Beyond broadcasting, adding value to humanity is Danladi Bako’s priority
Mallam Nasir Danladi Bako, Kogunan Sakwatto began to show rare stuff at a tender age of 16 manning the airwaves of then Rima Radio, Sokoto with his masterly delivery of news and different programmes in both Hausa and English languages.
The desire to enrich his broadcast potential and up his game took him to Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria where he obtained his first degree in 1978.
Three years later, he got the Master’s degree in Mass Communication at the University of Lagos. Bako’s hallmark of ingenuity, creativity and hardwork fetched him, in 1979, the prestigious Best Producer/Presenter award of the NTA Sokoto and Best Overall Staff award of the same station in 1980.
With this feat, he got automatic transfer of service to the NTA Headquarters in 1983 as was the tradition at that time, only the best staff of each station were elevated to the Network Service.
In 1988, he developed a programme that has turned out to be Nigeria’s first live TV talk show, Morning Ride.
Looking back, during an interview session two weeks ago in Abuja Bako revealed what inspired the creation of the very popular breakfast show, saying “I realised that there was a hiatus in the one-way information flow of top to bottom direction, devoid of the citizens’ feedback on policies and issues governing their lives.”
Indeed, the programme drew strength from Bako’s desire and thirst for accountability, transparency and rectitude in government and leadership.
“As a young man, I always felt that the poor and the under privileged didn’t have a voice.
The one-way information flow of top to down resulted in lack of accountability by the government officials. Especially during the military regime, government officials were untouchable.
It was so difficult to challenge a military governor at the time.
Therefore, I felt we needed to bring all government officials to book, so, a segment was created within Morning Ride that was tagged interview with people in power… All my interviews were factual and contentious, because I took them on issues, for instance, the NITEL loan that was collected by the Minister of Communication; Prince Tony Momoh’s attempt to set up National Mass Media Commission; Tai Solarin who didn’t believe in God; Maitama Sule who was in charge of South African relations; Babagana Kingibe who was accused of betraying Chief MKO Abiola… these were some of the issues I took on.
I had interviews with Ras Kimono, Fela Anikulapo Kuti to create an entertainment dimension for the programme.
It was a unique opportunity, which I maximized greatly. My interviews with Prof. Wole Soyinka, Chief MKO Abiola were incredible…”
This penchant for putting public figures on the spot during the live programme really set the tone for investigative questioning and thematic vibrancy in television journalism in the country.
He also recalled that the programme got him into collision with government on several occasions for instance, the comment on Babangida’s transition programme by the then Nigerian Bar Association Chairman, Alao Aka-Bashorun, “which provoked Dodan Barack”; another edition featuring Sat Guru Maharaji, and “in 1994 when my telephone number was seen inside Turaya phone of Chief MKO Abiola.
He called me when he was going for Epetedo Declaration that later led to his arrest and incarceration by the military.”
To him, using broadcasting to advance the course of humanity came naturally.
And his pre occupation now is “further contribution to humanity, further commitment to assisting under-privileged, further recognition of the fact that some of the major legacies that a man must keep in his life has to do with legacies that involve time, space and contributions that go beyond your immediate environment, your immediate family and your country.
I ask myself, every day I wake up if Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday didn’t discover something like electricity, the law of gravity, where would humanity be today?
I am always concerned about footprints I am leaving behind when I leave this world… these are the things that pre-occupy my minds now.”
Apart from the phenomenal rise in the number of radio and TV stations that has happened over time, what is your honest assessment of the broadcasting industry since 2002 when you left as DG of NBC?
Based on available environmental challenges and opportunities that exist from that time till today, the industry has done fairly well. Some administrations of the NBC have tried their best.
In some cases, their best was not good enough, in other cases, their best was just good enough….
In the case of radio and TV stations, a lot of people didn’t understand and anticipate the dimensions and dynamics of operating a TV station or participating in the broadcast industry.
Their business plan was faulty! In some cases, they didn’t take enough cognizance of what they were going to anticipate in terms of challenges they were going to face in the areas such as staff recruitment, capital outlay, environmental changes, recession and drop in advertisement revenues by agencies, the price of diesel to run the power generating sets….
Some of these things were not properly anticipated in the business plan.
As at 1995, 1996 and 1997, there were radio stations that within one and a half years of operation, they broke even.
They made profit and they could pay up their license fees, they could do so many things.
