By Malam Abu Shekara

LATEEF ADEBISI, a colleague at the Democrat Newspapers in Kaduna, (may Allah forgive him) breezed into my office one morning in 1992, holding up a newspaper, as though it were some trophy, “ga jaridar garin ku”, he announced in Hausa, meaning, “behold, your state’s newspaper!”

“A newspaper from Sokoto!?”, I mused, snatching the copy from Lateef. The masthead, simple but in bold green, read, THE PATH.

“They’re looking for a cartoonist”, I heard Lateef say, as I browsed through the simply but professionally planned pages. This tabloid might be new but it must be handled by experienced hands, I said to myself.

“I told them about you”, Lateef continued, “and they asked me to speak to you”. He’d left the Democrat and was now working as a graphic designer with the Citizen Magazine Kaduna, where the Path was being typeset.

“So, what do you say: will you do it?”

Of course, I would do it. What was Lateef talking about!? If there was a newspaper in Sokoto, I probably wouldn’t have gone to far away Kaduna. So, I began to do cartoons for the paper on part time under the pen name, ABUN NANA, a family nickname, by which many people still call me.

I formally joined the Path in May1993 as Art Editor and Chief Proofreader, which was actually a continuation of my previous schedule at the Democrat, where I was Chief Cartoonist and Chief Proof Reader. And my initial impression of the newspaper was proved right.

On assumption of duty, I met a corps of professionals in the Editorial Department, mostly drawn from the New Nigerian Newspaper: Ibrahim Na’ayi Salihu, the Editor, Shehu Ahmed, Chief Sub and a team of first timers, sourced from other arms of the civil who had great potential.

Abubakar Sokoto Mohammed mni, the General Manager coming from NIPSS, Kuru Jos, did so well to infuse the intellectual element to our editorial character. The production Department was headed by Mr Abdu Hunguna, Muhammadu Mai’injin and Idris Mustafa, both from the Triumph, Kano.

The very first face on NTV, later NTA Sokoto, Hussaina Attahiru Kamba had joined from Rima Radio to serve as the rallying point for not only the ladies but also many of the gentlemen on the house. So had another twin, Hassana Bukkuyum, who was an integral part of the Sub Desk.

There are no ladies they say, in the press. The women of SNC gave so much credibility to that adage by acquitting themselves as much as the men in all units. The store was secure under Rabi Ibrahim Gusau. So was the cash under the care of Maryam Mohammed. Habsatu Kakale was as solid as any other reporter, even moreso on many occasions.

The Path started on a solid foundation and grew through the years, in the pursuit of excellence. All departments from Editorial, Production, Engineering, Commercial, Admin and Finance were managed by a succession of competent and dedicated professionals, who brought their pedigree to bear on its sustenance and success.

This tradition made Sokoto Newspaper Company a true maker of achievers during their stay and long afterwards. The list is long and exhaustive. Former staff of the company have gained and are gaining success in all callings of life. And many of them actually started from SNC.

Among the most prominent is Abdullahi Waziri Tambuwal. He’d accomplished himself as a journalist in those early golden days in the NTA and later in the pioneer and popular Kaduna based magazine, Hotline. His tenure as Managing Director after serving in the House of Representatives combined his standing as a professional and participant in high politics and power to greatly impact on the SNC stable.

Former Minister of Youth, Barrister Inuwa Abdulkadir, may he rest in peace, was Company Secretary and Legal Adviser at SNC. He moved on to become Secretary to the Sultanate Council, with the traditional title of “Magatakrda Babba” . He was then, State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice and Vice Chairman, APC Northwest Zone.

Late Inuwa Abdulkadir was however, the second AG to have worked as SNC, the first being Abubakar Chika, who served the company as Secretary and Legal Adviser.

From the Concord Newspaper came Aliyu Adamu Tsafe, who was at a time, Editor of the Path, before he returned to Zamfara State to be appointed Chairman of Maradun Local Government, a Permanent Secretary and later, that state’s Commissioner of Information. Tsafe is now the proprietor of the private and reputable Gamji TV in Gusau.

Ibrahim Gidado, had most of his professional practice in Rima Radio, Sokoto before his appointment as Director Press to the State Governor. His last post in state service was at SNC, where he was Managing Director before being appointed State Commissioner of Information.

Abubakar Muhammad mni, the current Sokoto State Head of Service, started from scratch at the Path, as a reporter, from where he rose to become Director Press to the Deputy Governor, Media Assistant to the State Governor and then, Permanent Secretary.

Ibrahim Birnin Magaji began his practice at the Path. He transferred to Rima Radio and then moved to his home State, Zamfara on its creation to later become that state’s Commissioner for Information. Birnin Magaji ran for a House of Representatives seat and won at the polls but the election was upturned by a court.

In all, the Path Newspaper has produced six permanent secretaries, (one of whom I was) a Director General and many Directors in the civil service between Sokoto and Zamfara States.

I rose to be the Editor of the Path Newspaper. After a succeeding long term as GM of both State Radio and TV, I returned “home” to head SNC as General Manager, handing over to pioneer Features Editor, Mohammed Umar and leaving for NTA. Shehu Ahmed, pioneer Chief Sub, who was Editor of the Path, now bears the torch as Acting GM of the company.

Former staff of the Path are today acquitting themselves in media practice all over the country. Abdullahi Ibrahim Wagana, our News Editor is the current GM of Vision FM in Kebbi State, after serving with Voice of Nigeria. Ameenu Mohammed, pioneer Sports Editor was with Crystal Magazine as Assistant Editor, News and Daily Trust as State Editor for Sokoto. He’s now a popular social commentator and analyst.

John Alechenu did his NYSC at the Path as a reporter. He’s now a Senior Editor with the Punch. Asma’u Habibu Shagari served too at the Path before she joined RTV Sokoto and later NTA Sokoto to be part of its Network presenters.

The tradition of professionalism and commitment to the success of the company is what has kept SNC going for 29 years. By virtue of that, the Path is one of the longest surviving newspapers in Nigeria and the only state government tabloid in the Northwest that has published without interruption for over a quarter of a century.

Malam Abu Shekara, is a retired Permanent Secretary in the  Sokoto State Civil Service and Pioneer Cartoonist of the tabloid.