With Tozali, Abubakar spotlights women’s issues, lifestyles



Maimuna Abubakar is the publisher of Tozali, a 10-year old lifestyle magazine based in Kebbi State. It is both print and online and focuses on women’s issues. In this exclusive interview, Abubakar told The Guardian that Tozali has come a long way and is ready to cover a wider audience.

A former Assistant Manager with Corporate Affairs Commission, Abubakar, who trained as a lawyer, decided to retire to follow her dream of publishing. “When you have passion for something and you feel you are talented in that area, there is nothing more fulfilling than following it up,” she said. “Right from when I was a kid, I always loved the media. I was drawn to magazines, news, fashion and the media generally. I used to be a big fan of Ebony (U.S.-based) magazine from my secondary school days up to my university level.”

Considering the harsh economic realities and the nature of the media, how has Abubakar managed to survive 10 years pursuing her passion with no formal training in journalism? According to her, “I tried to enhance myself by going through some short, crucial courses in media and journalism. I did some short courses in London School of Publication on copyediting and report writing. I also did Adobe In Design and many other courses that are related to my present field.”

On whether her parents were not disappointed with her new turn of career and not practising law, she noted, “Don’t get me wrong. I still practice law, though not as regular as before.”

Abubakar said Tozali, being a Hausa word for ‘eyeliner,’ is intended for female audience and touches on every issue that concerns the womenfolk.“I also wanted an easy Hausa word that could be pronounced by everyone. We are in the northern part of the country and there hadn’t been any magazine like Tozali before. So, we wanted to promote the northern culture – the people, their passion, lifestyle and what have you. It was a virgin market; I identified my niche and that was how it all started, and in the shortest period, we became very popular because there was nothing like that. I was also inspired by the environment as well, the need to bring people in the northern to the limelight, teaching them the need to celebrate culture, achievements and Nigeria as a whole. Tozali is not the usual magazine with a lot of foreign content. But about 80 per cent of our content is originally Nigerian.

“The quality of our print production is super glossy and something to be kept as a souvenir for life. Our event segment is always designed with rich, top quality pictures.”

Explaining why the magazine focuses more on women issues, the publisher said, “Although we try to mix up everything, but women are the top side of the publication. We deal with human related stories, stories that can inspire women, issues on life, love, children, education, relationships and so on. But this doesn’t mean that men are not interested in these issues. We bring women achievers to share their stories to inspire younger women. The truth is that African women need to be pulled up.”

However, she said there are a lot of young women entrepreneurs who have also featured in Tozali.On some of her challenges, Abubakar admitted that breaking into the market was not easy, but said her consistency helped her to overcome quite a number of problems.

“At first, it was like throwing your money into a ditch,” she noted. “It was difficult keeping up with the production, but as the years go by experience became key to our success. Experience taught me other ways of making money for the magazine. At first, I thought one could just have good cover stories that would automatically bring advertisements to the magazine. But I realised that one had to work hard to achieve this.

“I had to build my network and connection over time and this could only come with experience. I am still learning and growing because 10 years is just like the blink of an eye. Life is not a smooth ride; the challenges we face make life interesting.”

When asked about her achievements and prospects for the company, Abubakar said she was still growing and was yet to have the kind of breakthrough that could be called breakthrough, adding, “The birth of Tozali is my proudest accomplishments although I can say I am relatively successful for sustaining a paper for all these years. I have managed to build a brand and Tozali is a household. Tozali is currently available in most English speaking African countries.

“We have plans to also translate into French for a wider audience as the demand comes. We are looking at creating a much bigger circulating firm where Tozali can be found on every newsstand.”

In this article:
Maimuna Abubakar
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