By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
JUST a few minutes past eleven in the morning last Wednesday, I received a telephone call from Nigeria’s Information Minister, Lai Mohammed. He congratulated me and told me that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved my appointment as the Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).
He then requested that we met the following day. I was actually driving out of my house to fulfill an appointment, but a few minutes from the minister’s call, my telephones would not stop ringing! It was, quite frankly, an overwhelming expression of happiness by several people from all over the world, who felt that the appointment was a most worthy one.
Almost a week down the line, and I am writing in the wee hours of the morning, on Tuesday/Wednesday, the telephone calls; emails; texts and WhatsApp messages have not ceased. At the beginning, I made up my mind to reply every single call, text or other forms of messages, but I have since found out that it is simply impossible to keep track of the messages or find the time to reply them, because I also have received visits from several individuals and groups, from all walks of life!
It is clearer to me more than ever before, that such experiences as I am going through, are indicators of a social ethos that reflect a profoundly human longing to be associated with what is qualified as success, in particular settings, such as given in Nigeria.
There are also those political forces, especially from Kwara state, unhappy that the appointment was made in the first place, since it goes against the grains of the ruling orthodoxy in our state since 2003.
It has always been individuals connected to Kwara’s hegemon who have always been recruited for positions; therefore a narrative was entrenched in the popular consciousness in the state, that no one would find success in Kwara, unless they do the bidding of the hegemonic force. This appointment is not only a clear indication of the change that President Buhari represents, it has also shattered Kwara’s entrenched myth.
Engagement with Vanguard
It was soon after the 2011 elections that I received a call from Uncle Sam Amuka. He had noticed that my weekly column had disappeared from the pages of DAILY TRUST. He inquired from Malam Muhammed Haruna, who confirmed that I had recently resigned my appointment. Uncle Sam asked what my reasons were. And after a fairly extensive discussion, he offered that I wrote a column for VANGUARD. It was a kindly offer that I could not reject, coming from one of the most beloved columnists of his generation. I had been in Ilorin, assisting with Muhammed Dele Belgore’s gubernatorial campaign. The following week, I returned home to Kaduna and had gone to a barbers’ shop on Waff Road, when I received a call from Malam Muhammed Idris. He wanted us to meet at the nearby Hamdala Hotel; when I saw him, he opened up on his plan to start a newspaper that would eventually be BLUEPRINT newspaper.
He wanted me to be part of the effort and I was offered to be Chairman of the Editorial Board, and to also write a weekly column. I told him of the offer from Uncle Sam and VANGUARD and he had no objection. A few weeks later, we started BLUEPRINT and I also wrote a column, which was syndicated in VANGUARD too.
I thus became one of the few syndicated columnists in Nigeria, but I had the added honour of chairing the Editorial Board of one these titles.
There cannot be a better expression of professional opportunity than what I have been privileged to experience, thanks to the immense generosity of two very outstanding individuals and genuine patriots, Uncle Sam and Muhammed Idris. Sadly, that phase of my life, as a weekly columnist, is coming to a close, as a result of the new assignment I have been given, as Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC). To be honest, I have agonized very deeply about the fact that I have to drop the weekly columns in order to fully give my all to the new appointment, in the same manner that I am obliged to hands off the running of the multimedia company that I launched in 2011, called Word, Sound & Vision (Multimedia) Limited.
Privileged life of sorts
I think I have lived a most privileged life in every sense and the trajectory of my life has made it imperative for me to love Nigeria, with the passionate intensity that I have for our country.
I was born in the last month of colonial rule and I grew up in an independent Nigeria, where the hopes associated with freedom, soon became tempered by the 1966 coup and its aftermath and a tragic Civil War that consumed millions of lives.
Yet, Nigeria would come out of that war, with tremendous hope about the possibilities of building a future for all our people. And in education, sports, economic development, infrastructure and national integration, we were making notable progress in the years that I came into full consciousness as a citizen.
Those years of our lives and the inspiring social movements of the post-Second World War years, with the defeat of colonialism, burnt an imprimatur on our consciousness and have largely been responsible for the conscious, critical and patriotic professional broadcaster and journalist that I have grown to become.
