By BULUS GAMBO
A few days back, my boss in the office, the Sunday Standard Editor, Katdapba Gobum so concerned that I had become rusty challenged me to pick up the pieces in me and go back to my writing ways. He was so disturbed that my inability to articulate my thoughts as I used to be may led to my getting into a state of intellectual comatose.
Katdapba’s chastisement came just a couple of days after another boss of mine and Director of News and Current Affairs with Plateau Radio Television Corporation, Yakubu Taddy called me into his office to inquire as why I had abandoned my writing ways and intellectual contribution to knowledge for some time now. I had on several occasions dodged assignments given me by our Features Editor, Paul Jatau as a result of the frustrations and other little “demons” in me, Even after I assured them that I will bounce back in a big way; something kept holding me back.
Sincerely speaking, I had lost my appetite a couple of months back due to the obvious fact that our once cherished platform, The Nigeria Standard newspaper is not what it used to be. Even though some of us have continued to contribute the little we can; it is equally sure that our steam is running out.
I quite recall with great nostalgia the year some of us joined the Plateau Publishing Corporation in December 1992, all was very interesting in the office. At that time, though we were told that we came when the paper had lost its glory, at least the newspaper House was still vibrating with intellectual leftovers and the innovative disposition of some of the workers which some of us were privileged to meet on ground.
At that time, The Nigeria Standard was producing two editions daily. For a greenhorn in the industry, what this means is that; we had two different papers published on daily basis. (The second edition which was produced earlier was to circulate within Jos metropolis while the first was intended to circulate in other states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja). For the first edition, the back pages of the newspaper reflected captivating national news stories while the second edition reflects domestic events within the state.
I still remember that due to the usual captivating investigative stories adopted as house style, the newspaper consistently gave other newspapers in the country a run for their money.
The scope of its circulation was what qualified it then as a national paper alongside others in the contemporary print media industry in the country. Let yours sincerely forget, aside The Nigeria Standard, Sunday Standard and The Nigeria Standard on Saturday, the organization also had a vernacular edition. Yancin Dan Adam which was established to educate and enlighten the teeming Hausa speaking population across the country. Indeed, within a short period of time, the vernacular newspaper also found its footings in the print media industry in the country considering its readership and followership strength.
Another milestone was achieved with the resuscitation of “The Rock magazine’ which was intended I believe to fill the gap as a soft intriguing magazine profiling individuals and leaders of our country who in one way or the other done this nation proud. My working for The Rock magazine under the stable of the Plateau Publishing Corporation was in vividly definitive terms exciting and wow, something else. While cleaning up my mini library days back, I perused some of the copies of the magazine and still wondered what had gone wrong that it has nose-dived into oblivion.
During our epic moments when I joined the tabloid, we had state correspondents in Kano, Kaduna, Lagos-Ibadan axis, Benue, Taraba, Adamawa, Sokoto and Bauchi. Other states I can recall despite my fading sweet memories included Gombe, Lokoja, Minna and Nasarawa States. We had several free-lancers at a point too.
Certainly, The Nigeria Standard was also fully on ground in the State House popularly known as ‘Aso Rock’ and the National Assembly. I still remember the struggle the then management of the organization went through to get our State House and National Assembly correspondents registered to cover such sensitive places. Though the newspaper was and is still owned by the Plateau State government, the support it continuously received undoubtedly launched it into the pedestal of national comity of readership in the country.
Though the newspaper was published in thousand copies at that time, it was insufficient in the market. Interestingly, at a point, The Nigeria Standard’s marketability led vendors to ask for permission from the management to request buyers to always buy a copy of any other newspaper alongside the paper which I heard was granted.
