Today is exactly two decades since this newspaper hit the newsstands, on March 24th 1998, in Kaduna. It came out with a provocative cover titled ‘The lone challenge’. It was the story of late M D Yusuf’s bid for Nigeria’s presidency, at a time when five other political parties had adopted the incumbent head of state, General Sani Abacha, as their candidate.
Two months earlier, we had published a preview edition with the cover story ‘If Abacha runs…’ debating the possible scenarios for Nigeria should the general decide to succeed himself.
My role, in those early days, was that of the magazine section editor. This section is like the human interest portion of the paper, unlike the rest which was hardcore news. Two female writers contributed to the magazine section, in those days, but they were never on Media Trust payroll. These were Binta Farouk and Fatima Abdullahi. Though they wrote in almost every edition, in the early days, these women never really existed. They were pseudonyms I used in order to contribute more than one piece per edition without making the section look like a one-woman show. You see we were very few then and though it was only a 24-page paper, the production was so demanding that few people had the time to sit and write.
I had started a column from that very first edition which I called Lifestyle. So on the top cover of the magazine pullout was my name as the editor. Below it was my column Lifestyle, which also had my name written on it. So if I felt like writing any other thing, to fill up the magazine section, I would push myself to do it, but I made sure I used Fatima Abdullahi (a combination of our first and second child’s names) as by-line or Binta Farouk (it roughly means daughter of Farouk, which is my father’s other name). This made it look like we had more staff writers than we actually did. And that was how I got away with having three by-lines, unknown to even some of our colleagues. I’ve often come across people criticising what I wrote with those pseudonyms, while safely thinking that I had nothing to do with the ideas or views therein.
This is probably why I made sure that for ten years after it was started, the identity of Al-Bint’s diary writer was protected. It enabled me to hear views and comments I would never have known if it carried my by-line at the beginning.
Alhamdulillah, all this was 20 years ago and on Thursday we were able to celebrate this major milestone with friends and wellwishers. A combination of commitment, prudent management, a dedicated staff, a supportive board of directors and Almighty Allah’s great blessing made all this possible.
Interestingly, a few months to that first edition, my husband and I had our very first argument because of it. It was a cool harmattan morning. Nothing about it suggested that the day would end up a memorable one. After breakfast Kabiru had set out to go to work. I was lying on the bed trying to send our infant son back to sleep. He stood by the bed and handed me a piece of paper, then he said: ‘We’ve been having a series of meetings, trying to find a suitable name for the newspaper we are planning. We finally short-listed these five names. Go through and tell me the one you like.’
I took the paper from him and looked through. Then I lifted my head and said ‘Honestly I don’t like any of these names. They all seem so over used, why don’t you go for something new. Something no one has used before?’ I suggested. His prompt response was:
‘And where do you expect us to find what no one has used before? Look at this book (he lifted a book from the table and showed me) it contains the names of all major newspapers in the world. (Then he picked a handout from the same table and held it) and this one contains the names of all major newspapers in Africa. In the last two weeks we’ve been going through them trying to find a name for our paper, that was how we came about these shortlisted names. And now you are lying on a bed and thinking we didn’t try hard enough? What makes you think you know what’s best?’ He asked. I could see that he was getting angry but I simply replied:
‘What I meant was, instead of these overused names, why not go for something like The Trust since your company’s name is Media Trust?’ His next sentence was something I could never forget. ‘Who would ever associate the name Trust with a publication?’ He asked. Undaunted I replied: ‘But people will get used to it. I’m sure when the owners of the Guardian started it, people didn’t think it was a publication but they got used to it with time. Today the moment you mention Guardian, it’s the newspaper that comes to mind.’ I explained.
At that point he reached out for the paper with the shortlist and angrily repeated what he said about me lying on the bed and thinking I knew what’s best. Then he walked out of the room.
I spent the whole day re-playing the conversation in my mind, wondering what I said wrong. It was the first time he ever said anything so hurtful to me. When he returned in the evening, I didn’t have the courage to ask how the meeting went and which name was chosen.
About two weeks later, he returned from the office and said to me that the guys in Lagos had said that if they wanted the name ‘Trust’, they would have to attach a frequency indicator to it, like Daily Trust or Weekly Trust because ‘Trust’ on its own had been booked by others. I didn’t know what to make of this news. Was he saying that even the ‘Trust’ which I said was new and fresh was already taken, or was he just announcing that they were considering my suggestion which was why it was sent to Lagos? Not knowing which, I simply answered ‘I see.’ and went about my chores.
Another few weeks passed and we went to Kano from Kaduna. There we ran into his friend Dr Bashir Kurfi of ABU Zaria. He opened his car and brought out some papers then announced that so- and-so (he mentioned some guy’s name) had asked that his article be published in the ‘very first edition of Weekly Trust.’ Weekly Trust? I echoed in my mind and quickly turned to look at him, but Kabiru was facing Bashir Kurfi and couldn’t see my questioning look. Afterwards he confirmed to me that the paper had indeed been registered as Weekly Trust.
Alhamdulillah, I’m truly gratified that a project I’ve been involved with, right from the naming stage, is today a towering force in the industry. And I’m proud to be associated with Daily Trust @ 20.