Wednesday, 25 April 2018

APC chairmanship contest: PDP style?

The reported endorsement of former Edo state governor Adams Oshiomhole for the APC chairmanship in the party's May 14 Convention by President Muhammadu Buhari, if true, would be PDP style, especially when the incumbent chairman, Chief John Adigie-Oyegun, is running for the post. Under the past regime and the ones that preceded it, the ruling party's chairman had to be at the beck and call of the President in order to survive in office. And that's an irony because it is supposed to be the other way round: the party is supposedly supreme. In our brand of democracy, however, it is the tail that often wags the dog. Recall that Audu Ogbeh was said to have been forced to resign as PDP national chairman at gunpoint during the Obasanjo Administration.

Not many analysts had anticipated that the APC would be playing the politics of party chairmanship exactly the way the PDP did. After all, this is a Change regime. But someone says Buhari is finally learning the way politics is played in Nigeria. He wants a party chairman he can work with, and it is said that Oyegun is not type of man.

But what goes round comes round. Often, there are debilitating repercussions with that kind of tinkering. Already, things are not very quiet within the APC. Personally, I foresee some top APC members (including former governors) decamping back to the PDP fold or other parties as a fallout of the Convention and the anti-corruption fight, as well as grouses by those who feel shortchanged and sidelined after contributing to the party's past successes. A coalition of opposition parties is also a strong possibility. That scenerio is very familiar; it was its type which gave birth to APC itself. The early quitters of APC included Atiku Abubakar.

In spite of that, however, I am yet to see the chance of President Buhari being defeated in the 2019 general elections. No formidable opposition has been built yet as to pose a serious threat at the federal level. But of course some of the APC state governors and National Assembly members are bound to be defeated. Why? Politics is always local and it is at the local level that the opposition to APC leaders is the stiffest. I think many pro-APC voters would feel comfortable retaining Buhari as president while doing away with the governors and NASS they voted in 2015. This time around the "sak" jargon, on which many governors, senators and Reps were elected, will not apply. It is going to be everyone-for-themselves. You bet!

Staff help NOUN VC celebrate 62nd birthday

For the third time running, the Vice-Chancellor of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Prof. Abdalla Uba Adamu, today celebrated his birthday with staff of the institution. As it happened last year, today's event was a surprise one for him because he was not told about it beforehand.

The celebration took place inside the VC's conference room, with staff coming from the various faculties, departments and units.

They included most of the principal officers, many directors, heads of units and several middle level and junior staffers.

The Kano-born VC clocked 62 today.

As he stepped into the room, Stevie Wonder's 1980 hit song, "Happy Birthday", broke out from the sound system.

In an appreciation speech, he thanked everyone for their contribution to his unfolding success in administering the only single-mode Open and Distance Learning (ODL) institution in the country, saying he couldn't have done it all alone.

He particularly singled out several persons and narrated what they meant to him and to the university.

Prof. Adamu cut a cake to much cheering and claps, and the glasses clicked as a toast was offered by Prof. Samaila Mande, the Dean of Postgraduate Studies.

Prof. Adamu assumed office in 2016 for a five-year tenure.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Sam Nda-Isaiah @ 50: My Personal Odyssey With Chairman

This morning in Abuja, one of the most remarkable phenomena to happen in the history of the Nigerian media – Sam Nda-Isaiah – is going to celebrate his 50th birthday. A high-profile event is scheduled to take place at the International Conference Centre in Garki.

Much as I resisted commenting on the event in spite of prodding from a couple of friends, I found the urge to say this little bit on the person and personality of the Chairman of Leadership Group Limited irresistible. Reason: my impressions of the man are both exhilarating and painful, having known him at close range – probably more than many of those who consider themselves his closest associates – for all the eight years that LEADERSHIP newspaper has been in existence. I own the onerous record of being the longest serving editor of LEADERSHIP (which he insists we write in capital letters, no italics). I was editor of the paper as a weekly from 2004 to January 2006 just when it was going daily, and editor of the daily (except for a few months) from 2007 to 2010 when, on my own volition, I made him to appoint another editor and I was moved up as Editorial Director. Our paths first crossed in 2004, shortly after LEADERSHIP had come on stream as a weekly.

