Abubakar Jijiwa & Tunji Bello @ 51: Toast to My Mentors


06 June 2012

By Abdul-Warees Solanke

Mentors come as rainbow, in different colours, all appealing. Their roles in our lives remain the same. They give us direction. They bring out the best in us. They lead us out of the maze of life. They give meanings to our dream. They give us stability in our quest to reach our full potentials, the potentials we may never know lie in us were it not for their discernment. They provide the walking sticks and the braces we need when our knees buckle or weaken from the pressure of life. They give us the binoculars to scan the horizon for threats and opportunities. We are falcons in their hands and they as the falconers are never without their whistles warning us of dangers in our flights above the sky to reach the highest firmament imaginable.

There are mentors we pick from the books. They are our dry mentors. Their lives and successes, their words in gold on marble lead us to perfection as we read them like bible and memorize them like the Glorious Quran. There are those we pick by ourselves in real life. They are the ones whose edifying conduct in private and public life cannot be missed as they stand out in the crowd of their chosen career. In them we see our dreams, who we want to be and we model ourselves according to their words and character, we want to live our dreams according to what they teach us. There are mentors who pick on us or who tap us for their mentoring. They see our potentials before we realize it and so they ensure we discover our worth before other forces erode us. They believe in us, invest in us and lament if we are not reaching the height they envisage of us. But they never give up on us even if we don't appreciate their love for us.

There are mentors picked for us. They are the godfathers and the godmothers our parents carefully chose for us at our cradles so that in the absence or limitations of our real parents, they take charge of our life. And there are mentors the society has pre-picked for us. They are the teachers and the guides the state or our parents pay tuition and salaries so they continue the socialization process of the young ones until they come of age either as students or as apprentices.

Now at twenty two and reaching adulthood in the mass media, I can reminisce and count all my mentors, my masters in the mass media, from Akoka where I was conceived to Sokoto where I was baptized and to Yola where I began crawling. I can look to Ibadan where I gained mastery and back to Lagos where I am consolidating on the teachings and mentoring of my masters in the private newspapers that had been my school, in the private commercial broadcasting house that was my city of refuge and in the public service broadcaster that is now my pride as a home, the Voice of Nigeria. The Authoritative Choice.

The list of my masters, my colleagues and juniors who gave me inspiration and fired my imagination to think and write is so long that I don't know who to salute first or who to give ultimate credit for who I am. But I can only say Alhamdulillah that Allah haz wa jal brought them on my path. Between my fatherly brother in law Alhaji Salahudeen Ariyayo Azeez who retired as director of personnel at the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State, the very versatile and mobile Hadj Liad Tella who has been everything in journalism from a reporter to a publisher and into politics, Late Ladi Lawal who worked tirelessly for DAAR Communication till death and to the least of my juniors in the trade, the diminutive Idowu Bakare who came to National Concord in the 90s as an industrial attaché, but who I have lost contact with. I discover strength and pride in media practice.

Today in this force field however, I will pick on two of my masters for the simple fact that they are 51, a very unique age of arrival and assignment in public leadership, this year and are still available for me as mentors in their own march in public management and leadership. Between the duos is a difference of just some one hundred days. I present Mallam Abubakar Bobboyi Jijiwa, the incumbent director general of the Voice of Nigeria who turned 51 on March 15. I showcase Barrister Olatunji Bello, the present commissioner for the environment, Lagos State whose own 51st birthday is on 1st July.

Both were born in 1961, the first in rural Fufore in the far North Eastern State of Adamawa, the second in cosmopolitan Surulere, Lagos, South West Nigeria and the commercial nerve centre of the country, one thousand kilometres apart shaping the life of an Oke-Foko, Ibadan boy whose homestead is at the foot of the Olumo Rock, Ikija, Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital. While Jijiwa studied accountancy at the premier university in North East Nigeria, Maiduguri, Bello bagged a degree in Political science from the premier university in the whole of Nigeria, Ibadan. Both were student activists in their university days and sharp writers on their campuses, recommending them for easy employment immediately after graduation and youth service in two of the nation's most powerful newspapers, New Nigerian and National Concord.

