the Police Officer’s Mess in Yenagoa where mother and child were staying.

The same paper interviewed the father in 2018 during which he said all the promises for scholarship and support made by the Bayelsa and Delta State governments for Ese’s education were not fulfilled.

She is now in SS3, living away from, but being supported only by her father.

In all likelihood, Yinusa will appeal.

But the court of sectional opinion is already split right down the middle.

Champions of Ese’s case who paid for her lawyers hail his conviction as rightful vindication.

His sympathisers say he has been abandoned and betrayed by his own people who, in addition cannot raise their voices at the reported cases of Hausa children routinely stolen and taken to the East, culturally re-processed and converted.

Yinusa and Ese have played their roles as pawns, and they will continue to remind us that in most of our fights, there are no winners.

This, however, does not stop us fighting in filth.

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Eulogy to my dear friend: Engineer Ibrahim Khaleel Inuwa

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Engr Ibrahim Khalil Inuwa

Shamsuddeen Usman

One would have thought that, given these unusual times of COVID-19 in Nigeria and the high number of sudden and “mysterious” deaths in Kano, the news of yet another death should not have come as a surprise.

But the news of the sudden death of my primary school classmate, dear friend, colleague and a thoroughbred professional, Engr. Ibrahim Khaleel Inuwa (Khaleel), on Monday 11 May 2020, hit me like a thunderbolt.

It was as shocking as it was sudden.

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I had exchanged text messages with him only two days before. Another colleague had spoken to him the night before and yet another, even that morning.

He had even commented on a post in an NIM group that he belonged to at about 11:25 that morning.

According to his son, Umar, they were actually discussing at home when Khaleel slumped slightly.

He was however alert enough, soon thereafter, to walk to the car with which they rushed him to see a doctor.

At the doctor’s, Khaleel even engaged in some banter with the doctor on the challenges of the COVID 19 epidemic in Nigeria, before he passed out again suddenly and died.

By Umar’s estimation, the gap between the first attack at home and the second one at the doctor’s that killed him was just about 15 minutes!

Lifelong Colleague

Khaleel and I were admitted to the then newly-opened Gwale Senior Primary School in Kano City, 60 years ago, where we shared the same class for the next 3 years.

Our class set actually set a record for all primary schools in Kano, when we graduated in 1962 that is probably still unbeaten.

The record is that, due to the good teaching we received in a public primary school and the commitment and dedication of our teachers, who set up many weeks of extra evening lessons (for which they weren’t paid any extra), up to nine of us in our set did so well in the Common Entrance Examination organized by the Northern Regional Government, that we were selected to go to three of the best secondary schools in the North, at the time.

Four of us went to Government College Keffi, four to Government College Zaria (now Barewa College) and Khaleel to Government College Kaduna.

All of us kept in touch, through letter writing (the only option then) and when we were back home on holidays.

We were also contemporaries in Ahmadu Bello University, with Khaleel studying Engineering and I Economics.

Being both in the ABU Samaru Main Campus, we interacted through various associations, fora and, of course, as friends and classmates.

We also interacted and visited each other, as graduate students in the UK, with Khaleel at the Cranfield Institute of Technology and I at the London School of Economics.

My first visit to see Khaleel in Cranfield in fact, was my first experience of very rural England.

An Engineer and a Half

Khaleel was very proud of, and passionate about, engineering, right from his student days.

He was always very effusive about engineering.

I cannot recall which of our friends gave him the nickname of “Injiniya da rabin Injiniya“, i.e. an engineer and a half rolled into one, to which he answered very proudly.

No surprise at all, therefore, that he joined and rose to the top of his various professional associations: to become the President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, and of COREN, etc.

He also distinguished himself in the practice of engineering in both the public and private sectors and latterly, through the private company that he established.

Khaleel was also a passionate and committed patriot, in devoting his time, energy and resources to various national, state and local causes, organizations and NGOs aimed at enhancing development and improving the welfare of the less privileged in the society.

An example are two NGOs of which both Khaleel and I were founders: the Kano Peace and Development Initiative (KAPEDI) and the Kano-Jigawa Professionals Forum (KJPF).

It was Khaleel’s commitment and dedication, as Chairman of the Organizing Committee that ensured the great success recorded at our last two versions of the KJPF Mentoring Programme for Young Professionals, held in Kano.

Honest and Straightforward

Khaleel was very loyal to his friends, including those who are less previleged, materially or otherwise.

He however did not tolerate fools, gossip and idleness.

As a result some people greatly misunderstood him.

I have had occasions when someone would say to me about Khaleel, this your friend is so proud and unfriendly.

I often reply them that, if you know Khaleel, he is one of the simplest people to know and get along with.