A friend of mine, Badamasi Burji, phoned me from Sokoto where he had gone to meet Governor Bafarawa and said he had met with Nda-Isaiah at the governor’s waiting room and that he had told him he was looking for an editor for LEADERSHIP. The first editor, Audee Giwa, had absconded after a bitter disagreement with the publisher. At that time, just about three issues of the paper had been published. Burji said he had recommended me to Nda-Isaiah and the latter was looking forward to our discussing the possibility of my taking up an offer of editor. I was lazing about in Kaduna at the time, trying to figure out what to do with my life, after an egregious encounter at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation, where I had worked as deputy to the director, Jacquiline W. Farris. I told Burji that I had since made up my mind not to work for anyone again. Burji insisted that I meet with Nda-Isaiah and hear his side; if I didn’t like it, I could back out.

Now, Sam Nda-Isaiah is a very persuasive person. He could make almost anyone work for him. Not surprisingly, he became my boss just a few days later after Burji and I had met with him at the LEADERSHIP offices in Abuja. In fact, the very day I met with him to discuss my terms of employment he did not allow me to leave the premises before I wrote the editorial comment for the following week’s edition of the paper. I had already started working! I also penned my bio data and dropped my photograph for an announcement of the big catch. Sam Nda-Isaiah (whose name is taboo at LEADERSHIP, but Chairman to all and sundry) does his things both in a big way and in a much organised manner; you could see that from the preparations for today’s event!

For the following seven years I would remain his staffer, nay editor of his pet daily, except in 2006 when I left to start a paper of our own with some friends. When our paper collapsed by the end of the year, Nda-Isaiah re-engaged me as the Chairman of the Editorial Board in early 2007. Within a month or two he reappointed me the editor of the daily.

Working with Nda-Isaiah is an experience that would last anyone a lifetime. You learn a lot. He is a tough instructor, the kind you find only in military formations. First, he throws you into a grinder of the high standard he always sets for anything. He makes it clear to you the goal he wants to achieve, and then pushes – nay, lashes – you towards it: tongue-lashing, mostly. But he would make it appear as if, beyond using his censorious tongue, he is about to hit out physically at you. Many who experience Chairman from afar would be deceived by his chummy disposition. Yes, outside of work, he is one of the nicest creatures on Planet Earth. He is good natured, witty, and even comical. His jokes can evoke bellyaching, rib-cracking laughter. And he exudes this trait very strongly in his column, The Last Word, which he has amazingly never failed to write, come rain come shine. Refer also to ‘Ghana Must Go,’ the back page cartoon whose dialogue he unfailingly produces.

Where work is concerned, however, the story is different. Nda-Isaiah always pushes the envelope to the extent that he makes some staffers feel worthless about themselves. This way, he is misunderstood by many who feel that they should be patted on the back, even if not rewarded, for their hard work instead of being ‘dressed down.’ But to those of us who understood him well, we knew that his obsession with excellence was behind his mercilessly keeping staffers’ noses to the grindstone. A friend of mine who went AWOL after a telephone exchange with Chairman over a one word misspelling in a 2,000-word piece way back in 2005 when we were producing LEADERSHIP as a weekly told me: “Ibrahim, I just had to leave in order to retain my sanity. This man who just began journalism last year tended to make me question my capacity as a journalist after I have put almost a decade into it.”

I know many staffers who left LEADERSHIP without resigning, some in order to get even with Chairman. Surprisingly, some – including my friend who vamoosed in 2005 – would return to the newspaper company and resume work, and resume their disagreement with the publisher. Chairman’s legendary temper is responsible for the reason his paper has the highest tally of editors among the established dailies. It made him to take wrong turns in such appointments on some occasions, which proved costly in terms of maintaining finesse and even image-wise. I think he has a low opinion for many who work for him. Not surprisingly, in his anniversary interview published in the Sunday Trust and in the column he wrote in LEADERSHIP on his milestone yesterday, I waited with bated breath to see where he would credit his staff, past and or present, with some of his accomplishments. Disappointingly, there was none. It was all like Napoleon or Churchill winning the war alone.

Many consider me as one of the greatest “survivors” of the LEADERSHIP mill. They ask: how did you do it? How did you cope with the man’s temperament? Yes, I was one of the few Chairman respected and clearly tried not to bark at. The secret, I think, was that I was able to meet the basic standard of excellence he set for his editors and combine that with a thick skin. I was also passionate about our newspaper being able to confront the competition in every way possible. I waded through his temper, ego and meddlesomeness in editorial matters by matching all those with my own passion for excellence. Of course, we had our big differences, but somehow we were able to condone each other at a level that we could work together as boss and hireling.

