I was pruning my digital archives and found this picture of where my life as an employee started.
It was 1988. Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife students had an unforgettable altercation with the federal government. As a result, the university was shut down for 3 months. By the time we were allowed to resume studies, our originally scheduled final examination dates had passed and we were no longer able to join the September batch of National Youth Corp Service (NYSC) for the year 1988/89.
Consequently, we proceeded as ‘spill-over’ corps to orientation in December 1988. I was posted to Plateau State with Simeon Babasola, Abdulsabur Bello, Kunle Alabi, Nnamdi Ojei, and a host of others. By the time we completed orientation, it became apparent that there was a dearth of places for corps members to observe the compulsory one year national service. Most of us needed to search for prospective employers that would officially allow us work for them exclusive of their obligation to provide accommodation and other conveniences.
As Kunle, Nnamdi and I began to rationalise what to do that would align with our educational backgrounds, Nnamdi remembered that in 1985, the Department of International Relations at the University of Ife had a youth corps member that he was reliably informed works for Standard Newspaper Jos. In a jiffy, we were off in search of him.
We got to Standard Newspapers and luckily found the man we were looking for. He made us understand that the organisation had no vacancies for extra youth corps members because accommodation and extra allowance provisions had already been soaked up by the September batch. We told him we would find our own accommodation, take care of ourselves from the NYSC allowances of N250 per month. All we begged for was ‘a place to lay our national service heads’ for the one year duration. With this plea, further discussion was held with the management and we found ourselves absorbed to observe the national youth service at Standard Newspapers.
I enjoyed my stay in Jos surrounded by other wonderful youth corps members. Jos was peaceful. As strangers in the land, we had no concern for safety at that time, wandering around from one friend’s place to the other at 1am.
Within a short period of time, not only did management felt we deserved to be given accommodation and paid some stipend, I was tasked with setting up and manning a regular weekly column for Foreign Affairs. Kunle Alabi in his own right ended with a weekly Arts column through which we met many lovely folks including the cast of the famous soap ‘Cock Crow At Dawn’. The day late MacArthur Fom (Nosa in the soap) came visiting the two of us in the office is etched in my memory forever. Staff members could not contain their bewilderment at two young southern chaps who not only shake hands with the bosses that they were unable to look in the eyes, but got a celebrity of Nosa’s status to come down just to say hello.
Significantly, I do not know what my bosses saw in me. Assignments that usually would be given to trained and tested hands in journalism started being handed to me. I hope to write about some of those experiences another day.
I cannot forget Senator Solomon Ewuga (former Deputy Governor of Nasarawa State and former Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory) who was the General Manager of PPC. He took me like a younger brother with a standing instruction to his secretary that I must be allowed to see him whenever I stepped into his office.
I am grateful to Senator Joshua Dariye (former Governor of Plateau State) who was then the Chief Accountant of PPC without whose financial authorisation I would not have been able to carry out the assignments entrusted to me. He had confidence in my ability to deliver quality projects every time apart from accountability on how funds allocated were spent.
I am eternally grateful to Rima Shawulu Kwewum (member of the House of Representative) for what he did for us in getting us a place at Standard Newspapers / Plateau Publishing Company (PPC) Jos to observe the NYSC assignment in 1988. He was the one that further took me under his wings in the features department where he was Editor, and gave me the foreign affairs column assignment.
When those close to me marvel at how I approach tasks and assignments for which I have little training or not enough time to prepare for, yet making good success of them, I owe the foundation of that daredevil confidence to my Standard Newspaper years and the three people acknowledged above.