By Isa Gusau
RECENTLY, I took an extreme decision, an unusual one that seemed beyond the pardon of my boss, Governor Kashim Shettima. I will tell you about it.
Growing up, I realised possibilities of inherent strength in journalism and potentials for public relations and advertising. Our late father, founded these potentials. As a child, he would task me with writing letters. He normally gave only themes letting me compose countless number of letters in my words and styles. A circumstance (surrounded by a long story) led me to studying in Kaduna Polytechnic as against my original plan of going to a particular University. However, being in Kaduna Polytechnic for OND and HND in Mass Communication, the course I ever wanted, gave me the kind of foundation I needed.
There, I was exposed to journalism in very practical ways. We were sent to the field including markets, court rooms and the streets for interviews, news reports and writing features. We produced a weekly magazine, produced and presented radio and TV programmes, including documentaries. We were also introduced to aspects of public relations and advertising. It was really tough combining these practicals with handling of 10 to 12 theoretical subjects every semester. After leaving Kaduna Polytechnic, I went straight to practicing journalism. During postings to Borno and Yobe states as correspondent, I enrolled for PGD and Masters Degree in the University of Maiduguri while still reporting.
My career as a journalist became truncated (positively, I should say) in early 2012, when the Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima appointed me as his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity. The appointment came the same week I was promoted to the rank of Deputy Editor at Daily Trust. Working with Governor Shettima in over six years (so far) changed me from being a certificated journalist to an un-certificated public relations practitioner. I was worried about that. With those years in absentia, a return to journalism would make me seem out of place. I made a decision to pursue a career in public relations but I needed to become certificated. All over the world, from Europe to the United States, majority of public relations practitioners were journalists.
I decided to study public relations but to do that, I needed to be out of Borno State since neither the University of Maiduguri nor any of its neighbours offer that course. And for a very good reason, I wanted a Bachelors Degree rather than another Masters. An undergraduate programme meant relocating to another environment as a full time student, returning to a phase I had undergone nearly 20 years ago. Nevertheless, I needed to go while I still could. Man-pikin don dey old! After the 2015 reelection and my reappointment, we began to deal with so much mischief from political opponents. They used different media channels. Online, in particular. The challenge continued till end of 2016. It wasn’t right for me to leave my boss under the circumstance.
The year 2017 presented the right time. Political opponents had been silenced by well coordinated responses, preemptive measures and more importantly, glaring evidences of Governor Shettima’s too many projects in rebuilding of communities and new infrastructures, particularly schools and hospitals. Opponents had nothing else to say. No pressure. I was in the right frame of mind and it was time to move on.
Using my HND result, which happened to be a good one, I secured admission as direct entry student into Year 3 at Middlesex University in London. Year 3 is final year in UK’s undergraduate university system. Most UK universities give direct entry admissions into Year 3 or 2, for what they call ‘top-up’. Admissions however depend on reviews of previous school’s syllabus, classification of HND results, transcript of scores in relevant subjects and points recorded by applicants after credibility assessments. My admission was for bachelors degree in Public Relations, Advertising and Media. Only that university offered such unique combination in the faculty of arts and creative industries for which I had gone ahead to pay tuition.
I ruled out the thought of temporarily relocating to London and retaining my job. It wasn’t just selfish, but perhaps crazy for the spokesman to a Governor to consider both. I had to resign. It wasn’t what I wanted but it was the right thing to do. Replacing me wasn’t going to be impossible. I have never believed in the illusion that any human being is indispensable. Presidents and Governors die in offices and their societies still move on, sometimes, even better. If those who appoint you aren’t that indispensable, what more of you? Moreover, Governor Shettima is about the smartest of all of us working with him.
The guy is super intelligent and strong. I mean those words. I quietly sent a message to the Governor, thanking him for the great opportunity to serve and informing him of my decision to resign and relocate for my studies. I explained, and he understood how important the school was for me. He also understood personal reasons why I couldn’t wait longer.
Governor Shettima was disappointed in my thinking. He reminded me of the days in 2013, when Boko Haram members repeatedly called my phone, threatening to eliminate me for promoting him and the administration. Then, he said, ‘Malam Isa, you have paid your dues. If you think you have to resign because I can’t be generous enough to allow you go to school, it means you don’t know me. You will not resign. You will operate from London. I will support you while you are there and I will also support your family’.
Governor Shettima did more than he promised. He even visited my kids while I was away and kept in touch all through.
Last week, I graduated and also became a member of UK’s Chartered Institute of Public Relations. My deepest and eternal gratitude to an extraordinary man.