February 1, 2007
9 mins read

If you wiat long enough everything changes. That has always been a favorite maxim of mine; now I cannot quite recollect who from I first heard it. I think it must have been the late Doctor Carl Sagan, the American astronomer, whose television series, COSMOS, was arguably the most popular science  documentary series , ever broadcast on television. I literally memorized the words from the documentary before eventually purchasing the accompanying book to the series, many years later.

But today’s piece is not about Carl Sagan; it is not about astronomy, neither is it about the philosophy of science. It is a story about my life, and I hope that you would pardon me for telling a very personal story, which will also have a social and collective resonance, as a story of coming into maturity in the life process. EXACTLY THIRTY years ago today, on February 1st, 1977, I took my fisrt tentative steps as a boy of sixteen years and five months, to begin a career in  broadcasting and journalism. Thirty years later, Iam still here, and who on earth could have visualized that this is the trajectory that my life story would eventually take?

I finshed secondary school in June 1976, and remember that sometimes towards the end of the year, Radio Nigeria announced that it was looking for people to employ  as prospective studio managers, amongst several other positions which had been broadcast on the rediffusion box that had a pride of place in our home. One of my cousins, Sa’adu, who finished school a year earlier, had already begun to work as studio manager in the previous nine months or so, and from him I learnt about what the job entailed. I had a different plan, which was to get into the radio house as astudio manager, in order, eventually to become an announcer, news reader or a presenter, etc. I fancy my life as a backing staff, only a place as a frontline on-air personality would satisfy me. But there was still the small matter of getting into the system in the first place.

Radio has always been a part of my socialization as I have narrated on this page in the past. Firstly, there was my great Uncle, who I lived with from the age of eight, in 1968, who listened to the Hausa Service of the BBC every night, during those tragic years of the Nigerian civil war (London take kira!!!) and he would there after, painstakingly translate the main stories of the BBC bulletin into Yoruba, for a group of his friends. Then there were the sports commentaries on radio every year during the finals of the Challenge Cup competition, the show case event of Nigerian football; DAILY TIMES newspaper’s cover page would carry a giant picture of the trophy and a list of the previous winners of the cup form 1945. By 4:30pm, Ishola Folorunsho, the great commentator would begin a build up assessment of the event just before kick off of the finals at 4:45pm. Two of the finals have remained with me, because my heart was broken on each occassio: in 1971, WNDC Ibadan defeated Enugu Rangers, by two goals to one; Nigeria’s captain, Godwin Achebe, who was also the captain of Enugu Rangers lost a penalty; it was stopped by Amusa Adisa, who was also a Nigerian international. I cried that day. The Igbo people had just returned from the civil war and the East Central State Academicals in the finals of the Adebajo Cup. But I had wanted Enugu Rangers to win the Challenge Cup, because for an eleven year old, I had felt that victory who sealed their rehabilitation as Nigerians. In the 1972 finals, Bendel Insurance of Benin had also defeated the Mighty Jets hosted players from all corners of Nigeria and played the most beautiful football in Nigeria then. I was similarly devasted by the defeat.

But what was remarkable about it all was that Radio Nigeria’s commentaries brought the events to us, as we all huddle around transistors or the rediffusion box. The commentators used sound to create pictures which allowed us to follow the games, blow by blow, and that really deepened my love for the medium and the hope that some day I would also go to work on radio. Then there was the story closer to home, which wsa that my mother presented the first ever women’s programme on Radio Nigeria Illorin for several years; and I would return home on holdays to see piles of scripts of the different editions of the program. I think she gave up the program, when my twin sisters were born in 1974.

So one fine day, I received a letter inviting me for an interview for the job placement at Radio Nigeria. I was asked all kinds of questions about the programs of Radio Nigeria, I remember that the chairman of the panel, Mr. Kola Olota, the Manager Programs, had remarked that I would perhaps be the youngest person ever employed by Radio Nigeria, at the time, I got the job, and on February 1st,1977, went to resume work as a shy sixteen years old plus. My mother had insisted I wore a blue babanriga to appear somewhat more mature. I felt lost in the midst of all the people at the programs meeting which I attended that day, and was eventually told to resume work the following day on my first night duty. I could not have visualized it then, but I was embarking on a professional journey that would determine the course of my life.

The time that I joined broadcasting was a very hopeful period in Nigerian life: the economy was booming, the Murtala Muhammed regime had touched a very patriotic chord in the Nigerian people and nothing seemed impossible for Nigeria to achieve. Liberation was the motif of the period in Africa and the general air of optimism was underlined by the fact that Nigeria was hosting the second Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture(FESTAC’ 77) when I was employed by Radio Nigeria. I was caught up in the sweep of events of those days and weeks. It did not take me very long to earn a shift from studio manager to becoming an announcer. I was in fact undergoing the basic annonver’s course at the Radio Nigeria Training School in March 1978, when the military regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo announced a re-organization of Nigerian broadcasting; FRCN was created along with state-owned broadcasting organizations. I had left Illorin as a member of Staff of Radio Nigeria and returned a pioneer member of staff of the Kwara State Broadcasting Corporation.

