Malam Magaji Galadima
Malam Magaji Galadima
by Abdulaziz Abdulaziz
Malam Magaji Galadima was among some Kano state indigenes sent to undergo training in broadcasting in the United States, in the early 80s. They came back to midwife the state-owned City Television (CTV) now Abubakar Rimi Television (ARTV). Galadima, who later studied at the University of Maiduguri and Bayero University, Kano, also worked with Rima Radio, Sokoto and NTA Jos before he joined the rested Kano-based newspaper, The Pen as a sub-editor. He later became the editor of the paper before leaving the media for the oil industry. Best known for his robust contribution on the Internet and online forums, Galadima, who holds the traditional title of Galadiman Maitsidau in Kano Emirate, told ABDULAZIZ ABDULAZIZ how they started the once popular news website; gamji.com and the challenges encountered.
How did you find yourself at the CTV and what would you say were the visions for its establishment?
It was during the PRP administration of Muhammadu Abubakar Rimi. At that time, we were student union leaders; very militant and we identified with the radical administration during the time of late Dr Bala Mohammed, who was later assassinated. We were picked from our schools and sent for training in the United States. When we came back, we established CTV. I can remember a lot of friends that we started with, like Bashir Yusuf Ibrahim, Baba Halilu Dantiye, Faika Rahi, Umar Dutse the late GM of Freedom Radio, the late Tijjani Ibrahim, who was a prominent film producer in Kano, and a host of others.
The vision then was to have something new. That’s why about 30 of us were spread across various states in the US. We attended first class media institutions like Columbia College Hollywood, New York Institute of Technology etc. We gained a lot of experiences. Living in American society in the early 80s was entirely different ball game from what you have there now. So we brought that experience to a typical conservative Kano society. CTV was the first station in the North then to come out with a new concept of broadcasting based on the new trend of popular culture, later on Plateau established its own and Borno and others followed.
After years in broadcasting, you suddenly switched to the print. Why did you take that decision?
By nature, I am very adventurous. I have been very adventurous since my early childhood and I always want to explore new grounds.
When we came back from the United States and started working in CTV, remember then that we only had secondary school education so, I sat down and looked at the future. I didn’t want to be working as a junior staff forever and among our clique, Bashir Yusuf, Abdussamad Jahun and others, decided to go back to school, to empower ourselves more. That was why we took the decision to leave the work and return to school. When I went to school, I met a lot of people who were in the print media, and I grew more interest in the print than the broadcast. At that time there were a lot of political upheavals in Kano and we working with the CTV then, had been identified as loyal to the Santsi bloc of the PRP. But in my case, I don’t like politics. I am also shy and extremely reserved person, I just want to be in the background that was why even when I joined the newspaper I worked as a sub-editor and translator. I refused to be in the frontline of reporting or things like that.
You are one of the pioneers of online media in Nigeria with gamji.com. How did that come about?
The story of Gamji is what I would call a hobby gone wild. You know, with the coming of internet, connectivity was virtually non-existent in Nigeria that was around 1996. You can count the number of Nigerians that had internet access at that time. I can claim that I am among the first 100 Nigerians to be connected to the internet inside Nigeria and I can prove that. Nigerians in Diaspora were the ones that mostly write articles over the very few online mediums or participate in chat rooms. What we discovered was that the very few of us, Northerners, whatever we write, they won’t publish. At that time there was only one Nigerian website called nigeriaworld.com owned by Chuks Odili, an Igbo man living in the United States. If they attack us; our leaders or our religion and we responded, they would not publish. Even in open chat rooms, when we post a response, they would delete it. So, when Dr.Ismaila Iro a Nigerian living in Lanham, Maryland created gamji.com, we got together, he agreed and I became the Nigerian editor and representative. At that time I was the only person here, within the known media circle that was online. At that time there was no single Nigerian newspaper that was online. So what I used to do was, every night I will go round the newsrooms with a floppy disk to collect raw copies of their print. I was living in Kaduna then so I would go to New Nigeria, Democrat, Weekly Trust, Hotline, and a few other papers and as well transcribe local news bulletin from Radio Nigeria Kaduna, and then post on gamji.com. We discovered that a lot of people were benefitting from that especially Northerners living in the Diaspora. We got a lot of responses commending us and that encouraged us to move on. It cost us a lot of money to run gamji.com. At that time, you could only connect to the internet through landline phone. I remember I used to pay N70, 000 per month as phone bill which was quite expensive. We encouraged many Northerners to write for gamji.com . We had the likes of Mohammed Haruna, late Abubakar Jika, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, and late Wada Nas as Gamji writers with permanent columns. I remember, we had a lot of challenges. Whatever we wrote, other writers from across the river would challenge and condemn us by sending insulting emails. Some said that we were being sponsored by Abacha. Later, Abacha died and Gamji continued so they said it wasn’t Abacha, it was Babangida, but in reality nobody ever assisted us financially. Dr. Iro and myself endured all the burden.