Knowing Khaleel is to know that he is honest and straightforward, two qualities that are neither common, nor appreciated in our society.

If he perceived you as relating to him on the same platform, then you would find him very amiable and welcoming.

If you gave him the slightest doubt, however, Khaleel could shut you out completely.

What I admired most about Khaleel also is that it did not bother him what you thought of him, as long as his conscience was clear.

One Regret

One regret that I have, is that Khaleel did not live long enough to launch his autobiography, which he had been writing for more than five years now and which is in the final stage of printing.

As I was the one that linked him up with the printers, they called me on the day of his death to confirm if it was true.

The publishers also said that, in their decades of publishing, this is the first time that the author of an autobiography has died, before they have had the chance to deliver on his order.

As I assured both the publishers and Khaleel’s son, Umar, we the friends and associates of Khaleel would, in Shaa Allah, soon after the lid is lifted on the COVID-19 epidemic, ensure that Khaleel’s autobiography is appropriately launched and due honor and recognition are given to our classmate, friend and professional colleague.

To his wife, Lami, and his children, our hearts and condolences go out to you, as we share in your loss and grief.

We are consoled, however by two Quranic injunctions: Kullu nafsin za’ikatul mauti– Every soul shall taste death and Inna lillAh wa inna ilaihi rajiun– From God we come and to him shall we return.

May Allah bless Khaleel’s soul and grant him Jannatul Firdaus.

Dr Shamsuddeen Usman is a former Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

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Kano COVID-19: Ganduje’s N15bn request and the question of reputation management

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By Hon. Umar Haruna Doguwa

Reputation management does not start and end at making someone popular, but protecting his or her personal integrity in the eyes of the public.

Many scholars in the field of sociology and communication have taken their time to explain the complexity of human perception as it relates to how people develop and maintain a mindset of other fellow human beings.

I have decided to take this bold step to publish this write-up on the ongoing fight against the global pandemic disease of corona virus also known as covid-19 with a sole aim of explaining the shallow approach given by Kano state governor Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje.

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I am eminently qualified to speak on the governor as his former colleague when both of us served as commissioners during Kwankwaso’s administration and I am one of the key figures that brought in his administration in 2015 under the platform of All Progressive People’s Congress being the pioneer elected chairman of the party in Kano state between 2014 and 2017.

So I have worked closely with Governor Ganduje more than many politicians within the state.

Let me begin by extending my heartfelt condolences to the good people of Kano who lost their loved ones due to the corona virus pandemic in the state.

I have decided to put down this piece of write up as Kano has became the epicenter of covid-19 disease in northern Nigeria, unlike other state governors who have been up and running, providing the preliminary tools/equipment in preparation of the arrival of the pandemic into their states, Governor Ganduje has shown a deliberate nonchalant attitude towards fighting the disease at the state level.

The governor rather, saw the pandemic as a window of opportunity to garner resources for a reason best known to him, strategically, Ganduje set up a shadow structure, looking beautifully upright and ahead of the arrival of the pandemic, appointing his deputy as the head of Covid-19 State Response Team with his first daughter Dr. Amina Ganduje as the defector technical lead of the team.

I have been reliably informed that the activities of the committee depend largely on what the governor’s daughter consented upon, the meeting proceedings were nothing other than observing what Dr. Amina Ganduje has interest on, sometimes, meetings cannot hold if she is not available and she is the one briefing the governor on every activity of the committee.

Probably, because of this nepotism and self-centredness, scores of frontline health workers are currently infected by the covid-19 disease in Kano.

One can easily perceive an agenda, knowing well who Governor Ganduje is, it is predictable that it’s the business as usual but not doing the needful for the fight against covid-19 in the state.

As an administrator, Governor Ganduje knows the constitutional ways to harness resources internally through budget virement that is as simply done through a letter to the state assembly requesting change of some line items in the fiscal document to allow insertion of new items that can cater for the activities of corona virus.

Instead, the governor decided to pursue the federal government to give him N15b.

Unfortunately, his reputation has kicked the bucket in the public glare, the federal mercy he enjoyed to rig election and manipulate the judiciary to scale through the daylight robbery of the 2019 elections is no longer of help to him this season.

He constituted a fundraising committee, in good time, but the potential donors prefer to contribute in kind because of the governor’s previous records and bad reputation of handling state resources.

There is a popular Hausa proverb that says “Ba a bawa Kura ajiyar nama” meaning “meat is not safe at the hand of a carnivore”.

It is not a surprise that the fund raising committee could not yet announce the total amount realized, because potential donors were afraid to give in cash.

Umar Doguwa writes from Kano, Nigeria

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