Umar Saidu Tudun Wada, also known as UST, is a veteran and seasoned journalist. He is a household name in the sector. With over 35 years experience in his kitty, the tough-speaking broadcaster in a chat with ABDULGAFAR OLADIMEJI, speaks on the need to mobilize the media to fight illiteracy, the culture of begging and laziness among others
Let’s start on a lighter note, I will not be wrong to refer to you as a grandfather in the profession, isn’t it?
This is my 35th year in journalism. I started as a cub reporter with NTA in 1981.
The North is your immediate constituency, how will you assess the Northern press?
In the North, we have a long way to go. Though, I may say there is improvement in terms of knowledge acquisition, likewise, one may say, the majority are practising in the electronic media in this part of the country. In the print there is shortage of practitioners, who are Northerners. You can also count, how many Northern journalists have excelled in the print media?
The situation of the media in the North is worrisome, we need the media as a mouth piece, we have a big challenge in attaining this motive, most of our people are in the broadcast media, particularly in Kano and Kaduna, still in both states what is obtainable is below expectations, when compared to places like Lagos. Lagos has about 50 radio stations and in Kano recently the number has risen to about 16, so you will realize, we have a long way to go.
Another area is that of remunerations, journalists in the North are not well paid, compared to what their colleagues in other parts do take home. This is one of the core challenges confronting the practice of journalism in Arewa.
You sound like a newsroom graduate?
Yes, I am a newsroom product although; I later went to school to improve myself academically and intellectually. My career as a journalist started way back from my secondary school days when I was responsible for the editing of the school magazine. As a reporter with the NTA that also gave me the opportunity to attend several training courses.
Do you subscribe to the perception that the newsroom culture is dying?
There is a problem, mass communication products have the knowledge, but do not have the newsroom culture. They have the theoretical knowledge but lack the newsroom culture. In the newsroom culture editorial meetings are held and daily reviews are carried out; there are criticisms by colleagues and ideas are generated.
Today, our mass communication graduates dislike been criticized by their colleagues. They feel they know it all and most times they don’t want to be indoctrinated into the newsroom culture.
Further, it is sad that, the newsroom culture is fast fading away. Why? It is because in the past, when you went close to the newsroom, it used to be noisy, because you heard reporters discussing, debating and engaging themselves. Today it is unfortunate and disgracing that the names of villages in Kano are being mispronounced by a Kano journalist. How will such journalist pronounce the name of a village in Ogun or Imo state?
What do you think is responsible for this?
The lack of proper supervision forms part of the problems. I recall when the former civilian governor of Kano state, late Abubakar Rimi, resigned I was dispatched to the Kano State Government House to cover the incidence. On arriving at the Kano Government House, I moved to a choice corner and stood there watching. From nowhere my supervisor appeared and said to me, “so you are shy?” He now directed me to move right up to the front. That was how the system operated then, until this began to fade out.
You were among the generation of journalists that brought flamboyancy into broadcast journalism in the old Kano state, Kaduna and their environs?
We were very young and were bubbling with energy.
In 1982, the Kano State Government established its own television station. The state government in a bid to make NTA redundant recruited 53 of its employees from NTA and those recruited were sent to the United States of America for further training. This singular factor attracted those of us that were still on the payroll of NTA Kano. I was not part of the first set that left NTA for CTV.
So in, October 1983, I also joined the Kano State Government-owned television known as CTV, because I foresaw the good prospect ahead. I worked with CTV Kano for 18 years and I opted to retire prematurely, I had risen to the position of principal reporter. Already I was banal with the same routine daily. After 18 years, the job was no longer exciting. I wanted to explore new areas. After retiring, I started working as a stringer for Deutsche welle, for both English and Hausa services.
Interestingly, I submitted my resignation and it took two years before my employer agreed to let go.
Despite resigning from CTV, your name still featured within government media circle. Why?
I later became an assistant director of press to the state government in 2001. I also served as Special Adviser on media to the state governor in 2003. I was floating when Freedom Radio came calling and today I am the managing director of Radio Kano, which to be modest, is one of the oldest radio broadcast stations in Nigeria.
From your assessment, what is the future of the press, particularly in the North?
I see the future of the Northern press in the hand of non Northerners. This is because the Northerners, don’t like to invest in the media. Today the North can only boast of Leadership and Daily Trust. These are the only two newspapers that are thriving. In southern Nigeria, the wealthy people from that part are interested in media business. For us in the North, it is a different ball game. Since Northerners are not interested in media business, people from outside are coming and are investing heavily in the sector, which is good, because they are providing jobs for our unemployed mass communication graduates. The media in Arewa has a good future, because we have the population. Our business moguls in the North should not only think of businesses that will fetch them wealth; they should also think of how to help develop the region. If they invest into the media sector as part of their social responsibility, the media will fight the culture of begging, the media will help fight illiteracy, it will also help fight laziness. It is only the media that can help to fight all forms of societal ills.
Who is your mentor?
It is Ahmed Aminu a veteran of Radio Kaduna. His voice was the first African voice on BBC English service, also Mohammed Ibrahim, who is the only Nigerian to have served as Director General of both Radio Nigeria and NTA at the same time. These are my mentors. They tutored me on how to triumph in my sojourn as a journalist.
You just did not spring up from the blues to become a renowned broadcaster; there must have been hurdles that had to be crossed. What are these?
The struggle to cope is a big challenge. Nigeria is a land of favours. You need to sometimes know somebody. But since I knew nobody, I always struggled to cope. Sometimes, you work so hard and someone else is given the credit. Some feel you are arrogant simply because you are not the type that will prostrate before them. These are the challenges especially during the military regime when someone who knew nothing about journalism would put across a phone call requesting for the sack of a reporter over flimsy issues.
So far any regrets?
I have no regrets being a journalist. If I would be chanced to come to this world again, I would still choose to be a journalist. Despite all the challenges associated with the profession, I cherish the profession. It is one profession that challenges your intellect. You are always on your toes, you need a strong mental culture to be a journalist.
How do you make use of your free time?
I do not have the time to relax, I resume work early in the morning and retire home around 8pm. Whenever I am free, I choose to play badminton or read books. These activities make me feel happy and relaxed. I also socialize. When I am free I visit rendezvous to chat with my friends on trending issues.
Which of the colours is your favourite?
I like blue colour. My love with blue colour started during my boarding school days. I was domiciled in a Blue House. We associate blue with love, relationship peace and name it. Today the bulk of my attires are in blue colour.
Which is your favourite meal?
I like tuwo very much, but my best is fried rice. I hate what we call draw soup. I enjoy edikaikong recipe a great deal.
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