But at the same time, we were recognised by world class institutions. The BBC recognised Gamji and put a link on their website. A lot of foreign missions and embassies did send us emails making enquiries and clarifying events in Nigeria. That also gave us the encouragement to carry on.
It appears that gamji.com is no longer active. Why?
Yes gamji.com is no longer popular as it used to be because everybody now is on Facebook , Twitter and Blackberry, you can’t beat that in terms of spread and speed in breaking news. Everybody is now a citizen reporter, and also that all the newspapers are online now.
Would you say you have accomplished the mission for which the website was put up in the first place?
I believe so. I strongly believe so.
To what extent would you say the coming of the internet helps information dissemination especially looking at the motive behind setting up gamji.com and what obtains presently?
It’s two sided. There are merits and demerits. Let me start with the advantages; information, as they say, is a weapon and everybody now has that weapon at his or her fingertips. You can do a lot of things online from business to leisure. You can get a degree online, and a host of other things. It has simplified our daily life. The coming together of a lot of people in online discussion forums has tremendously helped to develop most of our institutions, and even personalities. Sometime, I would not go out throughout the weekend but I would be in contact with people from all over the world. Sometime I get fascinated. I really don’t have to go out; I have everything that I need at home. I am connected to the world and with that the sky is my limit; I can do whatever I wish to. I can transact business, I can read novels, watch films, play live online games, consult a doctor and download music. It has changed the way we live from every angle. Even from religious angle, before, if anybody has a fatwa, the person has to travel a certain distance to get the opinion of the most learned Malam there. But now, you can get answers to your fatwa online with various interpretations. You can compare and pick the one you believe is the best. You can also get various commentaries of the Qur’an and all compilations of Hadiths; in that angle I think the coming of the net has tremendously changed our lives and the way we do things.
But then as I said, there are demerits. I am a traditionalist and I feel very, very unhappy if I see what our youths are doing on the internet. Again, if you see the amount of acrimony between the people of the North and those from the South, especially the youths, it is disheartening. Whatever you post, across the divide, there will be opposing views and abuses. It looks like there are people who are purposely being paid to fan the embers of disunity. So, if you look at it from that angle and the way it is contributing to moral decadence among our youths, you can say that it has played a significant role in corrupting the thinking of our youths; all this rampant drug abuses and a lot of societal vices as the result of coming of the internet. In the past, it was the cinema. Everybody knows that cinema is make-believe, nobody dares adopt or practice what is seen on the screen but the internet is completely different because you can relate with what is happening to your immediate environment.
There is the new trend of internet radio and television. Are you thinking of delving into this, in line with what you did with gamji.com?
For long! Even before the ‘relapse’ (laughter) of gamji.com we were thinking along that line. But the major problem is the connectivity. If you are living in Nigeria, you will see that there is no internet service provider with enough speed that can accommodate such bandwidth to have a platform for radio or TV. It is very frustrating. We had wanted to do that but at that time both myself and Dr Iro were all here in Nigeria but the platform was simply not there. Every day they introduce new software. Right now some radio stations like Freedom Radio in Kano and a host of others are on the internet but it is still slow. It is not up to the normal standard but they keep on improving.
Are you thinking of venturing into the mainstream media?
Well, of recent all my media activities I am doing it for leisure as I am fully engaged. I am into Management and administration now. I am working with the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) and I have reached the Directorate cadre in the Federal Civil Service, but I still have the media in me. I still have interest in the media but maybe later when I retire I may consider plotting a publication or radio or television station.
What was your inspiration and driving force as a journalist?
I believed it is just the passion and the adventure. I like to travel, I like to meet new people or witness new events every day, that was what pushed me into journalism certainly not because of the pay. The pay is nothing to write home about, but there was the adventure.
Were there people that you looked up to or see as role models in the industry?
At that time there were a lot of media personalities, especially after my secondary school during my stay at the School of Preliminary Studies (CAS), Kano. We were then in the fringe of politics. We were involved in the local school politics as student union leaders. We did cartoons and school underground publications. And you know Kano was so vibrant with a lot of political activities. The squabbles among Sabo Bakin Zuwo, Malam Aminu Kano, Abubakar Rimi, Lawan Dambazau, and all those characters helped a lot.
