I got hundreds of congratulatory messages and almost as many an advice sometime in May, 2018 when my good friend Awwal Salisu announced to the Twitter community that the Governor of Niger State had appointed me SSA on Media Relations. Of the many I got, the advice that stood out for me was from a friend because she said to me, ‘Be like Imam Imam.”
Several months have passed now, but for many of us, it is difficult to come to terms with the truth that Imam Imam is dead. He offered help to us when he found us in need. Plus, he was in a lot of ways an unusual man. While he breathed, Imam was walking proof that power, wealth and humility can sit quietly, side by side. He looked down on, and disrespected no one, not even the people who berated him because he was a man from Taraba working in Sokoto.
I had followed his work for some time, but it was in 2016, I think, when we first met. He had acquired and was about to kick-start a small school. It was only a week to resumption when he came to meet members of his staff. I was one of them, the new English Language teacher. When he spoke to us, he did not speak with the tone of a boss. You will think he did not own the school or we were not his staff or like, by being there, we were doing him a favor.
And so when he called for questions, nobody said anything until I raised my hand. Mine was not a question, but a comment. He urged me on so I told him I had taught before in a school where the owner felt her staffs were a little less than human. Yet, here he was speaking to us as partners, and because of this; because of the esteem he has extended towards us, I will give my all to see that the school moves only forward. Imam was impressed, so also was the Principal who regretted that what I just said should have been the vote of thanks.
It was this kind of behavior of respect for all parties that Imam extended towards his work. Even though human and prone to anger, he always kept his impatience in check (which from everything I am seeing now could not have been easy). I remember he once said that the job of a media aid was to make friends for his principal. He must have done a good job seeing now how Governor Tambuwal has been left exposed.
As we prepare for the coming elections, we have seen lies outpacing truth; insults replacing objectivity, we have seen sons and daughters of godly men now having no compunction about damaging relationships and pushing narratives that will make devils of men and women and children who have done them no harm, all in a bid to guarantee the actualization of the agenda of their principal.
Sa’a, for that was my friend’s name, must have been aware of the new reality of political hooliganism by media aids on the internet that was why she asked me to be different by emulating this big man who has set a standard for professional media practice bereft of assault on the dignity of those who do not see things our way.