One good thing I learned from Chairman is that you can be censorious and remain detached from some of the base instincts that afflict the average Nigerian, i.e. tribal and religious sentiments. Forget about what anyone might have told you, the truth is that even if you accuse Chairman of so many other things, you cannot catch him being sectional in those base sentiments. He is one of the most detribalised Nigerians I’ve ever seen. Indeed, I daresay he cares very much about what afflicts the Muslim community. In LEADERSHIP he always wants to see good things about Muslims. His paper gives more space to Islam on Fridays than the more established Muslim-owned newspapers do. And any day the Islam pages were not published he would be the first person to take me up on it.

What pains him, therefore, is the vain attempt by some to associate him with religious or tribal sectionalism. I know people who tried to bring him down using those base sentiments, all to no avail. I wouldn’t say his morals for money are perfect; in fact, on this I know very little. But Chairman is a good Christian because, to the best knowledge of some of us that think we know him well, he is hardly involved in many of the un-Christian vices that others wallow in, including booze, women, gambling and lies.

One point that needs to be raised here, perhaps, is Nda-Isaiah’s sense of patriotism. He loves Nigeria to an extent that sometimes his vision is clouded by what some regard as his self-centredness. What you read in his columns encapsulates his innermost thinking. He is a dogged anti-corruption fighter, and he fights those that try to suffer Nigeria even if they feel that they ought to enjoy his protection. LEADERSHIP once did a front-page comment on the anti-Muslim killings in Plateau state, insisting that Governor Jonah Jang should be blamed for them. During a meeting of the Editorial Board, Chairman (who is not a member but pops in at the meeting occasionally) spurned some in the organisation who argued against writing the editorial because they saw themselves as Christian representatives first and Nigerians second. The editorial, written by a devoted Christian, was so trenchant on Jang’s divisive manipulations that the state government had to complain to the publisher. Instead of trying to extricate himself out of the mess, Chairman did a follow-up in his column and said worse things.

 I left LEADERSHIP last year when I thought that after serving as Editor, Divisional Director and Editorial Director, during which the weight of the Editorial Department fell on me, the job no longer held any new excitement for me. I had become like a director in a ministry of information. The handwriting on the wall also said my time there was up. Besides, a friend of mine had pestered me for years to come and let’s establish a weekly newspaper. Chairman indicated that he did not want me to leave, and appointed a committee headed by the Managing Director, Mr. Azubuike Ishiekwene, to dissuade me. When I was leaving, Chairman instructed that I should go with my official car and be paid a parting gift of one million naira, as well as given a letter of commendation for my contribution to the growth of the company. For that I was very grateful. Thus, I became the only editor of the daily that didn’t leave after a bitter disagreement with the big man.

The story of Sam Nda-Isaiah cannot be written in a small space like this. It should be a voluminous book. The story should be able to explore much more than I have done here. Even here, I skipped so many things. The short of it is that Chairman is a phenomenon in spite of his foibles. His ability to found a newspaper from scratch and build it into a success in a hostile environment such as Nigeria’s, which discourages the germination of anything close to LEADERSHIP, is wondrous. Today, LEADERSHIP is a force to reckon with in Nigeria. In fact, the feeling within and out of LEADERSHIP is that if Nda-Isaiah had concentrated on his newspaper business only, without veering into fields like buying a hotel in South Africa, establishing an expensive school in Abuja, co-owning an amusement park, book publishing, etc., as well as tolerating and adequately rewarding hardworking staff, LEADERSHIP would have become a bigger sensation. But then his restlessness, which defines his character, would not let him. He will always remain a Sam Nda-Isaiah. Trying to make him anything else would be futile. My prayer for him, therefore, is to witness another 50 years in good health, strength and happy increase. Whether you like him or not, he is very good news to our part of the globe.

 Published in Blueprint newspaper on May 1, 2012

Katsina contingent at African Drum Festival 2018

This is a little bit of the performance of the Katsina State contingent at this year's African Drum Festival (ADF), three days ago in Abeokuta, Ogun State. The clip was recorded by me, using a phone camera. Enjoy!

