“It was epochal, very significant professionally, because it marked a transition from print journalism to full-time broadcast journalism and international broadcast journalism. I recall that I had just finished from Harvard University where I had a one-year academic programme under the Neiman Journalism Fellowship, reputed to be the best journalism program in the world, and right after my Harvard study I was given the job. I got it on the strength of my experience as a journalist and a writer, on the strength of my understanding of Nigerian politics, and of course my academic qualification.
“But then different expectations came with it, because this was a language radio service embedded within an American broadcasting bureau. So, virtually all the materials that came in English, we had to translate to Hausa. We also had a couple of stringers across the country who sent in reports. The period came with its challenges. We had a stiff competitor in the BBC Hausa Service, and I had the challenge of trying to make sure that we were able to meet them shoulder-to-shoulder in the quality of news and reports. In the daily audience, by the time I got to the fourth year, we were at least able to go neck-and-neck in terms of our listening audience. We broadened our programmes, so we were able to compete also in terms of the depth of programming we had, and brought in some talented people from Nigeria.
“Also, I was embedded within the American life and political system with all its dynamic and developed political structure. My being in VOA went beyond being the chief of the Hausa service; it was a full American experience, a new kind of education that was total. So, I was a journalist, an administrator, a supervisor, and a leader. I think the work at VOA brought everything together for me as a career journalist.”
He explained how, as a boy from Ogbomosho, he speaks, reads and writes Hausa to a professional level.
“My parents, until they moved back to Ogbomosho, lived in the north for 59 years. When they came to the north, the first place they settled in was in Gombe, Bauchi province, and then shortly moved to Jos. I was born in Jos and lived about 30 straight years there and had all my schooling in Jos, Baptist Primary School, Baptist High School. When we came to my A-level studies, I went to Ile-Ife, and then came back to ABU Zaria, in the north. I later went to University of Jos for my Master’s in Law. When you are born and live in the north, you live the northern life. My friends were northerners. We spoke English and Hausa at home, and rarely spoke Yoruba. Most of my friends were Hausa. In school, Hausa was also taught. On my own, I deliberately read a lot of Hausa books. I spent time with my Hausa friends, watching Hausa movies. So, it came naturally. At least sixty-five percent of people around me spoke the language. Over time, I found out I had an affinity for the language. And here we are today.