Jijiwa joined New Nigerian as a special correspondent and member of the editorial board on finishing his NYSC in the tin city of Jos, writing himself to stupor and confrontation with the military junta. Bello was employed as a staff writer on the Features Desk of National concord producing biting analyses and reports that easily recommended him to the post of Group Political Editor of National Concord. Widely travelled in their media odyssey and in their public service career, both have been two time commissioners in strategic ministries of their respective state governments. Jijiwa served as Commissioner for budget, Finance and Economic Planning in Adamawa State twice pre fourth republic while Bello is in his second coming as the commissioner for Environment in Lagos State in this fourth republic.

In line of duty as a public sector manager, jijiwa has delivered so many firsts for Nigeria in the broadcasting firmament while Bello is scoring so many firsts in transforming Lagos to a Singapore, the beautiful city-state at the tip peninsular Malaysia, an Asian Tiger.

When shopping for a mentor, look out for these gentlemen. Their humility is astounding. Their charity is exemplary, their thirst for knowledge is unquenchable; their simplicity is legendary. Both are neat and highly organized with sharp eyes for colours and beauty, with passion for flower and love for nature. I've entered the inner recesses of their living quarters, prayed with them and played with their kids at infancy. They have written references for me, recommending me to high places locally and internationally. They have given me tasks others are jealous about, trusting in my capability. They have mobilized me in difficult times and consoled me in trying moments. They have put me in strategic career spots.

Sometimes, they drive me beyond my mental capacity, but somehow I do cope to deliver what they wanted exactly. Most times, they don't have a second opinion of what I produced for them; it just satisfies their intellectual palates, meeting the requirements of their pages as editor or as public speaker. They pushed me to think on my toes; they taught me to always think ahead of the pack. In those days, if Bello as the political editor assigns me from Lagos, political insightful jijiwa and General Manager of Gongola Broadcasting Corporation becomes my first source and contact. On the wings of both gentlemen, my orientation in public affairs journalism was shaped. Their insights gave me strength in public policy analysis and discourse. Bello tapped me into the editorial board of the defunct National Concord, placing me in the hands of Pastor Segun Babatope, who we all called the headmaster, while Jijiwa attracted me in to Voice of Nigeria professionally as a senior editor, but intentionally as his special assistant.

I can therefore confidently say that I flew to the rich South East Asian nation of Brunei Darussalam to bag master of Public Policy at the Faculty of Business, Economics and Policy Studies of the Universiti Brunei Darussalam through a fellowship offered by the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association, fulfilling a prophecy of the headmaster, Babatope, Chairman Editorial Board of the defunct Concord and a pastor of the pastor W F Kumuyi led Deeper Christian Life Church. Babatope in his magisterial style had called me aside sometimes in the late 1990s and told me prophetically: If I had my way, I would have just sent you abroad to go and do strategic studies. What is the difference between Public and Strategic Studies? Just semantics.

How best can the world celebrate these men of influence with me as they reaching this glorious milestone, beginning a journey into their sixties. My only recommendation to them is to begin the journey to attaining the pleasure of Allah in all they do now serving selflessly. They have done a lot not only for me, but for so many. They are just Allah sent to people like me from nowhere as they just led me ahead in life like an orphan into the glory land. Alhamdulillah these great men came my way since 1990 fresh from mass comm. Akoka, and just landed from NYSC in sokoto that I launched into my writing career as a journalist, starting with National concord, through Daar Communications to the defunct National Guide and the Monitor in Ibadan and now Voice of Nigeria where I am, in the words of the Corporation's mission statement, committed to reflecting Nigeria and African perspectives in our broadcasts, winning and sustaining attention, respect and goodwill of listeners worldwide, particularly Nigerians and Africans in the Diaspora, making Nigeria's voice to be heard more positively in the shaping of our world. Allahu Akbar!

Abdul-Warees is the Head of Training, Voice of Nigeria, Ikoyi, Lagos, (korewarith@yahoo.com korewarith@voiceofnigeria.org  , abdulwarees01@gmail.com ) 08090585723

 

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