By MUHAMMAD AUWAL IBRAHIM
For the third consecutive year, I found myself returning to Abuja for journalism accolades. This is a recognition of my efforts in upholding the tenets of journalism in northern Nigeria and beyond. Each of these trips has been crowned with at least one award, and I am grateful to Almighty Allah for this continuous success.
Being shortlisted for the 2022 Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) Africa’s Alfred Opubor Next-Gen Journalism Awards was a highlight of my 2022 journey and was one of my best moments in 2022.
Answering Abuja’s call, I arrived on Thursday, with the award dinner scheduled for Friday, 2nd December, 2023. My journey from Gombe to Abuja aboard Azman aircraft was swift and pleasant, although I happened to be the only awardee flying from Gombe. The trip from Gombe was worthwhile.
It was less than an hour journey on air. Upon landing at Abuja airport, I was joined by Rabiu Musa, a journalist from Kano, and a familiar acquaintance I flew with kindly offered us a ride to our destination.
Traversing the Federal Capital Territory from the airport to the city offered glimpses of a changed Abuja. The historic Abuja City Gate caught my attention, prompting a quick snapshot.
Visiting National Mosque
On Friday morning, I sought the nearest Jumu’at mosque in the Central Business District. The staff just moved to the windowpanes and pointed towards the mosque saying “this is the nearest mosque here.” I discovered it was the National Mosque.
We all prepared in advance and set out. Checking the distance on Bolt, we realized it was walkable, so there was no need to hail a car. As we walked, we observed people heading to the mosque from all directions.
In the distance, we spotted the minaret of the mosque. The closer we got, the more impressive it became. The vibrant atmosphere of the mosque’s congregation delighted me. Navigating between parked vehicles, we made our way to the mosque.
The trek, surrounded by others also heading to National mosque, revealed the mosque’s grandeur as it gradually loomed larger. Our Jumuat prayer in the FCT added a spiritual touch to our stay.
Upon entering, I recognized the voice of the Imam on the pulpit.
That’s how we observed our Jumuat prayer in FCT, and afterward, we headed back to the hotel for our awards ceremony in the evening. The crowd, car horns, and friendly greetings made our journey back to the hotel delightful.
On our return, I noticed various state government lodges but couldn’t locate my state’s own. Perhaps it’s not in this area.
The Dinner and Awards night
The Dinner and Awards signify that time of the year when we are rewarded for our efforts and reflect on our works. This marked the second time I was shortlisted for a journalism award in 2022 (last year). Let’s celebrate this historic moment.
The event took place at Treasure Suites Hotel, Central Business District, Abuja, where first-place winners and the overall best journalist of the year were revealed.
We exchanged pleasantries with the Publisher of Premium Times, Mr. Dapo Olorunyomi, Investigations Editor at Humangle, Kunle Adebajo, and fellow colleagues from Premium Times and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting.
Taraba Hall was filled to capacity as camera flashes illuminated the event. From left to right, front to back, guests were present.
The hall erupted when I was announced as the second runner-up in the conflict story category of the Alfred Opubor Next-Gen Journalism Awards 2022. Hails and congratulatory messages dominated the ceremony.
Conflict reporting was one of the most competitive categories of the 2022 award, and I was pleased to have made it. Congratulations to all winners and runners-up.
It’s a successful award outing.
My winning entry
I was pleased that my entry, “Special Report: Kaduna Residents Lament Over Telecoms Shutdown,” stood among the top 25 across nine competitive categories. This recognition came after six weeks of rigorous selection and review by a five-person panel of judges from the academia, the newsroom, and the media development sector.
I was thrilled that my story, published by Petals News, secured a spot on the shortlist alongside captivating HumAngle Media stories in the conflict reporting category.
Over the years, I’ve received letters of commendations, awards, and invitations at both national and international scenes for being a champion of responsible journalism in Nigeria. This alone, brings me great joy.
It’s indescribable how I feel when my modest contributions to upholding the tenets of journalism, especially in northern Nigeria, received such acknowledgment.
Following the award ceremony, a book signing session commenced.
The book, “Remaking Nigeria: Sixty Years, Sixty Voices,” edited by Dr. Chido Onumah, is a rich collection that brings together the works of 60 prolific Nigerian writers and finest journalists with diverse backgrounds and expertise.
Published on the occasion of Nigeria’s diamond jubilee as an independent nation, the book captures a multifaceted perspective.
After the dinner and awards celebrations, Dr. Chido Onumah graciously signed a copy for me, along with my fellow awardees.
I was delighted to have this book in my hands. It contained insights shared by my fellow compatriots, including some of my Facebook connections like Patrick Egwu, Journalist/Wits University, South Africa, and Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, award-winning creative writer, and journalist.
Other familiar names include Dr. Aminu Gamawa, former commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, Bauchi state, now Chief of Staff; Joshua Olufemi, CEO Dataphyte; and Ruona Meyer, investigative journalist/De Montfort University, Leicester, England.
One more award
Adding to the excitement, my time in Abuja saw me receiving my first runner-up award in the ICIR Data/Investigative Journalism Awards 2021, a title Abiodun claimed as the overall winner.
This was the second time we were competing in the same category of a journalism award. A special shoutout to Abiodun Jamiu for bringing down my second award.
The highlight of the moment was walking away with not one but two prestigious awards: the Alfred Opubor Next Gen Journalism Awards 2022 and the ICIR Data/Investigative Journalism Awards 2021 (which I missed last year at Nigeria’s premier varsity, the University of Ibadan).
It’s truly remarkable that I became the first person from Northeast Nigeria to clinch this prestigious award in Ibadan. Just wow!
Meeting pen pushers
I always enjoyed meeting pen pushers – trailblazers of change who have crossed the boundary of excellence to keep the flag flying. Rabiu Musa, Zainab Yetunde Adam, Adebayo Abdulrahman, and Tijani Andulkabeer are just a few worth mentioning.
It was also my first time meeting some staff of the CJID whom I have interacted with online for years.
Touching down at Gombe Airport, Lawanti
I had an encounter with Abubakar Kari, the former Chief of Staff, Gombe, onboard Gombe bound Azman aircraft from Abuja. Upon stepping into the bus at Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, I noticed a fair man waving at me.
Employing the Pantami formula of a “wireless handshake,” I reciprocated and took my seat.
Later after take-off, while engrossed in my phone, I pondered where I might have known him. It dawned on me that he was the Chief of Staff, recalling seeing his pictures in state government functions. The question lingered: Does the Chief of Staff know me?
After flying for some minutes, we safely landed at Gombe airport. Alhamdu lilLah
*Muhammad Auwal Ibrahim is a multiple award-winning journalist. He can be reached via email@example.com