Alhaji R.K. Yusuf: A Life, A Death And Hardship

October 11, 2011
2 mins read

I spent last weekend in Kwara State, attending to some personal issues, not knowing that Alhaji Rahman Kola Yusuf, former General Manager of Radio Kwara and THE HERALD newspapers, had died a few days earlier. Given the fracturing of Northern Nigeria into nineteen states today, most readers could be pardoned for asking who on earth was Alhaji R.K. Yusuf? The distinguished journalist and a genuinely good-hearted man was one of the first generation of Northerners sent by the late Sir Ahmadu Bello to study journalism at the famous Fleet Street journalism training institute in London.

His story was testimony to the sharpness of vision which characterized the Sardauna, because Alhaji RK Yusuf was not only from Offa, in what was then the Ilorin Province of Northern Nigeria, he was a Yoruba man, from a town whose most distinguished son, during the 1960s, was the late Chief J.S. Olawoyin of the Action Group and leading light of opposition politics in the North, who would rather that his part of the North was merged with Western Nigeria. RK Yusuf was not denied opportunity to study journalism and he built a career over decades during which he rose to the pinnacle. Till the end of life, he remained a Nigerian-Northerner of the old generation, who never stopped talking about the magnanimity of the Sardauna and the wonderful North within which he was born, educated and was cultured.


Alhaji RK Yusuf was my boss at Radio Nigeria, Ilorin, from 1977, and subsequently at Radio Kwara, Ilorin, where I was a pioneer member of staff, following the re-organization of Nigerian broadcasting by the military, in March 1978. I was seventeen years old, going eighteen, but was already beginning to make a mark as a continuity announcer, disc jockey, newsreader and a militant of the Nigerian socialist movement, as well as chairman of the workers’ union at Radio Kwara.

I led negotiations to improve conditions of workers with Alhaji RK Yusuf leading the employers’ side and some of the sessions were very difficult; looking back now, we were very exuberant young men indeed. But RK Yusuf was patient with us, and while some would rather we were dealt with, Alhaji Yusuf protected us like the father that he was, realizing that yes, we were militant, but we were also outstanding broadcasters and journalists who helped to create the image of the station and central figures in the creativity at the broadcasting outfit. One of the most difficult moments in our professional life came during the attempted coup of April 22, 1990, by Major Gideon Orkar. I was continuity announcer on the morning shift, and was obliged to join the network service of Radio Nigeria, for the seven o’clock Network News and the coup announcement. The sequence of events that morning, led to our arrest following the crushing of the coup attempt, and his removal as GM of Radio Kwara. But because of his outstanding professional record, he was made GM at THE HERALD newspaper, where he saw out his career.


It was in his nature to keep in touch as my professional life took a new trajectory: reporting for the BBC; pioneer General Manager of the Kwara State Television Service; Editor of Daily Trust and so on. He would call to talk about my packages aired by the BBC; our programs on KWTV or an article I had written for DAILY TRUST. Alhaji RK Yusuf went through the hardships which characterized the life of the typical Nigerian pensioner: not receiving a payment for months-on-end; reluctantly seeking support from people and striving very hard to maintain dignity and self-worth. It was painful to see him suffer after giving his all in the service of his country.

Why do we treat our pensioners as we do in Nigeria? Is it a crime to serve our country and then get old? A nation that does not treat its pensioners with dignity will not get commitment from those still at work. They will cut corners; they will steal; because they are scared of life when out of work. That is not how to build a country. May Allah forgive Alhaji RK Yusuf his sins and grant him Al-janna.

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