The profile of cream-de-la-cream of individuals who worked at our office and left a massive imprint is certainly an entire topic of discussion for another day. However, I can still remember a few I met on ground either as senior staff writers or at managerial levels when I found myself in the organization was also told of other incredible intellectuals who passed through this edifice to stardom. I still remember my mentor in whom I am always well pleased, Nde Jonathan Ishaku who was a former General Manager, Helen Gomwalk, Solomon Ewuga, former minister of State, Labaran Maku, one time Minister for Information, Emmanuel Elayo, Ezekiel Yusuf, M. Hirse, George Hoomkwap, Amos Ayenajeh, S.D. Makama, one time chairman of NPC, Rufai Ibrahim, Ismaila Mohammed, Sylvanus Namang Former Zonal Manager of FRCN, Sir Joseph Ari who is the incumbent Director General of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Allahnannan Attah who recently retired as a Permanent Secretary in Nasarawa State, Gideon Mitu who I heard is in the Federal Ministry of Defense in Abuja, Mathew Kuju and Boniface Kassam who were at Nigeria Standard on Saturday and Cyril Ogak, James Damulak one of the best news editors ever produced, Hosea Yunana alias O.C.D, Yusuf Kopkama, Sunday Andong, Selven Wazhi, the present Permanent Secretary in Government House, Emma Gogwim, Harris Dawurang, Chris Gyang who was the former PA to Governor Jonah Jang, Nehemiah Gagara who is the Executive Secretary of the Plateau State House of Assembly Commission, Sunday Zalengs our Editor Daily and Hon Dan Manjang the present Plateau State Commissioner for Informaton and Communications. The incumbent Commissioner of Information in Nasarawa State, Dogo Shammah was our correspondent in southern Plateau, Alfred Akwe, Patricia Akawu, Veronica Ogbole, Wilson Yale, Idris Danazumi and Aloko Flashman. Some of them who are still with me and more dedicated to see a turnaround for the better in the organization include our Managing Editor, Sam Dung Dagyang, Gobum Katdapba, Fransica Adidi, Jennifer Yarima and Paul Jatau amongst others.
The Nigeria Standard is also proud to have produced other prolific writers in the likes of David Attah who was the former Press Secretary to the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, Dan Abgese who rose up to be one of the nationally acclaimed writers in the country and our dear Clem Oluwole.
Unfortunately, all these sweet stories and good times are gone with the wind. This time, The Nigeria Standard has metamorphosed and retarded into a lamentation ground. The story of the dwindling fortunes of the newspaper is best imagined than told.
As it is today; nearly everything is at a standstill in the organization but for the resilient disposition of the staff in anticipation of an urgent intervention before it becomes far too late. Beyond the mare fact that the newspaper struggles to produce twice a week, there is absolutely no enabling environment to encouraging an appreciable productivity in the organization.
If anyone however asks yours sincerely whether the citizens of the state still need the services of the Nigeria Standard newspapers today, I can without any fear of intimidation say, more than ever before. This is firstly because of the obvious fact that the media organization is one of J.D Gomwallk’s legacies which no administration should dare toy with. Before establishing this all important media organization, Gomwalk had this prophecy pertaining to the kind and nature of challenges his people would face years to come after his transition.
But again, the relevancy of this media organization can best be linked with how well Plateau as the leader of the middle belt’s ideological struggle has achieved in the aftermath of the era of the Paul Logams. It is quite obvious that the state has been left in the back seat in most recent times in this regard. A couple of years back, I found myself covering commissions of inquiry sittings in the city of Jos. During some of these sittings, I saw how many individuals who testified at the panel attached write-ups from The Nigeria Standard as annexure to their submissions.
These were incredible documents and write-ups reflecting the undisputed and true historical perspective of the state and its journey so far. The information provided were a reference point, thanks to the efforts of the foundering fathers of this once cherished newspaper. It is quite obvious that when it comes to the present sad development at the Plateau Publishing Corporation, Gomwalk is not a happy man in his grave right now.
It is quite obvious that the organization has lost its bearing and is heading for only God knows where. And this is all as a result of lack of adequate funding and to a point successive administrative ingenuity which has left the staff at the mercy of our society. After the Governor David Jonah Jang led administration bought the multi million naira printing press for the organization, some of us concluded that half the problems of the organization has been solved. However, it looks as if it is far from becoming over.
Today, the Governor Simon Bako Lalong led administration has also accepted another proposal aimed at injecting millions of naira into the fabric of the organization for better productivity. This gesture is a welcomed one as it intends to restore the lost glory of the once cherished government owned media organization in the country. Now that the sign for the eventual rescue of The Nigeria Standard is becoming more brighter as the day rolls by, concerted efforts must be made towards dealing with the problems bedeviling this media organization once and for all in the collective interest of the state.
The sad story this time Governor Simon Bako Lalong is that The Nigeria Standard is close to midnight.