In the broadcast media, I personally like drama. I enjoy drama quite a lot. And I grew up around the Kano Palace surrounded by Hausa classical literatures. During my primary school, I was the one who read stories whenever we had free hour in class. Instead of everybody to be making noise, my classmates would ask me to read a story out for them. At that time we had many English and Hausa readers; to the extent that I crammed them all. It reached a point that whenever they wanted me to read a story I would only ask them the one they want and I would go ahead to render it from memory; I crammed all those small readers like “Iliya Dan Maikarfi” “Gandoki” “Ruwan Bagaja” “Passport of Malam Iliya” , I think that is where I got my background. Later on, when we actually began to practice, there were people like Hajiya Bilkisu Yusuf, Dan Agbese, Hassan Sani Kontagora, Mohammed Haruna and Adamu Adamu who were senior colleagues. I looked up to them and imitate their styles.
For this, I was a very colourful writer in those days, also punchy and cheeky, but later on, a lot of things happened to me in life that sometime I even feel ashamed at what I wrote in those formative years. I remember very well, during the crisis that followed the turbanning of Sultan Dasuki as Sultan of Sokoto, I wrote a very scathing article condemning the kingmakers of Sokoto (laughter). About two years ago, while going through my papers, I saw the article and picked it up to read. I buried myself in shame and regret, cannot do that now, I can say because I am more responsible (laughter).
As a traditional titleholder and media practitioner, what role do you think media should play at this critical time, especially with the challenge of insecurity?
The media can encourage and fight on the side of the traditional rulers to regain their past glory. If you talk of security, we know and everybody knows this problem started from the time the traditional rulers were stripped of their authority. Everybody can now come to any kingdom from wherever and settle down, and the traditional ruler does not have right to question that person. Things started going wrong from the time you stripped traditional rulers of that authority. Everything was going quite alright. They were in total control. If a stranger comes to a particular town or village, it was mandatory for whoever was going to host that stranger to inform the village head, the ward head or the district head. If somebody comes and say “I am a blacksmith from where I come from,” the traditional ruler of that village will ask the chief blacksmith of the village to host that person and in the morning he would be able to tell if really that stranger was a blacksmith or not. Therefore, you had that system of checking strangers.
You would remember very well, Maitatsine was expelled from Kano by the emir when he had the authority but later on he returned to Kano at a time the emir had no such powers, and he did what he did. It’s the same thing with this Boko Haram of a thing.
In between ourselves, we do collaborate. We don’t have authority but we still do our best. In my chiefdom, which is in Makoda local government area of Kano, if somebody steals a cow in the night in MaiAdua, which is a border town between Nigeria and Niger, before daybreak we would know the exact area he is in. All the village heads, from that Niger axis up to Kazaure in Jigawa state down to Kano, we do collaborate among ourselves. We have telephone numbers of all the village heads in that stretch.
Now the politicians are in control, and you are giving them a lot of resources to do this job, but they have failed. Not only did they fail but failed woefully, scandalously. Why don’t you go back to the basics? The media can play a role by mounting a campaign, by pressuring the government in power. The traditional rulers are not begging, and they are not going to beg to be given roles in the constitution because as they say in Hausa, you don’t have to tell a deaf of fire outbreak; he will see it himself. It saddens me that in this time the emir of Kano can be attacked in Kano. This signifies end of time and everybody is watching, helplessly.
We have tried all this, and it is not working, why don’t we go back to the basics? During the time of Mallam Aminu Kano, he mounted a strong campaign that the traditional rulers were oppressing the masses. We now have a change of situation; we now have a new class of oppressors worse than the Emirs. Someone where his grandfather comes from is not known, will stand and win election and that’s the end. You will never see him again. If it is in a Federal Constituency he will buy a house in Abuja and go back to his village to bring his family down. In the worst circumstances, if it happens that he has to go back to his constituency, he goes in the night. He would lodge in a hotel; he cannot go to his house. Traditional rulers cannot do that. We don’t run away from people, no matter what. If in those years you say traditional rulers were corrupt and were oppressing the masses, just consider this simple analogy; the emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi, may his soul rest in peace, had never seen N1 million. He was the highest paid public servant then, but up to the time of his death he had never seen or held N1 million, but that is a weekend pocket money for a councilor in the local government now, so what are we talking about? Who is deceiving who? It’s high time we do away with all that sentiments and return to the basics, if we need solution to all these problems.
Finally tell us a brief story of your life
In brief it is the story of the frog that dreamt of being a king and then became one! (general laughter)
At Press time, Galadima had been appointed as the pioneer Director General of Kano Geographic Information Systems (KANGIS) by Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso.
* Culled from Blueprint Newspapers, Nigeria