Sunday, 22 April 2018

DAILY TRUST: My omitted story

By Ibrahim Sheme
Published in the Daily Trust On Sunday (today's edition)

Recently, the leading newspaper company in northern Nigeria, the Media Trust Limited, celebrated the 20th year of its establishment. At the well-attended event in Abuja, speeches were delivered, the glasses were clicked, awards were given to deserving contributors to the growth of Media Trust Limited, the mother company, and scintillating stories were told. It was a joyous occasion, one deserving a milestone which not every business venture in this country, not least the running of a newspaper, has attained.

It was the stories I was interested in rather than the awards and the clicking of glasses. Many of them had been told and retold before, both in the newspaper itself and at different forums. A significant forum where the story of Media Trust is documented is the book, “Journalism and Business: My Newspaper Odyssey”, authored by Alhaji Isiaq Ajibola, the founding managing director and a board member of the company, published in 2016. I read that book with interest and was astonished at its obvious effort to skip or gloss over the stories of some of the watershed events that turned the company into a successful venture. I have met people who, after reading the book, expressed a similar observation.

Such effort was replicated during at least two events the company organised to celebrate its unique success. One was the Daily Trust’s 10th anniversary special pull-out edited by Zainab Suleiman Okino 10 years ago and the other was the 20th anniversary event held on March 22, 2018. If the effort to suppress or ignore some stories did not affect me, I would have thought that the “wailers” were only being self-serving. But my own Daily Trust story is one which persuades me to believe that there are quite a number of important, albeit small, stories about the newspaper’s history out there which need to be brought back into reckoning. During those storytelling events I saw big stories made small, and vice-versa.

My Daily Trust story began from a certain day early in 1998 in the board room of the New Nigerian in Kaduna. I was the secretary of the Editorial Board which met in that room on a weekly basis to discuss current affairs, come up with ideas for the daily editorial comment and assign the chosen topics to the writers, who were the board members. My duties, apart from my regular tasks as a senior editorial staffer, involved taking minutes of the meeting, keeping tab on what each writer would write, editing the comment and producing it on the editorial page for the title editor’s approval. Of course, I also took my own topics and wrote the comments assigned to me.

As everyone in the newspaper business knows, Editorial Board members consist of staffers and non-staffers, the outsiders the paper brings in because of their special expertise. At the New Nigerian, one of such “outsiders” was Malam Kabiru A. Yusuf, erstwhile the head of southern Nigerian operation of the Kaduna-based Citizen newsmagazine. As some of the publicised Daily Trust stories say, the collapse of Citizen had rendered many of its staffers jobless and everyone was looking for a way to earn a living. Media Trust was created, as both Alhaji Ajibola and Malam Kabiru repeatedly said, as a source of livelihood for some of those affected by the fall of Citizen.

I was not part of the story of the founding of Media Trust the firm, but I was in the neglected or suppressed story of the establishment of its flagship newspaper, the Weekly Trust, which gave birth to the Daily Trust. As I said, the story started in the board room of the NNN.

One day after the weekly Editorial Board meeting, as members were shuffling out of the room, Malam Kabiru signaled to me to wait. “I want to talk to you,” he said. So I waited.

After everyone else had gone out of the room and we were the only two remaining, Malam Kabiru came over to where I sat and took a seat. In his calm, gentle manner he said, “Malam Ibrahim, the reason why I asked you to stay behind is because I wanted to tell you something. A couple of friends and I are thinking of setting up a small newspaper…,” he paused.

Instinctively, I thought he wanted to offer me a job, and I braced my mind to resist it. In those days the New Nigerian was the place to be if you were practising print journalism in the north, and I had all it took to rise to the top of the editorial section. I was growing fast as I fulfilled my ambition of working in the most important print media organisation in the region. I was loving it, and so I was not keen on quitting just yet.

Malam Kabiru took a deep breath and, as if reading my mind, continued, “I know you would not want to leave the New Nigerian now, but we could do with your advice. We are going to hold our first meeting on the establishment of the newspaper in a couple of days’ time and I would like you to attend.”

Relieved, I replied immediately, “No problem sir. I am willing to attend. When and where is the meeting going to hold?”

He mentioned a date some three days ahead and the venue. We shook hands and left the room.

Three days later I was at Maradi House, a small bungalow located on Alkali Road which served as the offices of Media Trust, an upstart public relations consultancy firm trying to find its feet in business. When I entered, I met only one person cleaning the table in a small office - Aisha Umar Yusuf, the wife of Malam Kabiru. After we exchanged pleasantries, she told me the others were yet to arrive. She took me to another room where a table and a couple of chairs had been set for the meeting.

