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Why I left Customs Service to become a journalist -Bashir Sama’ila Ahmed

Can we meet you?I am Bashir Sama’ila Ahmed, I was born in a village known as Kakangi, but I realized later on that it wasn’t…

Can we meet you?
I am Bashir Sama’ila Ahmed, I was born in a village known as Kakangi, but I realized later on that it wasn’t in Kakangi but in Karau-Karau, a small village, in Zaria Local Government. I was born in 1944, a year before the Second World War ended. My father Malam Sama’ila Ahmad was a sanitary inspector in Southern Zaria, at that time. Then he was transferred to Zaria and I was brought back to Zaria, where I grew up and started Islamic studies and western education.
I went to a nursery school in Zaria, then I also went to the primary school in Soba after which I came back to Aldahuda secondary school, Zaria. After I graduated from secondary school, there was a coup d’etat and Sardauna was overthrown.
I was about to enter Bayero University, Kano (formerly known as Bayero College), when the coup took place; my father had a political appointment, during this period there was a sudden regression and things came to a halt. As a result, I couldn’t enroll in the University again. I came back and started working with En’e in Zaria. Later on, we were recruited into the custom service. We were forced into it because I didn’t go in on my own volition, then in 1968 I ventured into broadcasting.
From there, I moved on until I joined BBC London, where I worked and I continued with my education because they don’t have any restrictions when you work with them. They would even give you the opportunity to further your education. I worked with BBC London for a while and I left in December 1974. I came back for three months. I went there to work but I ended up furthering my education.

Did you ever think you would be a journalist from childhood, or you just found yourself in it?
Yes I had always wanted to be a journalist. Because when I was a child, I always loved listening to people’s voices on radio. As a result, from school I started taking part in debates so that I would know how to educate others. These debates would help me understand how to express my views. You see, it was since then I decided I would become a journalist, I left the customs job that I was forced to do, and then I entered into broadcasting.

How many years have you spent as a journalist?
Well, I’m still a journalist till this day and since I am still in it, I would say right from 1978 to 2014, it’s been 36 years now that I’ve spent as a journalist.

Who did you work with during that time?
Well, I worked with several people, but those I can remember at the time were big people like  Alhaji Abba Zuro, James Audu, Madu Mailafiya and Babagana Kingibe as well as Shettima Wada, a one-time minister of Agriculture . There are lots of them that I can’t recall now.

Did you start working with FRCN?
I started working here, but then it was known as Broadcasting Company of Northern Nigeria (BCNN), because Sardauna established it for the benefit of the entire people of the north. But BCNN and RTV Kaduna were the ones under the Northern States before the Federal Government took over and it became FRCN.

How old was the radio station when you started working there?
Well, I started working there when it was just six years old, because it was set up in 1962, and I started working there in 1968. So you see it was just six years when it was opened.

What challenges did you encounter in the job?
They are plenty, because an aspect of your life has changed. From the moment you become a journalist, you become public property who is mostly trying to dare what others are running way from like crises, gang wars, amongst others.
What where your achievements as a journalist
Being a journalist enables me to know a lot of prominent people, and people know me. You know, if you’re not a journalist anywhere you enter you’ll have to be searched thoroughly but if I go I’ll be allowed to enter. I also went on pilgrimage twice as a broadcaster, my job as a journalist took me round the world, which perhaps I might not have had the opportunity if I wasn’t in this job.  

You mentioned “Basafce” earlier. I listened to it as a kid and it was a programme meant for the villagers. What message were you trying to pass?
I played the role of the main character “Basafce”, but the producer was Alhaji Yusuf Ladan and the son of Iyan Zazzau wrote the story and he also produced it, while I played Basafce because ‘Basafce’ was the lead actor, he is the one who had all the knowledge that the masses needed to know about.

You speak in proverbs. How did you learn them? From your grandparents?
I love sitting with the elderly, and I do a lot of listening, most of the knowledge you get when you listen to them are very helpful. When they are done, you can ask them questions about anything you don’t understand. Because you know in Hausa, there are lots of them. Some may be useful at the moment, while at some point later on; there’ll be no need for them.

So how would you compare journalism in the past and presently?
Everything has its own time, because journalism is something that lives on and everything moves according to its own generation, some say that the profession is now corrupt but I disagree with that except for the fact that some people like themselves more than others. And they have never written any good news, the only thing you hear is crises everywhere, today you’ll hear that someone somewhere was killed or there’s a war somewhere. They should be sent to villages to talk to farmers and they should be told how they (farmers) benefit from what they are planting.

What advice do you have for those who are in the profession now?
I’ll remind them of what they already know as well as what they need to know. Because, for example, you know that someone would buy this newspaper (Sunday Trust) because he/she knows that the stories that would be published are truthful. All the stories would be written exactly the way things happen, as a result we should always tell the truth.

Sir, What about your family?
I have a wife and God has blessed me with eight children all male. I lost 3, so I’m left with five. At the moment, I am into farming and I have a traditional title which is the Galadiman Karau-Karau. I also belong to a number of radio and television organizations. That’s why I initially said that there’s no retirement in journalism, and till this moment, I am still a journalist.