Happy International Women’s Day! Cheers to Ibrahim Damisa.
As the world celebrates International Women's Day, I choose to extol the virtues of a Boss who gave me a firm foundation in the Broadcast industry.
Mr Ibrahim Damisa was the News and Current Affairs Manager at the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Channel 5 Abuja. I joined the organization as an artist shortly after completing the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
I was at the Radio House Abuja in the office of the Minister of Information, Dr Walter Ofonagoro, with one of my relatives, Jerry Alfa, of blessed memory. After a short conversation about a political issue involving women in leadership positions, he concluded that my career path was in the broadcast industry.
But the Media was not my forte; I wanted a job with high pay. However, Dr Ofonagoro insisted that I go to the NTA or the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) as an artist and decide to quit if I felt unfulfilled.
So, I opted for the FRCN, but he insisted I go to the NTA.
"You have On-Air presence and great communication skills. So go there; one of them will discover this quality and your ability to analyze ideas using logic to determine their strengths and weaknesses to conclude," said Dr Ofonagoro.
So, two days later, I took the letter of introduction to the General Manager, NTA Channel 5, Alhaji Dauda Abari, one of the famous Television producers at the time (God rest his soul). He looked at it and said, "it is not a letter of employment. We are taking you in as an artist. However, if you prove your mettle, we will keep you in the fold".
So, we moved to the Manager of News, Mr Ibrahim Damisa. "This one is a greenhorn; he said- Please groom her.
And so, my journey began! Mr Damisa was welcoming but firm about his work ethic. He introduced me to one of the news producers, Garba Abubakar (May his soul continue to rest in peace). Garba was a passionate news producer and reporter. His eyes were always on the goal, which I learned early from him. Next, I was attached to Ms Aisha Bello, a patient teacher and one of my mentors to date. She covered the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs. I also had to work with Mr Titus Kuyambana of blessed memory, the correspondent covering the Area Councils.
Mr Damisa insisted that I cover the grassroots with Kuyambana to develop my skills as a grassroots reporter. The first few months were tough as I wrote like a rookie but willing to learn. Manager News Damisa was the last gatekeeper in the relay race before the final production of the bulletin for 7 PM news.
The deal was to take your script to Damisa after the producer must have seen it.
I recall a particular episode - The producer had gone out for lunch, while I had a report that 'must go' on air at 7 PM, so I took my script to Mr Damisa; he read the first two paragraphs and screamed! "Did the producer see this script? I had not seen that other side of him before, so I froze. Are you deaf! Where is Garba? He reached for the telephone and called him- You mean you were about to let this script go on air? What kind of gatekeeper are you? Then he turned and asked that I take the script back to Garba.
I was discouraged as I walked back to Garba. The Manager probably noticed my countenance and sent for me the next day. He gave me the first lesson about researching details and structuring the information into news.
Joy, I know you studied English Drama, but news reporting is different. First, you need to learn the storytelling approach. I will work on your scripts from now on to teach you the fundamentals of journalism, such as assessing the credibility of sources and building a news story. To do that, you need endurance and strength of character. If I am not available, please, see the Assistant Manager News, Mr Aliyu Baba Barau.
That was the beginning of my journey into the broadcast industry. Mr Damisa was serious about the grooming process. He was firm but knew when to take it easy. He adopted the concept of soft and hard power to create actionable goals.
My passion for community news coverage with Titus Kuyambana took a more exciting approach, perhaps because of my background in theatre for community development from the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Kaduna State. The interest became intense. It was no more about searching for a bigger paying job.
Dr Walter Ofonagoro was right! Someone found me.
At this point, I was more interested in the joy on the faces of the voiceless in Kubwa, Bwari, Mpape, Gwagwa Karmo, Kurunduma, Kwali, Gwagwalada and One-man village on the way to Nasarawa State at the end of every report.
Each time we tell stories that made the locals hold their leaders accountable, the sense of fulfilment had no price tag. Mr Damisa supervised the scripts; he kept pushing to bring out the best in me, and I did not let him down.
The General Manager, Alhaji Abari, was impressed with the transformation. In addition, the Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory, Dr Ikejani Clark, sent a commendation letter to him after she watched one of my stories about the relocation of Wuse Market to a temporary site.
That was when Mr Damisa began the lobbying process for my appointment as Reporter II without my knowledge while I kept working with Titus and Aisha. Two months later, Damisa called me to his office and handed my appointment letter to me. He said go and thank the General Manager. So, I ran to Alhaji Abari's office to express my gratitude. A few months later, I left for the Nigerian Television College in Jos, Plateau State, for a certificate course in Journalistic presentation.
The Headquarters of NTA moved from Lagos to Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, and most of the staff at NTA Channel 5 Abuja moved to the Headquarters in Area 11 when I completed my course in Jos. As a result, some of my colleagues and I had the privilege of joining our bosses and senior colleagues who took over the grooming process from Mr Ibrahim Damisa and built on the foundation he laid.
Mr Damisa was appointed General Manager NTA Dutse, Jigawa state in 2000.
But just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, Boss Damisa monitored my progress from Dutse. After watching my special reports on the network news, he would regularly send text messages to commend my strength and advice on areas for improvement. He continued the monitoring process sparingly when he became the Deputy Director News in 2006 and Zonal General Manager, NTA Jos, in 2007.
I ran into a mutual friend in 2008; he asked if I was still in touch with Mr Ibrahim Damisa. Out of curiosity, I wondered why? His reply left me in awe! He said, "Ibrahim was instrumental to your employment. When Dauda Abari gave an appointment letter to one of your male colleagues, Damisa insisted that you get an offer letter to ensure balance and equity. He must be very proud of you now".
I was speechless! This information got to me fourteen years after I got the letter. Yet, Mr Damisa never mentioned it to me. The story left me in tears. Damia's interest is more about grooming reporters, not the accolades from the results.
Mr Damisa was transferred to the Headquarters in Abuja as the Director of News in 2010. However, he kept on monitoring my performance in Canada.
I got a call towards the end of 2011 from him. He noticed an error in my promotion letter, which left me behind my contemporaries. Naturally, he was not happy about it. However, he took up the issue after our conversation and rectified the anomaly.
Damisa has a penchant for grooming young broadcast Journalists with potential. So, he ensured that some colleagues also got appointment letters with the NTA shortly after the mandatory one-year NYSC. Today, some of them are Deputy Directors and Assistant Directors, and we all come from different parts of the country.
For Damisa, it is not about your gender, tribe, or religion. Instead, he is more interested in what you have to offer. I look back to my days as a rookie and how Mr Ibrahim Damisa influenced my career path and progression. Indeed, he is one mentor I cherish with a passion.
To all the men who support young girls and women to take the limit off their peak, I salute the DAMISA in you.
Happy International Women's Day.
Joy Osiagwu writes from Ottawa, Canada