Up till that time I did not know who the “others” were, and I didn’t ask. Soon enough, however, I found out. Apart from Malam Kabiru, the others were Isiaq Ajibola and the late Duro Irojah, a former managing director of Today, the defunt Kaduna-based weekly newspaper where Malam Kabiru had worked as editor. I cannot recall if, apart from the four of us, there was any other person. Hajiya Aisha, who was not part of the meeting, stayed in her office.

After the introductions, Malam Kabiru went ahead and laid out the plan for the establishment of the yet-to-be named newspaper. We discussed policy, content, pagination, staffing, etc. I noticed that as he spoke, Malam Kabiru kept saying, “If Allah helps us… If Allah helps us.” He justified that repeated prayer with the explanation that the newspaper was going to start on a shoestring budget.

Finally, the issue of the name to be given to the newspaper cropped up. Apparently, we were not ready for that and the meeting had stretched long. Mr Irojah advised that the issue of the name should be deferred to the next meeting so that each one of us could sleep over it and bring suggestions. So the meeting ended on that note and a date was fixed for the next one.

Days later when we resumed, three of us (Kabiru, Irojah and I) brought various names. Ajibola had apparently discussed and agreed with Malam Kabiru prior to the meeting, hence his silence on the matter.

It was Malam Kabiru’s idea that the newspaper should be christened Trust. “I think The Trust, or Nigerian Trust, or whatever Trust, is okay. The word ‘Trust’ ought to be there so that it rhymes with the name of the company,” he said enthusiastically.

I kicked against the name, arguing that it was the name of the Indian government news agency. But Malam Kabiru insisted on that name. As Alhaji Ajibola had maintained a studied silence, Mr Irojah and I gave up.

“So be it,” we agreed.

The word ‘Weekly’ was also agreed upon because the newspaper was conceived as a periodical. No one seemed to entertain the optimism of considering that the “small newspaper”, as Malam Kabiru kept calling it, would ever transform into a daily affair. I think, in retrospect, Malam Kabiru and Alhaji Ajibola themselves were simply reckoning that they wanted to float something that would hold them in the interim, before getting “something better” to do. They weren’t trying to launch a behemoth or ever thought it would become one.

And so the Weekly Trust was born in that room.

In the coming days and weeks I had more opportunities to discuss the project with Malam Kabiru. We drove together in his small red car (the one Ajibola took over later when the company started becoming buoyant after the newspaper had gone on stream), distributing letters of invitation to selected investors in Kaduna. I still have a copy of that letter. He also had a plan for me.

Once when we went to see the Rector of Kaduna Polytechnic, Dr Nuru Yakubu, a client of Media Trust’s PR business, Malam Kabiru finally asked me to join the company both as an investor and a staff. Since coming back from Cardiff after bagging a Master’s in Journalism Studies I had set up a book publishing firm, which I had told Malam Kabiru about. He suggested that I could hand over the assets of that enterprise as a form of investment and then join as a staff. I told him I needed to think about it.

To make up my mind, I consulted an elder of mine, who was in the newspaper business, for advice. He it was who persuaded me to remain at the New Nigerian where, according to him, I had better prospects. I took that advice and later told Malam Kabiru I would do whatever I could to help except to invest in Media Trust or join it as a staff.

Eventually, the Weekly Trust was launched at Arewa House in Kaduna. It was a beautiful intellectual exercise rather than the usual money-grabbing launches Nigerians were known for. The chief launcher was Malam Abubakar Gimba, the president of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), for which I was, in turn, national publicity secretary at the time.

I contributed content to the Weekly Trust for years, from inception, in the form of a two-page literary column called Bookshelf. At first, I started incognito because of my affiliation to the New Nigerian, where I had been made deputy editor. But later I was identified, with my byline and photograph, as the literary editor of the Weekly Trust after I left the former. Of course, I was not a staff of Media Trust and was not being paid.

The Weekly Trust was an instant success because it struck a chord with northerners tired of the grandmotherly disposition of the government-owned New Nigerian. Malam Kabiru and Alhaji Ajibola, adjudged to be the best newspaper company managers this side of the Equator, decided to plunge into another risk by going daily. It was a risk worth taking. The military were leaving the political scene, and there was no daily newspaper located in Abuja.

