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Celebrating of the World Radio Day

As I said, my romance with radio began early. As far back as I can remember, my parents used to switch on the radio from…

As I said, my romance with radio began early. As far back as I can remember, my parents used to switch on the radio from the time the Hausa Service of Radio Nigeria, Kaduna, opened and switched off when it signed off. There were some moments of silence, of course, or change of channels. Sometimes, my mother or my father (rahimahulLah), switched off the radio, to play a cassette tape. And on Fridays, my mother changed the channel from Radio Nigeria, Kaduna to PRTV (Radio Plateau), Jos to listen to Goron Juma’a presented by Bashir Tela.

This was when I was in primary school. At that time, I knew by heart the programme schedule of Radio Nigeria, Kaduna, from sign on to sign off, although my favourite programmes are (not necessarily in that order) Shafa Labari Shuni, Barka da Yau (I remember at that time it was presented three times a day)—my father never missed it unless he was not at home—Sinadari, Jakar Magori, Duniya Budurwar Wawa, and Matambayi Ba Ya Bata. I could, at that time, practically list the programmes and their presenters. Later, during the first Iraq war, Duniya Ina Labari was introduced; it was also a favourite.

I could distinguish the voices of Sahabi Aliyu, Mamun Baba Ahmed, Shehu Aliyu Zaria, Binta Aliyu Zaria, Ahmed Aja Gwarzo, Graba Sani, Marwana Murnai Galadanci, and of course, Halilu Ahmed Getso (to name but a few).

I knew the traditional style of opening and closing the programmes, such as “Jama’a masu sauraro, barkanmu da sake saduwa da ku a wannan lokaci namu mai tarin albarka; wato lokacinmu na Wa’azin Musulunci”, by the late Sheikh Lawal Abubakar (may his soul rest in peace); “Daga nan gidan Rediyon Najeriya na Kaduna muke gabatar muku da shirin Alkawari Kaya Ne” by Halilu Ahmed Getso; Jakarrrrrrrrrrrr Magoriiiiiiiiiii by Ahmed Aja Gwarzo, and so on. I also liked to hear the signing out “Onyekachi Kelechi (later Muhammad Amin Kelechi), Rediyo Najeriya na Kaduna, daga birnin Enugu”.

The voices I still remember from the English Service (at a time the Hausa Service used to hook up with the English Service) are those of Usman Mohammed and Madina Dauda. I particularly remember this opening: “Radio Nigeria Kaduna presents Topic” (I have forgotten the closing of the programme though I still remember “…your producer, Isa Edime [I am not sure I have spelt the name correctly—for that matter, I am not sure I used to hear it right]).

Because of this close affinity I had with the radio, I was very good in current affairs and social studies in school. It was during the later years of my primary school—when I was in primary  four or five—that I became a tailor’s apprentice. My uncle, Alhaji Shehu Moga (may his soul rest in peace), who was my Master, was a regular listener of the Hausa programmes of international radio stations: BBC, Deutsche Welle, and VOA. I therefore naturally adapted and adopted the habit. I cannot remember who introduced me to Radio Beijing, but I later added the Chinese broadcaster to the list of international radio stations I listened to.

The first time I ‘went on air’ in the studios of an international broadcaster was when I was in JSS two or three (I cannot remember exactly). There was a programme on Deutsche Welle where they asked their audience to submit short stories to be read on air and I decided to try my luck (I was a fan of Shafa Labari Shuni, remember? Besides, I had already become a bookworm and I read everything I could lay my hands on, so I said let me see if I could pen some words myself). Months later, a pay slip arrived announcing that my short story earned 40 Deutsche Marks. When I heard it read, I could not believe my ears and when the pay slip arrived, I was dumb founded. But I did not take it seriously because I did not know how the money could get to me.

Sometime later, another letter arrived. This time, from the Central Bank of Nigeria, saying that the CBN had received the amount and could I forward to them my account number, so that they could send me the naira equivalent? I was flabbergasted. I never had a bank account and I was too poor to open one. Anyway, I cannot remember how that episode came to pass.

It was also at that time that I came to own my very own transistor radio. One day, as I was tuning it, I got introduced to Jonathan Marks of Radio Netherlands and, particularly, his programme on Radio Listening (unfortunately I cannot now remember the name of the programme). He educated me that I was a Shortwave Listener (SWL) and that there were DXers. I wrote to him and we started corresponding. In time, I graduated from a SWL to a DXer. Jonathan Marks sent me a lot of material, on the subject.

That is to say, I became an armchair traveller: because I had a lot of free time, especially at night. I used to tune in to at least five radio stations each day: Radio Netherlands, Radio Japan, Radio Beijing, Swiss Radio International, All India Radio, Radio Flanders International (that is in Belgium) and even Adventist World Radio, among others.

Because I was a DXer, I am not only interested in these stations’ broadcast content—I was also paying attention to technical issues such as signal strength, interference, and so on. When I sent them a reception report, they sent me a souvenir. Radio Japan in particular, sent with each souvenir, a form specifically tailored to aid the DXer in giving the required information, and so I sent many such reports to them and they sent many souvenirs to me.

Unfortunately, though, as the burden of studying became weightier, I found that I had less time to DX, though I continued to SWL, but with much fewer stations. Television also managed to steal some of my time, as it became a tradition for me to watch the network news on NTA  (Nigeria Television Authority). Interestingly, if I had not been watching the network news, I would not have been the first to learn that I passed the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) Examination I wrote hoping for a chance to study (can you believe it?) Linguistics. But, I believe, Allah had different plans for me and I found myself in Mass Communications.

When I was studying Mass Communications in the university, a time came when we were required to choose to study either print or broadcast journalism. Some of my course mates thought I was going to choose print because, according to them, I could write very well. They were shocked that I chose to study broadcasting. And then, some years after graduating, I became a broadcast journalist.

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