BY SIMON REEF MUSA
I had just settled down for a media job with the now rested publication, TheRoad newspaper, after my forced resignation from Peoples Daily in January 2011, when my phone rang. The calm voice introduced himself as Alhaji Idris Mohammed on the other end and told me of efforts to reach me without success. He further told me that my phone number was given to him by one Jibrin, one of my students at the Kaduna State Polytechnic Zaria, who rose to become the Business Editor of Daily Trust. His message was clear and direct: He was headhunting for the best hands to start a newspaper and requested I came to his office in Maitama for further discussion.
Like the herdsman that I have become in my media career, I was simply tempted to dismiss the call as belonging to the usual people who, having got connected to some big time investors was about assembling a crop of journalists for yet another media mirage that could turn out a fruitless venture. We agreed to meet at his office for further discussions. My interest to join the team was further buoyed when he informed that my former boss at the Daily Trust, who then was at The Sun, Hajiya Zainab Suleiman-Okino, and another cerebral editor, Mallam Ibrahim Sheme, are also members of the team to drive the editorial department. On the basis of our negotiation, I resumed as Associate Editor and got the best salaries package, including an official car and annual housing whopping housing allowance I have never enjoyed from any media owner. My friend and brother, Amos Dunia, was later to resign from The Sun and joined the team as the Associate Editor, Politics.
It was not an easy decision letting go of TheRoad after a two-month sojourn. After resuming in April 2011, we got set for the maiden edition of Blueprint. With a firm hand behind the project as editor, and yet another “friendly boss” in Hajiya Zainab, Blueprint’s maiden edition, which debuted on May 2, 2011, was a beautiful piece of media creativity founded on strong editorial content, comprising investigative, breaking and including exclusive stories, among other specialized sections. It took less than two years for the newspaper to go daily, having reported the exclusive story on the bombing of the Force Headquarters by Boko Haram.
There are people who wield the big stick to attain desired objectives, but there are also others who adopt friendly disposition to achieve same. Alhaji Idris belongs to the later. Chairman, as we popularly called him is a delight to work with. He allowed professional acumen of his staffers to drive the project and is only gravely concerned with getting funds to ensure the newspaper survives paucity of funds that is usually the challenge of new publications. In demonstrating his liberal disposition, he gave five percent each of the equity shares of the newspaper to both Hajiya Zainab and Sheme who then were the leading editorial members. No Nigerian publisher had ever done and such a gesture demonstrated liberal disposition of Chairman.
Ever when the roofs threatened to cave in for the master strategist and public relations officer due to the financial demand of the outfit, he stood firm and remained calm, assuring staffers that all is well. Indeed, the newspaper has pulled through and achieving greater strides in the media industry. With Alhaji Idris on the driving seat of any project, he brings to bear an infectious confidence by standing up unruffled at the storms of challenges associated with publishing.
As publisher of the Blueprint, he was the sole force that worked hard to put up a crack team that worked for the debut of the newspaper. As a reputed public relations practitioner, Chairman assumed a consummate status in providing hope in despair and leading the way forward for his media outfit. He leaves a memory that is deeply inspiring and possesses the skills of not blowing the roof top during trying times. More importantly, he is not a modern slave driver that seeks complete annihilation of personal ambition on the altar of corporate survival.
As a consummate marketing and communication consultant whose footprints in the sector cannot be disputed, He was born on May 2, 1966 in Katsina and hails from Niger State. As someone who saw education as a tool that must be acquired at all cost in order to improve life, he was enrolled and completed his primary school education at the Central Primary School, Kontagora, Niger State in 1977. Between 1977 and 1982, he was at the Government Secondary School, Rijau, Niger State. He proceeded to the Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto, where he bagged a degree in English in 1987. He was to return to the same university where he read a masters degree in 1995. Apart from engaging in part time teaching of English and Communications Skills at the Bayero University Kano from 1989-1991; he was also Lecturer in English and Communication Skills at the Federal College of Education (FCE), Katsina from 1989 – 1994.
With a determination to delve into the business world, he founded a public relations/communications consultancy company, Biofocal Communications Ltd, Abuja in 1993 where he now serves as the “chief strategist and visionary leader at the company for over 25 years; providing solutions to corporate clients, delivering return on investment for stakeholders and providing employment and mentoring for several Nigerians who have grown to become business leaders in their own right.”
He also became the Founder/Chief Executive Officer of Cavalet Publications Ltd that served as publishers of The Market Magazine, the first business and economy magazine to debut in the northern part of the country. One of the key achievements of the publication which debuted in June 2004 included, “Created a break from the clutter in the industry with high quality editorial and pictorial content focusing on business and the economy.”
In May 2011, Idris broadened his skills in publications by rallying a good team of media professionals that later midwifed the establishment of Blueprint. Apart from being one of the best newspapers in the country, Blueprint has been in the vanguard of “setting a standard as the first newspaper in the country to bring detailed public attention to the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria and raised the bar in investigative journalism.”
The publisher is also the Board Chairman of Abuja Property Development Company (APDC) since 2017 till date. Among other position held by the erudite public relations guru are; Chairman, Catnose Limited; Co-Founder, Easylink Aviation; Chairman, Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) Kaduna Chapter; 2004-2008; Vice-Chairman; Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria (PRCAN); 2004-2007 and Assistant Secretary, Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), 2014-till date.
The footprints of Chairman in his chosen field of public relations have been visible in many projects as shown by some of the many laurels he has been bestowed with. He was the Chairman, Security Committee of the World Press Congress to hold in Abuja; June, 2018; Member, Sponsorship and Finance Committee, World Press Congress to hold in Abuja; June, 2018; Recipient, NIPR Presidential Special Recognition Award, 2014; Managed advocacy/public enlightenment for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) on the promotion of Agricultural Practice in Katsina State; Served as Lead Consultant on Communication and Strategy to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources on the National Programme on Food Security and Development of Livestock in Nigeria and Lead Consultant to the National Primary Education Commission (now UBEC) on Nationwide Enrolment and Retention of Primary School Pupils., among others. He is also member of the following organizations: Fellow, Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR); Member, Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria (PRCAN); Member, Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN); Member, US-based Online News Association and Member, International Press Institute (IPI).
As he turns 53 today, Thursday May 2, 2019, here is wishing Alhaji Idris Happy Birthday and better years ahead devoted for the realization of what Blueprint stands for: For Truth and Justice.
Idris: Ode to the Silent But Firm Publisher @53
BY SIMON REEF MUSA