When that decision was made, Malam Kabiru asked me to take up appointment as the editor of the daily. The request came through Dr Abubakar A. Rasheed of Bayero University, Kano, under whom I had worked at the NNN when he was the managing director there. I was then living partly in Kano “on my own,” i.e. working for no one but myself. Even though I expressed reservation, Dr Rasheed persuaded me to meet with Malam Kabiru.

So I drove to Kaduna on an appointed date in November 2000 and met with Malam Kabiru in his office. He explained the reason for starting a daily publication and why he wanted me to become its first editor. He mentioned the pay and some of the perquisites, as well as the period around which the paper would take off in Abuja. We agreed on the day that I would return to receive my appointment letter.

On the appointed date when I went to the office, however, I was told that Malam Kabiru was in Europe attending a conference of the International Press Institute (IPI). During the visit, I confided in the then editor of the Weekly Trust, Malam Isyaku Dikko,  why I was actually there, to which he expressed surprise. He said, “But another person has been appointed as the editor of the daily. His name is Jibril Daudu.”

It was my turn to be surprised. I simply shrugged and said, “Well, if that is so, then it is one of those things. I did not invite myself to serve as editor. I had my reservations. Anyway, just tell Malam Kabiru I came even though I have dropped a note with his secretary.”

Malam Kabiru never got back to me on the issue of my appointment. I was still producing the popular literary pages for the Weekly Trust. Like its elder sister, the Daily Trust was well-received when it started and continued to grow from strength to strength. Without a serious competitor, the New Nigerian having deteriorated and sinking fast, the coast was clear. It simply ate up the New Nigerian’s market share as “the” northern newspaper.

It was not until 2004 that the Trust got any serious challenge in its market share. That was when Leadership was started as another privately-owned northern newspaper. Trust had been regarded as fearless in telling truth to power like the New Nigerian of old, but Leadership upped the ante in the real meaning of fearlessness. The publisher, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, a former Daily Trust columnist, should have had ‘Fearless’ as his middle name. No, the word should be ‘Reckless’. And, if I must add, he appointed as his editor another person who could take a little share of that middle name, and that was me. Where Trust feared to tread we would jump in, sirens blaring.

Now, because it was impossible for me to continue serving as the literary editor of the Trust and at the same time as the title editor of Leadership, I gave some weeks’ notice to Malam Kabiru and the then editor of the Weekly Trust, Malam Garba Deen Muhammad, to appoint another person to handle Bookshelf. On that day Malam Kabiru instructed that I be paid some money as a token of appreciation for my contribution to the company, for which I was grateful. Odoh Diego Okenyodo took over as the editor of Bookshelf.

Now, this boring story is the one that has not been acknowledged anywhere in the big story of the Media Trust’s success. It is virtually the story of an old tyre that helped the vehicle in its uphill drive but, on the days similar old tyres were celebrated, no one remembered this one. Yes, it is the personal story of a single individual, egoistic even, but it needed to be documented even for the sake of putting a forgotten jigsaw in the big puzzle. Thank you for reading.

Ibrahim Sheme is the director of media and publicity at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN)

Thursday, 19 April 2018

African Drum Festival 2018

Tonight I attended the successful opening ceremony of the third edition of the annual African Drum Festival (ADF), currently going on in Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State. I had travelled this afternoon from Lagos, where I stayed for three days for official duties.

In fact, I had no intention of coming to Abeokuta even though I knew about the preparations to host the festival. Some weeks back I was contacted by Malam Salihu Bappa, a senior lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, who is an old acquitance of mine. He wanted me to get a way to contact the lead drummer for the late Alhaji Mamman Shata. The task was right down my alley, having been associated with anything Shata for at least two decades. One of the organisers of the ADF, Mr. Jahman Anikulapo, was the one who had tasked Bappa with finding the drummer. Malam Bappa himself has been associated with the culture circuit for as long as I knew him. And Jahman is a well known "culture connossieur", having served as the Arts and Media Editor of The Guardian and, later, the Editor of The Guardian On Sunday. We knew each other long ago, myself having been in the culture loop for many years as a journalist.