Today, a few of those stations didn’t prepare enough despite the fact that they didn’t need to reinvent the wheel, Rhythm, Raypower and co had set the tone, what they needed to do was just to adapt their business plan to suit what was available.
But a lot of them thought getting a radio license was about empowering your relations and friends, so, the quality of competition dropped.
Also, they failed to realize that when you had 10 stations chasing N1b from advert agencies is different from when you have 50 stations chasing that same advert sum whether it is from MTN or Cocacola.
Their revenue and advert projection must tally with the volume of stations.
That is why for a long time, I advised that we shouldn’t give out as many radio and TV licences because the market is narrow, the advert agencies do not have the kind of money that will be able to fund 500 radio and TV stations if the stations are going to live on adverts… there is no way they can compete, except we are saying, for instance, that the budget for advertisement, publicity from MTN, Etisalat, Airtel, Nigerian Breweries and co has increased, otherwise, it means 500 radio and TV stations will be chasing N1b advert budget that 10 stations used to chase…. And the more you have competition, people go for better offering.
We are in capitalist economy and some stations, naturally will die the same way some newspapers died. Before now, we used to have Citizen, Democrat, National Interest, Anchor, NEXT and so on, but they are no more today.
This was because, principally, no advert to sustain them, and probably, the business plan was faulty.
Some of them came at the initial stage with jumbo salary, but after two months, they couldn’t pay again, some came with the idea that the staff ID card was a passport to earn a living, and so, there was no motivation… all such complexities affected the industry as quality standard couldn’t be sustained.
The challenge now is to see how we can encourage people to get better training through the involvement of the old hands who are still alive to pass on the skills and redirect the training mentality and psychology of presenters, anchor people, news people, reporters, programme producers.
Years back, every month end at the NTA, we used to do ‘Talent Hunt’, workshops on new programme ideas, writers with inputs from several quarters.
The idea was somebody would create a programme which would be enriched by the inputs of other colleagues…
Before, the temptation was that only professionals trained in Mass Communication, Journalism, English Studies should be employed in the industry and the proprietors who spent their money to get the licence, procure equipment such as transmitter felt that they should have the liberty to employ whoever they think was capable, but again, they are now seeing the effect of low quality output.
As we move on, only those stations that have invested in human capital development and professionalism will remain in business.
What is your view on the argument that ownership pattern of these stations, nowadays, is more tilted to politics than professionalism?
Ownership, in most cases, has political colouration! Just yesterday (August 30), President Donald Trump of the United States requested that the Chief Executive Officer of CNN, Jeff Talker, should be fired by the owners of CNN, as the president felt that the CEO didn’t like him.
The inference is that all the noise Trump has been making about the media developed from his perception that media owners do not like him, and they have influenced their media platforms not to like him.
In some cases, there is sense of balance where owners do not have overbearing influence on the operation of the stations.
In Nigeria, there was a time we had only one TV network, the NTA, so, access was problematic, but now the atmosphere is different with more stations privately owned, accessibility has become liberalized.
With TVC, AIT, Channels and others, opposing views being shut out is no longer the norm….
Ownership should not influence editorial judgement. The professionals should be firm as the operators.
They shouldn’t allow themselves to be manipulated, and thereby become tools in the hands of proprietors.
The regulator too is expected to be up and doing ensuring that proprietor is not using the station to influence output and production.
The job of NBC is to ensure that there is fairness, objectivity and balance in every broadcast.
No station should be parochial, either against or for government. As the watchdog of the society, the watchword always should be balance.
Criticism is normal, but the target of the criticism should also have a voice, the right of reply, where that it’s faulty, you then have proprietor having the field day… all sides to an issue must be given a fair hearing, that is professionalism.
For instance, as the Commissioner for Information in Sokoto couple of years ago, the radio station in Sokoto refused to take advert from the opposition, NBC fined Rima Radio and I authorized payment for the fine and sanction and the money was paid to NBC for the breach.
So, I, the former Director-General of NBC could allow the law to take its course, I do not think anybody else has any reason not to do the right thing.
What’s your view on the industry generally?
Industry practitioners are trying their best, they are responding to the environment well, although because most of them are weak in research and general knowledge, sometimes they seem bankrupt in ideas especially when discussing politics, current affairs and general knowledge.
Most of them still also get partisan in their discussion phone- in programmes.
The national networks NTA, TVC, AIT and Channels need to re-craft better messages extolling Nigeria’s unity and oneness as a country with diverse peoples and cultures.
What motivated leaving broadcasting as DG of NBC to join politics in 2002?
