By Ephraims Sheyin
“Wada Maida loved NAN so much and served it with the whole of his being. As friends, we used to joke that when he dies, on his tomb we shall write ‘here lies News Agency of Nigeria.”
That was Sen. Ibrahim Ida in a citation for his close friend, Malam Wada Maida, former Managing Director of NAN, who died on August 17, 2020.
As it turned out, that “joke” turned prophetic on Thursday, Sept. 16, when the imposing edifice hosting the Agency’s headquarters in Abuja was named after the media icon in recognition of his role in its growth.
Born in Katsina on March 5, 1950, Wada joined NAN as one of its pioneer members of staff in 1978 and was immediately posted to Kaduna as Zonal Editor in charge of North Western states.
He would later become its political editor, Western Europe correspondent, Editor-in-Chief, Managing Director, and was Chairman of NAN Board of Directors when he passed on.
In the course of his stewardship in NAN spanning more than four decades, the Agency witnessed a huge leap, moving from a little known news outfit to a very influential news agency that is the most credible source of news. It is also unarguably the biggest news agency in Africa with offices all over Nigeria and abroad.
Aside massive improvement in infrastructure, he built a group of dedicated personnel who have continued to execute the prime mandate of projecting Nigeria to Nigerians and Nigeria to the outside world.
When he died last year, individuals, NAN management and media industry leaders urged the Federal Government to name the headquarters after the brilliant journalist that once served as Chief Press Secretary to President Muhammadu Buhari when he was military head of state.
Testimonies at the ceremony indeed attested to Wada’s impact on the media industry with many commending his obsession for fair and balanced reportage that upheld the national interest over any other consideration.
NAN managing director Buki Ponle praised his tenacity for remaining focused in the pursuit of visionary journalism for more than four decades during which he positively changed the course of destinies of many colleagues.
Buki, who retired from NAN before he was appointed its managing director last year, said that Wada deserved to be so honoured by NAN because he lived, worked and died for it.
“His contribution to NAN is immeasurable. The story of NAN cannot be complete without Wada,” Ponle said.
Information minister Lai Mohammed also spoke in the same vein and declared that he was excited when NAN suggested that Wada be immortalised.
“He was a colossus and a national icon. His idea of journalism was fundamentally developmental. He was committed to countering negative information about the country,” he said.
The minister challenged media practitioners to emulate Wada’s commitment to national interest and strive to flush out the forces of darkness seeking to destroy Nigeria through fake news and negative propaganda.
Kano deputy governor Nasiru Gawuna equally spoke glowingly of Wada, describing him as “upright, honest and full of integrity”.
“The decision to name this edifice after him speaks volume of what he did for the Agency. He mentored youths that worked under him wherever he served. He’ll always be remembered as an icon of journalism who left an indelible mark.”
Malam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, described Wada as a mentor, guardian and friend who had a large heart.
“He had a philosophy that the seniors should hold the hands of the younger ones behind. He lived and died doing that. He will continue to live in our minds,” he said.
Alhaji Aminu Masari, governor of Katsina, Wada’s home state, remembered Wada as one person who never asked for anything personal.
“He lived for others. There was never a time he came to my office to ask for anything personal. This is the kind of life everyone should pray for,” he said.
Masari was particularly happy and proud of Wada’s role in the growth of the media in the north.
“Wada was instrumental to the coming on stream of all newspapers in the north. Katsina State has always produced the best and we are very proud of this icon. He was a role model we shall always celebrate,” he said.
Wada’s son, Aminu, added an emotional touch to the ceremony when he spoke of the bond between NAN and his father’s family.
“Clearly, my father loved NAN. As a family, we are happy that the NAN family reciprocated that affection. When my siblings and I attended schools, NAN drivers were always there for us.
“When I traveled to America, a NAN staffer was there for me right from the airport. A NAN worker also taught me to drive. NAN was there for us when my father died. NAN has further solidified the bond by naming its headquarters after my father.”
But even more emotional, for many guests, was Ponle’s fear that Wada’s robust legacies were being threatened by acute paucity of funds.
“We are financially handicapped, and EXCEPTIONALLY so ! We are underfunded, and this is no exaggeration.
“We appeal to our governor friends, our eminent traditional rulers as well as friends of Wada/NAN to intervene. Please help us so that our founding fathers, dead or alive, will continue to be proud of NAN,” he said.
Many insiders agree with the NAN boss and say that Wada may not have achieved much if he served the Agency at this period of poor funding as his ideas, no matter how brilliant, would have just ended up in the shelf with only the dust celebbrating their beauty. (NANFeatures)