I was able to reach out to Shata's chief drummer through Malam Mustapha Shata. The drummer is of course Malam Magaji Mahuta, an octogenarian who is in retirement in his village near Funtua, Shata's base. The ADF organisers wanted him to attend the three-day event in Abeokuta, and he did. He arrived Lagos last night, together with an escort, Muntari Shata, the music legend's second to the last child. I should mention that they came together on the same Kaduna-Lagos flight with Malam Salisu Mashi, a famed drummer based in Katsina. Mashi, who had worked with the Centre for Nigerian Cultural Studies, ABU, Zaria, in the 1970s and 1980s, had attained prowess for his incredible capacity to play several Hausa musical instruments all at once and at the same time.

The ADF began in 2016 as a local event but it has become an international one with participants attending from several African countries. At the opening ceremony tonight, which took place at the June 12 Cultural Centre, Ibara, I saw contingents from Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal, South Africa, etc., as well as from many states of Nigeria. I learned that this year's edition, though the third, is actually the second international one.

The opening ceremony was a huge carnival, with so many contingents operating various forms of drums and delivering razzmatazz. There was a cacophony of music as the musicians played at the same time. A snake charmer was seen plying his trade with a huge python.

The event was graced by the state governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, his government officials, many traditional rulers, federal government officials, scholars, towns people, journalists, etc. The federal government was represented by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

Many speeches were delivered, all stressing the importance of culture to the human society. Governor Amusun pledged his government's continued support for the ADF.

The traditional rulers who spoke included the Ooni of Ife, the Alaafin of Oyo; Alake of Egbaland, and the Obong of Calabar.

Nobel laureate Professor Wole Soyinka was the cynosure of all eyes as he pulled his famous grey crown through the crowd to deliver his speech. He is the chief consultant for the event.

The turnout was impressive. It reflects the hard work the organisers put in publicising the event, which is evident in the banners that dotted the cityscape right from inside Lagos.

I and the rest of the audience were mesmerised by the whole spectacle. There was a captivating musical performance by the Ogun State Cultural Troupe to kickstart the show. Amosun declared the festival open with the beating of drums by himself and the cry, "Let the Festival begin!" Shortly after, there was a scintillating display of fireworks which further excited the audience.

The taste of the pudding is in the eating, they say. The foretaste is what will follow in the next two days of the festival has been served. The festival has begun. Tomorrow the drums will surely roll some more.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Juyin zamani: Tsakanin gaɗa, Asauwara, Mamman Shata da 'yan fiyano

Daga Ibrahim Sheme

Waƙoƙin gaɗa su ne a wani zamani a ƙasar Katsina da wasu yankunan Kano irin su Bichi, Tofa da Gwarzo ake kira "Asauwara". Da farko ana kiran su "Takojilo" ne, amma daga baya sai aka "sauwara" su, wato aka juya su ta yadda samari ma za su iya shiga a yi da su maimakon 'yan mata kaɗai.

A daidai lokacin yarintar Mamman Shata, wato a wajajen farko zuwa tsakiyar shekarun 1930s, waƙoƙin Asauwara ake yi, inda mace za ta shiga fage a gaban mai ganga ta yi waƙa a amsa, sannan namiji ma ya shiga ya rera a amsa. Wani lokaci kuma namiji da mace za su iya shiga tare su rera, sauran samari da 'yanmata na amsawa. Mawaƙan ne ke ƙirƙirar waƙa, ko kuma su ɗauko daga waƙoƙin gaɗa da aka gada kunne-ya-girmi-kaka.

Asauwara gasa ce, domin so ake a ga wanda ya fi iya waƙa. Saboda yadda ake gasar, akan kuma kira ta da "wasan sauri", don haka ba za ka shiga fage ka je ka na wata in'ina ba; yanzu alƙalan gasar sa fitar da kai!

An fi yin gasar Asauwara da kaka, lokacin ba a zuwa aiki gona.

Duk wanda ya yi zarra a gari ko ƙauye, to ana ba shi muƙamin Joji. To kuma sai a haɗa gasa tsakanin Jojin wannan gari da na wancan gari, a ga wanda zai yi zarra, kamar yadda ake haɗa wasan ƙwallo tsakanin garuruwa a yanzu. An sha samun joji mace ko namiji a gari kaza.

Idan za a yi gasar, su matasan da aka zo garin su su ne za su ba baƙi abinci da wurin kwana.

Shata na daga cikin matasan da ke shiga gasar Asauwara. Kuma ba da jimawa ba ya yi zarra, aka naɗa shi Joji na Musawa. Kuma an tabbatar da cewa babu wani joji da ya taɓa buge shi tun daga lokacin da ya hau muƙamin.