The movement out of NBC was to satisfy some other different desire and things I had wanted to do, which included going back to school, being useful to other aspects of the Nigerian community and the world.
There are so many things that I did after I left NBC, which if I had stayed back, I wouldn’t have been able to achieve. Some other people were benefitting from me too.
The Cross River State Development Basin Authority, where I was a board member, benefited from my participation. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, where I was a council member benefited from my experience and in politics, as Chairman, Media and Publicity, during the Jonathan/Yar’adua Presidential campaign team, people also benefited from my experience.
If I had not left NBC, I wouldn’t have had time for all these things I did to add value to the development of my country.
So, when NBC was losing something, the country was gaining something.
In fact, when I joined politics, I had tried to get involved with who becomes the next President, the next governor, the next everything, and not sitting down and watch what happens in Nigeria, because if you sit down in your comfort zone, you are not influencing anything.
And when there is bad leadership, you will not be happy to have stayed back and not influencing affairs.
But when you come out there to join the campaign organization, you influence many things, the perception of your members, and that is more important.
Belonging to a political party is more than winning an election. Winning an election is a personal thing. Losing an election does not mean you are a failure.
For me, contributions to the society go beyond winning an election.
There are so many parts of community works that will make you relevant to the society.
If I asked you who was your Senator in 1992, you probably cannot remember.
If I asked you who was the military governor of your state in 1991, you also probably cannot remember. But you remembered Danladi Bako.
So, life is not all about winning election. And as I said, there were things I still wanted to do.
I wanted to be part of those who decide who wins election, be part of the argument and use myself as a symbol and a role model for younger intellectuals to get involved in politics, because we cannot leave politics in the hands of shenanigans and area boys.
The problem we have is that we don’t educate those who should be in power to get involved in politics.
So, I got in there, showed people that they can survive in politics and that they should be able to participate in politics.
As I said, it is always an opportunity to serve, and when you serve your people you stand as a guiding light and shining example of integrity, dignity and professionalism.
So, all those qualities are still with me and they stay with me all my life.
As I said, there are phases in life and there are few things I want to do.
As a kid, I had hoped that one day, I would be an ambassador, be all sorts of the things I have lined up, get a doctorate degree.
Now fortunately, I am almost through with my Ph.D programme.
When you left the NBC in 2002, the ambition was to become a senator representing one of the senatorial districts in Sokoto. But this hasn’t been realized 16 years after, is that ambition still alive?
I belong to a political family that is in a concentric circle fired from Sokoto, because politics is local.
Then, that concentric circle also belongs to a bigger circle at the national level.
At some points, I am leftist in my thought and radical in my approach. But at some point, I am a realist. I take what the community decides I should do.
I give that privilege to the community for them to decide where they think my service will be needed most.
In 2011, I was not even consulted, my governor at that time, Aliyu Wamakko, sent my name to the Sokoto State House of Assembly as Commissioner.
It was the Speaker who called to say, ‘we just saw your name on the list of commissioners, do you accept?’ And five minutes later, the Governor called to tell me. I couldn’t say no.
He is my senior brother and the leader of our political super structure at that time.
That super structure still exists, and the elders of the community as well as leaders of the party are normally consulted before any decision is taken. That is the way it works now.
The leader will consult with elders and they will gladly put people where they think they are most needed.
Or when such people come out for any position, the elders will support them or get another candidate they think is best suited for the post.
I believe, at God’s time and the elders’ convenience, wherever they think I should go, I will… I wasn’t consulted when I was put on the board of NBC early this year.
I am the kind of person who serves anywhere Allah (SWT) decides for me.
And Allah doesn’t come down in my dream to tell me that, He uses people.
The time I was made member of the Board of Cross River State Development Basin Authority in 2004 to 2008, nobody consulted me.
When I was made member, Governing Council of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, 2009 to 2013, they took those decisions on their own, I wasn’t consulted. When Wamakko made me Commissioner, he took the decision along with some elders.
If tomorrow they say I should run for an office and it is convenient for me, I will. If I didn’t feel too tired to do the campaign, I would agree.
This is because, at this point, everything in life has to be at my convenience.
It has to be something my passion will be able to sustain. Otherwise, I won’t take it, but I will be polite in rejecting it.
What are you bringing on board as the member of the NBC Board?
Experience. Direction. Focus. Energy. Exceptional performance.
These are things I will bring to energise and reinvigorate the system.
Reinvent the ideas and use my experience to take up the new challenges confronting the commission.
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