BY SOLA OJO
My journey to Kaduna State was never a delebrate plan by me, but divine. As a unionist while in school, I have some privileges to influence my one year mandatory service to motherland to any preferred state and Abuja, the Nigerian federal capital, as it was the norm.
So, I left the normal process of mobilisation and deployment for National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to take place and eventually landed at Black Gold Permanent Orientation Camp, located at kilometers 16, Kaduna – Abuja highway, for 21 days orientation course designed by the NYSC to prepare me for task ahead in a ‘strange’ land.
As a graduate of Mass Communication, I made no delay in joining the Orientation Broadcast Service (OBS) group at the camp, at least, to start transferring what I was taught in the classroom to a reality.
21 days came and gone. Again, as a member of the OBS, I have some privileges to influence my posting. But, I told my God to perfect what he has started. Like every other corps members, I was energetic, ready, determine to serve in the state. So, I went to collect my posting letter with a lot of enthusiasm.
Behold, I was posted to New Nigerian Newspapers Limited. That was in November, 2011. As a complete stranger, first timer in northern Nigeria apart from Abuja, locating my place of primary assignment was an Herculean task. But due to my relationship with some of my predecessors on camp, that was resolved, and I got to NNN corpers’ lodge at about 7pm.
For those who follow history, the state was just recovering from post-election violence, where so many people, including corps members lost their lives. This sad occurrence was in the news. But then, the hearing in the news was different from the reality on ground. So far people are here, I can also live.
So, the following day, I moved to the personnel department of the one time foremost northern newspapers edifice, located along popular Ahmadu Bello way, to submit my letter of introduction and await their response which would either be acceptance or rejection.
Two days after, the then Head of the Personnel Department of the company, Mrs Omokhore, called and handed the acceptance letter to me. What a relief. That was how my journey in main stream journalism started.
To cut the story short, One year came and the usual question of what next after NYSC readily come to mind. But for me, that was not a big deal. After all, I lived in Lagos where hustling is already in the blood.
My encounter with Late MD, Mal Tukur.
A few weeks to the end of the National service, my boss then, the man I called seasoned administrator, editing wizard, language icon and media exponent, Mal Sheriff, who is now transferring his wealth of newsroom knowledge into students in one of the universities in northern Nigeria, called me and said, “the management is looking at the possibility of retaining you after the service, what do you say? Go, think about it and let me know your decision.” This was September 2012.
Unlike many editors we have today, Mal Sheriff never throw any article into the waste basket. He doesn’t also change the writer’s idea even when he knows the subject matter very well. That was what editors should do to build in others, the ability to carry on when they are no longer there. He suggests better way of adding value to what one does. Thank you Mal Sheriff.
As at that time, NNN was having financial challenge. So, payment of workers salaries and other allowances were very difficult. That was because, the owners of the company, the 19 northern states, declined from making their monthly subvention available to the company due to so many reasons which time may not permit me to highlight here and now.
I came back to Mal sheriff a week after and said yes. And that was how the late MD approved my first employment as a journalist.
Since that time, my welfare became one of his priorities. Is it his words of encouragement, or his smiling attitude, or his large heart of forgiveness? He was a good example of Muslim faithful that understands religion is not a compulsion.
In January 2012, there was a national uprising against the removal of fuel subsidy by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. That fuel crisis, forced all my colleagues at the lodge to relocate to presumed safer part of the state and even outside the state.
But then, as a Christian, who trust that when God has a plan for man, He would give adequate security and strength required. So, I was left alone in the lodge. I never entertained any fear. In fact, I’m yet to have a repeat of the sound sleep I had then.
One afternoon, the late MD called to know how how I was fairing. Then, I told him how everyone vacated the lodge in fear of the unknown and how I was the only one remaining. That was how he asked me to go and look for other corps members, serving elsewhere to come and lodge there so I was not alone.
Sadly, his health began to deteriorate. He had to be flown abroad on several occasions. When he returned from the last one, Alex Uangbaoje, Ibrahim Muhammad and myself, visited him in his official residence, not knowing that would be the last time we would saw him. As usual, he was smiling and he shared his experience with the trio of us for an hour or thereabout. I have resigned from the company four years ago.
Like a senior staff of NNN, Hajiya Sekinat Anamutu in her tribute to him puts it, “tribute to my Irreplaceable Legendary Boss,” Mal Tukur Abdul-Rahman, is irreplaceable.
Quoting Hajiya Sekinat Anamutu
It is barely a year sir when you left us in this world of vanity and full of trouble. Indeed, Malam Tukur Abdulrahman demonstrated a true definition of good leadership which I used to believe is an impracticable theory.
My colleagues will agree with me that, our late Managing Director, was a brilliant, peaceful intelligent observant, inspiring compassionate, responsible and a complete gentle man.
He does his best to pull everyone together, to build the company as a team and make everyone feel having sense of a stakeholder in the company.
His staff and colleagues felt comfortable, equal and had a very good relationship with him and he had confidence on his workers.
My boss was a person who was willing to listen and never short of advice and opinions. He never cuts short a conversation, he listened, even when he disagreed. My colleagues will also agree with me that one session with him can easily take up to an hour. One would wonder how vast he was. “IT’S OKAY”, those words of his still ring in my ears everyday.
No matter how disappointed he was sometimes, he was someone who always optimistic and wished others the best. For instance, when any of his staff secured a new offer, Malam Tukur would advice the staff concerned, by saying, “You see I was asked to stop and convince you not to accept your new offer because you are one of the efficient staff we have in the company but we can’t do that”. Then he would say again,” IT’S OKAY to leave and see the world out there, but you are always welcome back.” Isn’t that encouraging? That was my boss for you.
Like every other person, my Managing Director also had his own share of mood swings. However, I hardly saw him losing his temper. It was never his style to vent his anger and frustration on any of us.
In view of the above qualities, I feel so blessed that I worked with one of the best bosses in the world whom I have also learnt priceless lessons from.
He lived a good life worthy of emulation.
May God grant him eternal rest and be with the loved ones he left behind.