Wasan gaɗa na Asauwara ba sana'a ba ce. Wargi ne kurum na yara. Don haka iyaye ba su damu ba, tunda sun san cewa da yaro ya girma ya zama mutum, misali a ce ya yi aure, to tilas ya daina domin ga surukai ya yi a gari, kuma ƙannen sa sun data. Idan mace ce ma, ta tafi gidan miji.

A wancan lokacin, akwai makaɗa na daban, 'ya'yan gado, masu kiɗa don a ba su kuɗi. Waɗannan su ne masu sana'ar roƙo. Su kan yi a gidan mutum idan ya na da wani sha'ani, misali suna ko aure ko naɗin sarauta, ko su yi a dandali a taru a kalla. Duk yaron da ya ce zai zama mawaƙin da za a ba wata kyauta, in dai ba gado ya yi ba, to iyayen sa ba za su amince ba. Wasu iyayen ma, musamman Fulani, su na kallon kiɗan roƙo a ƙasƙance.

Hakan ce ta sa lokacin da Jojin Musawa, wato Shata, ya fara karɓar kyauta sai ran mahaifin shi ya ɓaci. Ya za a ce ɗan cikin sa, Bafillace, ya zama maroƙi? Abin kamar saɓo! Akwai ma lokacin da ya je ƙofar gidan Malam Inde (Magajin Gari) da ya ji ga Shata can ya na waƙa, ya lafta masa duka da igiyar ɗaure awaki da ya riƙo, ya kore shi. Ya zuwa lokacin, har Shata ya fara fita zuwa wasu garuruwa don yin waƙa. Bakin alƙalami ya riga ya bushe!

Daga baya dai, waƙa ta zame wa Shata babbar sana'a. Har sai da ya bar garin su kwata-kwata, ya kutsa duniya a matsayin maroƙi, har ta kai babu kamar shi a ƙasar Hausa duka.

Da yawa daga cikin waƙoƙin Shata da mu ke ji a yau (ko wasu kalmomin su ko amshin su) daga Asauwara su ka fito. Misali, waƙar Ayuba Mainama, waƙar Inyonyore, waƙar Gulbin Karaɗuwa, waƙar "Ayyaraye Duniya Labari", waƙar "Ahayye Alewa!" waƙar "Ke Bushiya!" da sauran su.

To amma akwai lokacin da yayin Asauwara ya wuce, aka ci gaba da wasannin gaɗa na 'yanmata, wato samari su ka janye. Idan ka ga namiji na waƙa, to ko dai gado ya yi ko kuma "haye" ya yi saboda wani dalili.

A lurar da na yi, su ma wasannin gaɗar sun ja baya yanzu. Ko a karkara ba a kowane ƙauye ne 'yanmata ke zuwa dandali su yi rawa da waƙa ba.

Waƙoƙin gargajiya baki ɗaya ma sun ja baya sosai. Ga shi dai akwai ɗaiɗaikun mawaƙan gargajiyan, irin su Surajo Mai Asharalle, Shehu Ajilo Ɗanguziri, Musa Ɗanbade, Aminu Shatan Zazzau, iyalan Ɗanƙwairo, Nasiru Garba Supa, Babangida Kakadawa, Sanusi Shata, da sauran su, to amma ba a cika neman su ba. Ko biki ya tashi sai ka ga an gayyato mawaƙan fiyano irin su Fati Nijar, Maryam Fantimoti, Adam A. Zango, Ali Jita ko Ado Gwanja su ci bikin. Wasu ma 'yan Kudu irin su Korede Bello ko D'Banj za ka ga sun kira. Idan ba a iya ɗauko irin su, sai a saka faifan su na sidi ko dibidi, kiɗan na fita daga lasifika. Da haka mata za su tiƙi rawa, su gwangwaje abin su.

Zamani kenan, telan kowane lokaci mai ɗinka wa kowa riga da bante daidai da shi!

I am back to blogging!

Thank God, I am back to continue chatting and posting things on this blog - SIX whole years since my last comment posted on Monday, 13 February, 2012. I was off the radar because of a lot of reasons. But here I am, back on the beat and stronger. You will, therefore, be reading me in either of the two languages that I write, i.e. English and my native Hausa, with the first one coming up within minutes!