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Tribute to reputation manager Mohammed Ahmed Abdullahi

A reputation manager’s biggest luck is to find a principal with unassailable character; a man of integrity who can be trusted to take the moral…

A reputation manager’s biggest luck is to find a principal with unassailable character; a man of integrity who can be trusted to take the moral high ground even if by his choice, his personal material space is diminished. These submissions formed the knob of a paper I presented to the selection committee for the award of Fellowship of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), in Kano, in December 2011. My paper drew substantially from my experience as Director of Press and Public Relations to the twice elected governor of Kano State, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau. My task was simple: to draw open the curtain and let the public scrutinize the governor without interference. I concluded my paper with a conviction that a spin put on a bad product must carry an expiry date.
Two months after I was awarded the prestigious fellowship of the Institute, the most important influence in my choice of that topic and the doyen of reputation management in Nigeria, Malam Mohammed Ahmed Abdullahi, passed away. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un. The passage of this foremost reputation manager at this time in our national life is very tragic and regrettable. These are dire times when our country needs leaders with strong moral strength and courage of conviction to come forward and lead. Nigeria, and indeed the public relations profession, has lost a great man, which is unfortunate because this is a time we seriously need reputed practitioners like Malam Abdullahi to mentor the younger generation, and to teach them the rewards of patience, hard work and personal integrity. There goes a successful professional and reliable colleague. We shall continue to live by his inspiring words.
The late Mohammed Abdullahi will be mourned by the thousands of family members, friends and professional colleagues who knew him in his lifetime but I feel his loss personally because our paths crossed on several life’s journeys. The man we fondly called ‘General’ epitomized the professional thoroughness and high sense of ethical judgment he often preached as essential, in fact irreducible, in building a lasting reputation. He inspired me very much. From his humble and hardworking days as a student at Bayero University, Kano, our alma mater, where we struck a good friendship despite his being one year my senior, Mohammed Abdullahi would go on to become the most recognized name in information management in Bauchi State, the entire North, and indeed the country. As far as I can remember, he was the longest serving Government House Director of Press and from 1992 to 2007, served a total of seven governors in Bauchi State, military and civilian. I remember that each time we met as a body of Government House Directors of Press, Malam Abdullahi was the automatic choice to chair our meetings. At various times, he served the Bauchi State Government meritoriously as Permanent Secretary and Commissioner of Information. His last assignment was with Bauchi Radio Service, where he was General Manager. His long years of service apart, he was a natural leader and presided over our meetings with a firm but fair hand.
The late Mohammed Abdullahi was a father figure and mentor to hundreds of practising public relations professionals today. He encouraged me to vie for Council membership of NIPR but advised me to prepare myself intellectually for the task. Inspired by his vision and kind encouragement, I took up the challenge. He was generous with his time and advice. He always kept in touch and cared for his protégés’ professional development. To him, there was no growth without knowledge. He shared his optimism and counseled upcoming practitioners to strive for improved knowledge and higher certification. He was a repository of knowledge in public information and reputation management, and he readily shared this wealth of experience with others.
Many Nigerians would perhaps best remember him as a two-time president of the NIPR. In this position, he wrote his name in gold, having left footprints of accomplishment in leadership, accountability and fairness. As vice president, he understudied another doyen of public relations practice in Nigeria, Professor Ike Nwosu, and took over as president at the expiration of Nwosu’s tenure. It was at the 2011 NIPR General Conference and Annual General Meeting, which I hosted in Kano as chapter chairman, that he was re-elected for a second and final term, with members expressing satisfaction with his leadership style and the new direction the institute was going under his guidance. Early this year, Malam Abdullahi handed over the baton to his successor, Mr Rotimi Oladele, at a well-attended AGM in Abuja. Every professional association thrives when it enlists members’ commitment to a higher vision. NIPR continues to march into greatness on account of the hard work, vision and meticulous mentoring of new members by the likes of Malam Abdullahi.
I will seize this opportunity to express my heartfelt sympathy to his immediate family and officers and members of NIPR over his death. The General completed his mission on earth and left with a great reputation. Malam Abdullahi will forever be remembered for his numerous contributions to society, his piety, humility, friendship across all boundaries, and his forceful articulation of his principled convictions without sounding sanctimonious.
There is no greater eulogy to a fallen colleague than recognizing and appreciating how he changed your own life. I am indebted to Malam Abdullahi for his brotherly love and for mentoring my public relations career. He never stopped encouraging me and others like me. He was always on phone call with a good advice. In his death, I have lost a benefactor and a pillar of support. May Allah reward him with life in al-Jannah.

Sule is a fellow, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, NIPR

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