I grew in my job; went to school; had a fulfilling life of work ahead of me and like others of my generation, I experienced a country that largely, worked and allowed us to dream, with near certainty, that these dreams could find actualisation.
I owe a lot to Nigeria and its wonderful people, and because of my multiple identities, I have unique advantages that only the generosity of our country could have afforded me and allow to flower.
This is the background that has propelled me, and has conditioned my sense of duty. I come from a background of scholars and public servants with a very proud tradition dating back into the history of the empires of the old Western Sudan.
I pride myself on the fact that I have a rich background of service that I must jealously uphold and never betray. When I was appointed as pioneer General Manager of Kwara Television in 1977, the late patriarch of my family, Hon. Justice Saidu Kawu, reminded me, as I prepared to resume work, that we had a very honourable family name, even if we were not rich in monetary terms: “Please ensure that you uphold our family name and your own honour”!
It is an admonishment that I have tried to truly live by and it will still condition my attitude in the new position at the NBC. I will work with dedication and give the best to our country as I know it, and will also be true to the change-for-the-better, that President Buhari represents and promotes for our country.
And the more I have thought about things, the luckier I have felt. The defunct Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), hired me soon after I completed secondary school in 1976. When I resumed work, on February 1, 1977, I was barely 16years and 4months old; about the youngest person ever employed then, by the NBC.
A distinguished delegate
Over the years, I would be a Studio Manager; Announcer; Deejay; Newsreader (including on the National Network Service); commentator; current affairs analyst; producer; reporter for Radio France International and the BBC World Service; pioneer GM at KWTV; Editor, Chairman Editorial Board, Columnist and Africa Editor at DAILY TRUST; Chairman, Editorial Board and Columnist for BLUEPRINT and VANGUARD newspaper.
I hold a Diploma in Mass Communication; graduated as Best Student in Mass Communication at the Bayero University and had won a scholarship each session in university, for being best student; hold a Master’s Degree in Political Science and I am presently studying for a PhD in Defence and Strategic Studies at the Nigerian Defence Academy, in Kaduna!
The Nigerian Guild of Editors made me a Fellow in 2013 and I was a Distinguished Delegate to the 2014 National Conference, representing the Nigerian Guild of Editors. Now you understand where I am coming from, and why I said that I have been very privileged that Nigeria has given me so much!
Public service has increasingly become a most dangerous vocation in our country today, and its entrails have become the graveyard of many lofty ideals. But I still believe that every opportunity that we might get to serve our country, especially where the administration itself, has shown a patriotic commitment to the country and its people.
I sincerely believe that I have been given the opportunity to be Director-General at a very exciting moment in our country’s history and what I pledge is that I will work with commitment; honesty; and a sense of patriotic honour in the best interest of our country.
A new terrain
The NBC has offered a natural progression from all the media work that I have done, in radio and television broadcasting and journalism, over the past 39 years. I have no doubt in my mind, that the regulatory function at the head of the NBC, would be the toughest of all.
But my father used to tell me, that every true beginning in life is difficult; I will receive the blows that come with the territory, but as the saying goes, the blow that does not break the back, strengthens it! I will show fate that I have some spine! I will miss the weekly effort to analyze the human condition as a journalist, because it grew to become one of my greatest passions.
I have loved the opportunity that Uncle Sam Amuka and Muhammed Idris gave me, and I hope that I can still return here sometimes in the future. I will also miss the numerous readers who engage with me weekly, including those who find me sometimes too arrogant, or maybe presumptuous, especially when I attempt to deconstruct controversial social issues.
My standpoint often clashed with the sureties of that group of readers, but I have written honestly and honourably, believing that journalism has a very important role in helping shape opinion, for the betterment of our country. It is this passion that I will now direct elsewhere; in a new direction to help regulate the broadcasting industry, to help make Nigerian broadcasting attain the highest standards.
So while I move away from this page, I will still be close to you, in service to our dear country. Thanks a lot for the privilege of your company. Our country is worth fighting for, and I am moving to a new terrain of service to our beloved Nigeria.