A lot of people whoknew me from the late 1970s into the early 1980s in Illorin would remember that I was a newsreader, an announcer and above all, a disc jockey(DJ). I presented several music programs, pioneered jazz music programming and would be invited by organizations on campuses to be a DJ, as one gradually climbed the career ladder. Most people were often impressed by the richness of the content of my programs, but many of them did not know how much I was researching everything that I did, neither did they know that I read voraciously, have a very rich library and was also by the late 1970s, already a committed socialist. I was taking part in the work of the Nigerian socialist movement and had also become very active in the trade union movement. I led the local branch of my union for almost a decade and was vice chairman of the NLC in Kwara State. It was infact the NLC that sent me to train in the former German Democratic Republic.

It within the ambience of life in broadcasting and journalism that I agree into maturity and as a young adult I learnt I learnt very fast about the events of the world, while the ideological training that I had allowed me to work with a lot of energy; I also presented many innovative programs on radio.

Mostpeople who lived in Kwara State between 1985 and 1990 would recollect that I produced and presented a magazine program called OUTLOOK, which brought to th homes of listeners the most up to date stories about the liberation struggles in Southern Africa, amongst the several topics which we treated with so much passion at the time. There was hardly any artist, intellectual of note or activist who passed through Illorin in those years that would not be invited to participate on the program.

I also began to write a weekly commentary on African and world affairs for dio Nigeria Kwara’s News and Current Affairs Department; I did a weekly column for THE HERALD newspaper when Doyin Mahmoud was the editor, while Mr. Jimmy Atte at NTA Ilorin made me presnt several programs for him. It became clear over the years that broadcasting and journalism wer the defining elements of my life. A few points led to my going to university a bit late in my life; first was that in 1980, soon after my tour of duty as a news reader on the Network Service of Radio Nigeria, I was admitted to study for a Diploma in Mass Communication at the University of Lagos. I was then 20 years old, at the height of my ideological activism; I spent the better part of the program engaging in polemics with my American trained lectures. I felt that the content of mass communication was too American, in its use of the behavioralist approach which my materialist method did not agree with. In any case, I passed with very outstanding marks, returned to my work, where I could continue what I loved most, to broadcast and write as well as organize in the Nigerian socialist movement.

It was not until 1990 that I eventually returned to University to study for a degree. Several factors were at play; in the first place, SAP has decimated the universities, the redoubts of the Nigerian left, many of our comrades left, with subsequent conversions away from socialism; the general collapse in Eastern Europe and the crises of military dictatorship, saw strange conversions to ethnic jingoism and religious fundamentalism amongst many of those who hitherto wer socialists. The transition from an internationalist consciousness to a retreat into ethnic and religious laager wsa a shocking response to the challenges posed by the new realities in the world. Then there was the fact that I was reaching the height of what can realistically be achieved within the provincial boundaries of broadcasting in Ilorin. This was especially because without a degree, no matter what I knew, no matter how good I was as a professional, the fact that I did not have a degree, meant that I could not explore other realms of life.

This was why I entered the Bayero University to study for a degree in Mass Communication. I won a scholarship during each of the sessions that I was in school as the best all-round student and also graduated as the best student of the year in my Department and Faculty. By the end of my saty at BUK I had begun to report for the BBc; I completed studies for a Master’s Degree IN Political Science and was settling into a life of working for the international media in Kano, unbebeknownst to me that other factors would come to condition this thirty year story. I had been travelling in Ogun State to record materials for an AFRICAN PERSPECTIVE story on the kolanut trade in Nigeria, so I decided to stop over in Ilorin to see my mother. One of our old friends, Alhaji Nurudeen Muhammed was then the Commissioner for Finance and together with Nurudeen Abdulrahim, the CPS to the Governor, I went to see the commissioner. He expressed surprise that he had not seen me for years, but regularly heard my reports on the BBC.  “Why don’t you come back to Ilorin”? He asked me, I  after 18 years at Radio Kwara, there was not much I could do there anymore. “Why don’t you write for us a proposed on what shape a television station ought to take in Kwara”? I felt that was the kind of challenge I loved, so I drew up a philosophical and programmatic guide for the station, not ever knowing that I would eventually go back to implement my own program, as the pioneer General Manager of the KWTV.

I worked as the General Manager for five years, from 1997 to 2002; I got married to my wife in 1999, almost lost my life in a horrible accident which left me with a bad leg till today; it was during my years at KWTV, that we had our first child, Innawuro. I resigned my appointment in May 2002, in circumstances that I have described here in the past. I resumed work as the Editor of DAILY TRUST in June 2002, and edited the paper till November 2005. It is amazing for me still that I am almost completing my fifth year at Media Trust, doing my thirtieth year of life in journalism. I have been so privileged to do so much over the last thirty years. Of course there have been the negative points to the story too. 18 years of shift work destroyed my sleep pattern and left me with chronic insomnia, I suffer an excruciating backache and stomach ulcer. But the worries are more than compensated by the incredible generosity of the incredible generosity of the reader who continues to appreciate the work we have done over the years and inspire one’s commitment to journalism. I worked on radio for twenty years: Radio Nigeria, Radio Kwara, Radio France International, Radio Nederlands and the BBC World Service; headed KWTV for five years and I have been part of the amazing story of Media Trust in the last five years. And to think that this is a story which began thirty years ago, for sixteen years old Fulani boy whose forefathers left the open country of Wurno and Kebbi all those years ago to settle as Islamic scholars in the wonderful city of Ilorin. Indeed as I wrote at the beginning of this piece, if we waited long enough, everything changes. Allah has been so kind to me, while you, the listener, the viewer and the reader (for radio,television and newspaper) have been so generous. Thanks a lot for bearing with me over the past thirty years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Don't Miss