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How I brought Maitatsine to the limelight – Mamoon Baba-Ahmed

Mamoon Baba-Ahmed is a household name in broadcasting. Can you take us into your life? I was born in Tudun Wada, Zaria, on an unspecified…

Mamoon Baba-Ahmed is a household name in broadcasting. Can you take us into your life?

I was born in Tudun Wada, Zaria, on an unspecified date. Unspecified in the sense that when I was born there was no habit of keeping record at that time. So I couldn’t know exactly when I was born. But when I grew up, I pressurized my mother to know when I was born. She told me that I was born on a year of the great famine called ‘Yar Gusau. After checking history books, I found out that ‘Yar Gusau occurred in 1945. I could not know the date, month and hour. But my mother told me that I was on a rainy Sunday at night.
I schooled in Zaria from primary to secondary. After which I joined the army briefly before I took up the broadcasting career with the Broadcasting Company of Northern Nigeria (BCNN) in 1971, as a  continuity announcer.  From there, I developed interest in reporting. When I left BCNN to become a reporter, I was employed by the New Nigerian Newspapers (NNN). Even when I was employed by the NNN I was not made a reporter; I was left at the desk as a sub- editor. But I was not satisfied with that condition because I had always wanted to be a reporter all my life.
So, I continued to pursue an opportunity that will make me a reporter.  I had to come back to BCNN, where I was made a reporter and posted to Bauchi as a state correspondent. I was in Bauchi, Kano, Borno, Plateau and Lagos as chief correspondent of Radio Nigeria, Kaduna. While I was there, I was appointed a director of information in Kaduna State Ministry of Information.  I was there for four-and-half-years before I was appointed the Managing Director of Kaduna State Media Corporation (KSMC), from where I resigned after a sojourn of one-and-half-years.
Let me quickly add here that, I  also served as General Manager, Kano State Media Corporation after I was seconded from Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN). I served for one year, after which, I was de-seconded back to Kaduna, where I served as Controller, Current Affairs, before I was  posted to Lagos as chief correspondent.
After I retired from KSMC, I ventured into private business. I am now a publisher of Sawaba newspaper. I am also contributing my quota towards the development of Desmims Independent Television (DITV), Kaduna; the first private independent television station to go on air, which was pioneered by my late brother, Alhaji Khalifa Baba-Ahmed.  I am now its chairman after his death.

How many are you in your immediate family?

When our father died, he left 28 of us. And all together he had given birth to about 33 of us. But now, we are about 22, six died after the demise of our father. I am number nine in the family. 

How was growing up like in Zaria and was your family polygamous?  
 
My father, (Malam Baba-Ahmed) was a Spartan and puritan gentleman, who gave us a Spartan upbringing. In fact, we were brought up under very harsh realities of life so that we could grow up be extremely self-reliant, god-fearing and also knowledgeable in any situation we found ourselves. That was how I was brought up under a very austere condition. We had bare necessities and I can’t say we had everything in life. In fact, our life was that of want of many things. But it was deliberate. Our father did not want to spoil us by dolling to us things that will distract us and hinder our educational progress.
But we were brought up under a climate of learning and a very conducive situation surrounded by all the intellectual giants available at that time in Northern Nigeria. This was because Zaria was the hub of educational development. And there was a nettle of educational development that was sown in Zaria under the very nurse and tutelage of our father. In fact, his friends are the makers of Northern Nigeria.  His humble self, Dr Abubakar Imam, Dr Abdurrahman Mora, Alhaji Halliru Binji, even the late Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and so many other intellectual leading giants had a sojourn in Zaria. That was how we were made to grow in a situation deliberately created by our father to enhance our educational development.  And we are very proud of that because now we are reaping the benefit of what he had intended us to be.
   
Did you have any period you considered remarkable in your journalism career?

My remarkable moment in journalism was when my father and his best friend, the late Dr Abubakar Imam came to my office in Kano and congratulated me for doing what was appreciated by the majority of people in the country. Dr Abubakar Imam, particularly said, he was happy with me for picking the life of journalism which they started because they pioneered journalism in Northern Nigeria. He said that he was happy that they, at least, got some successors: people who would continue to keep their flag flying and he was happy to have it. That was one of the happiest moments in my life.

You were the FRCN Kaduna correspondent in Kano when the Maitatsine riot broke in Kano in the early 1980s. Can you relate your experiences, having covered the crisis extensively?
  
The FRCN Kaduna has the tradition of accurate reporting and, at the same time, a reporting that knows nobody, that fears nobody. It is not surprising, therefore, that what I have done in Kano was in consonance with the culture of reporting in FRCN which I have imbibed. In fact, it has been engrained into our minds that we must ensure fearless, honest, rapid and objective reporting.  So while I was in Kano I embarked on investigative reporting; reporting sessions that would enable me expose any act of misdemeanor. Some people came and told me the attitude and behaviour of this abnormal and deviant Malam (Muhammadu Marwa, popularly called Maitatsine); whose practices and norms are in contradiction with the Islamic culture. I had to find out exactly who that Malam was, what were his stocks in trade and so on. And after completing my investigation, I found out much about him and his practices. It was then that I started exposing him by a serialized reporting. That was how the Malam was brought to the limelight and people got to know him and exactly what he was doing.
And when the police attempted to arrest him and bring him to book, the whole thing exploded into a very violent situation. From there, the attack started, which everybody thought will last for only some hours. But it didn’t, it lasted for eight days before he was finally captured.