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Journalism means everything to me – BK Gabari

How did you find yourself in journalism? I started journalism as a correspondent in May, 1955 in the Daily Commet newspaper in Kano. The paper…

How did you find yourself in journalism?
I started journalism as a correspondent in May, 1955 in the Daily Commet newspaper in Kano. The paper was brought to Kano by Zik, mainly to educate the people about politics. The newspaper had a section dedicated for Hausa readers. So I joined the Hausa section of the paper as an editor. I succeeded Alhaji Salihu Tanko Yakasai, who was the then editor of the section. Yakasai was to travel out of the state to attend a Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) meeting, and being the deputy secretary of the party in the state, I was directed to act as an editor. That’s how I started my journalism career. Gradually, I developed interest in the profession. Today, I can confidently tell you that journalism has become part and parcel of my life. I have achieved so many things, courtesy of the profession. I can say that journalism is everything to me because whatever I achieved in life came through this noble profession. It gave me the opportunity to meet with many personalities in my life, the people I couldn’t ordinarily go close to. I interacted and worked with them closely. 

How would you describe journalism in your days and now?
Journalism of our days and now are two different things. There is no way one can compare our days and the present days as far as journalism is concerned. This is because in the past, the practice was more of investigation, but now, it is entirely a different thing. Again, most of the interviews being conducted by the present journalists are full of errors, from both the interviewer and the personality interviewed. I am sure the reason is that our journalists have abandoned the culture of reading newspapers. They don’t update themselves anymore. As a journalist you must read newspapers to update and equip yourself. It is only when you read newspapers that you would be guided on how to discharge your duty effectively. This will guide you to come up with rich and interesting interviews, news analysis and feature. I recently read an interview where somebody was talking about President Muhammadu Buhari’s plan on naira devaluation. The man misquoted Buhari. And because the journalist who conducted the interview was ignorant of what Buhari said on the issue, he just kept quite. If the journalist had read what Buhari said, he could challenge the man by asking further questions that would counterattack what he attributed to Buhari. This is one out of millions of such examples. In a nutshell, journalists must always conduct research before conducting interviews or writing news analysis and features.
A journalist must equally develop a reading culture because it is very helpful to him. Let me give you another example. During the 10th anniversary of the late Sani Abacha, President Buhari, General Abdulsalami Abubakar and General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida made statements, saying Abacha did not loot government funds. This particular story generated a lot of debates among Nigerians. It was counterattacked from various angles. In fact, some people presented various amounts and the banks he deposited the looted funds.

When did the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Kano Council come into being?
Well, I joined the Daily Commet in 1955 and met the NUJ on ground. At that time, Mr. Jimmy Adetutu of the Nigerian Citizen was the chairman of the union.

What was the main function of the union?

Its main function was to coordinate the activities of all journalists. We held a series of meetings on various issues relating to our jobs. We helped our members in various ways.

How many newspapers circulated in Kano in those days?
We only had three newspapers in circulation in Kano: Daily Times, the Commet and the Pilot. Apart from these three, no other newspaper came to Kano State. But we thanked God. Now we have many newspapers and magazines coming to Kano from other parts of the country. This is great achievement as far as journalism is concerned.

Do you still read newspapers?
Of course I do. In fact, every day I must read a newspaper unless I am sick and cannot go to the newspaper stand at Galadima Road. I go there every day to read the newspapers. I spend N200 on transportation to go there every morning and leave around 5pm after I have read virtually all the available newspapers there – Daily Trust, The Sun, Tribune, Leadership, among others When I wake up around 5am, I will prepare myself and go to the mosque for the morning prayer. When I come back I will read the Qur’an for some minutes before I take my bath and head to Galadima Road.

We learnt that you were a publisher, is it true?
Yes, I established a four-page newspaper called Kano Express. Like the Commet, Kano Express also comprised both English and Hausa sections. I printed my paper in Sabon-Gari.

Can you recall some of your colleagues?
I worked with so many people, including Philips Oheyare of Commet; Mr. Razak Aremu, the editor of Daily Mail in Kano; Mr. O. Adedoyin of Northern Star; Adewole Giwa was the deputy editor of Daily Mail in Kano; Bash Olukotie; Mr. Peter Ajayi of Daily Times and Mr. Kago Danbuwa.

What advice do you have for the present day journalists?
A journalist should be trustworthy and fearless. During our time, we didn’t know what is today called the “brown envelop.’’ In fact, even if you gave us something to influence us, that would not stop us from saying the truth even if it was against you.
Present day journalists should go back to school and learn the job properly. It is a global trend that you cannot succeed without knowledge. There is no way you can just learn it by practice. If you want to excel in the profession you must seek for knowledge.
A southern journalist is far better than the northern journalist. Go to Galadima Road in the morning when newspapers are displaced for sale and see the type of people that are coming to buy. I am sure you can count the number of Hausa people that buy newspapers in a day. In short, our reading culture is very low. You must always update yourself. 

What was your unforgettable moment as a journalist?
There was a time I attended a gathering of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) at Ibrahim Musa Gashash, located around Kofar Nasarawa area in Kano. When I entered the house some people started shouting, “Here is our opponent’s journalist!’’ And they started asking me. In fact, it was the intervention of some elders that saved me. Apart from this incident, I was also jailed three times. The first one was in 1958 during an NPC conference.

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