Abba Kyari: My editor at The Democrat

The demise of the erstwhile Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari Mallam Abba Kyari is like a stone dropped into a pool of water that would keep some ever widening ripples. The encomiums and accolades showered as tributes on this erudite writer would possibly stand as reference for several decades.

          I dashed into the newsroom to submit my findings to Miss Ladi Sandra Adamu, the then assistant editor incharge of features and women pages. She assigned me to compile some major events in 1987 which made me visit the New Nigerian library complex that afternoon. Before my arrival was a composition of personnel of the company that filled the newsroom to the brim.

          In the forefront was a stern 35-year-old Abba Kyari in a two-piece dark-blue suit with white long sleeve shirt to match. He was delivering an impromptu address as the Editor of The Democrat Newspapers set for a re-launch in the country by its publishers, the New Africa Holdings, Kaduna.

          It dawned on me within few moments, that what I thought was lost while with the NTA, Sokoto, the “intellectual sagacity” of Mr. Sam Saba, Manager News, has not been in vain with a man like Abba Chima Kyari. Even as I missed the beginning of the maiden address, his professional mien and natural disposition brightened what I came to further learn, this time, in the print media.

          Mallam Kyari had effaced all of us into the background, on what accuracy and objective reporting stood for in journalism practices. He said apart from making the stories and other features of the newspaper palatable, accurate reportage guides against the laws of libel, sustains and develops readership concern and interests. In furtherance of these mandates, he distinguished between authors and those who write for the press. While the latter’s concern borders squarely on public interests, the former had the liberty to spin the webs of their creation from inside themselves. At this juncture, Mallam Kyari stressed the necessity to all blends of editorial staff to go in search for truth even when the “unwilling subjects” littered the grounds to suppress the press.

          From then, Kyari’s high level of industrial discipline begsn a perfect walk into the psyche of the male and female workers of the publishing company. He posed as the custodian of each section or department through timely inspection and accorded his typical counselling of the barrister-cum-journalist.

          While passing through the newsroom one particular afternoon, Kyari instructed me to write an editorial piece for the day’s edition of The Democrat and eased himself to other sections. I sincerely felt blurred on what could be “topical” and stood as the EDITORIAL in a reputable newspaper at that material hour.

          I summarily browsed over my computer-notebook and commented about ONCHOCERCIASIS “river blindness” ravaging the heterogeneous Nigerian community, right from pre-independence era to date. My past interaction with a male, elderly Yoruba officer, at the National Onchocerciasis Office Complex, Kaduna, set me “off the hooks” on that blessed day. As a result of that editorial piece, few funny comrades in the news and paste-up sections begsn to call me Onchocerca vulvulus; referred by the professionals as the “blackfly” that transmits the disease, until when I left the company around 1991.

          I thought editorials were the exclusive preserves of people with greater writing flair or experienced hands in newspaper organisations, the world over. However, my involvement by Kyari to chip in, on the domestic front, had presented a communication door that led to four different pieces and step up my training on the inherent rigours of newspaper production.

          Prior to my redeployment to Katsina state in mid-1988, the editor, was yet to decide for a space of a feature article I wrote on the rise of beggars. It focused and reviewed the success or otherwise of their rehabilitations as they spread from the northern to other parts of the country. The project was first initiated by the military junta led by General Olusegun Obasanjo, preparatory to the Nigeria’s intent as “Mother of Africa” to host the Festival of Arts and Culture, FESTAC, 1977. I had no worry over the delay and wrote another article, this time, about Trypanosomiasis, “sleeping sickness” and was finely treated by my itchy-fingered editor.

          I daily telephoned my stories while managing the Katsina state office. Mallam Kyari was always handy, ready to do justice to all stories at my disposal. I often dictated certain events or happenings, right through my notes so as not to be beaten by other correspondents, especially, some sharp wits, working then for the News Agency of Nigeria in the state. This practice became the vogue as editors desired to have at their fingertips what the reporters were upto at their respective domains in the country. Kyari received such dictations with ungovernable lust and urged us not to jitter over some loose ends in our stories yet to be tied up. I intuitively learnt through such intermixtures that my stories were “ear-edited” by the indefatigable Kyari.

          The fame of this tradition was the release of his immediate principal, General Muhammadu Buhari, in 1989. He was surprised to have learnt from me that Buhari was in Daura, at last to enjoy his unconditional freedom in the country, Nigeria. Akin to his manner of raising questions to whoever phoned a story, Kyari had twice or thrice enquired on the authenticity of what I was talking? I delved into reiterating that I shook hands with Buhari and was clad in military attire at his family house, Daura, this morning.

          The late CoS was blessed with aptitudenal exactitude and manifested the traits of workaholics in his chosen professions. He bore the integrity and honesty of his guide late Mallam Adamu Ciroma, Dallatun Fika, and the ace broadcaster in this spirit, Hajiya Hassana Umaru YaYa of the defund NBC, Rima Radio, Sokoto. The duo have enjoyed a defined position as patriots upon whose inputs at their respective media outfits have remained legendary in the country.

          May 27, marked the fortieth day of his interment and perhaps ended the cynical comments from citizens that were never close or even opportune to work with the former CoS during his earthily being. Many of us that were privileged will continue to uphold our editor-in-chief as the epitome of responsibility, a citizen of immense human management abilities that each nations across the globe will love to have.

          I am destined to condole Hajiya Hawwah and extended to the then six-year-old Aisha Abba Kyari held by the Mother on their rare visits to the New Africa Holdings, Kaduna. My heart bore the sympathy of this great loss as well as the photographic view of Aisha. I fondly joked with late Gabriel Abutu, the news editor, referring to Aisha, a Kanuri-Shuwa-Arab descendent as the “Queen of the Eastern Caliphate”. May the soul of Abba Kyari rest in Aljannah Firdaus. Ameen.

Kende writes from Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi state

 Haliru Sarki Kende

[email protected]

Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State

08NDE <[email protected]>

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