By Dada Ahmed
Life can be so kind with some people and others, it is a different ball game. In between the sweet and bitter side lies the ability of man to utilize his ability to overcome the oddity of life, to fulfill one’s goal in life. Our guest falls into the opposite life but the manner he overcame his predicament marvels thousands in the society.
Let’s lead you into the life history of one of the Journalists in Lokoja, north-central Nigeria whose experience as a physically challenged individual is a classic example of ability in disability.
The life story of Mal. Ishaq Dan-Imam typifies the truism that with focus and determination, people living with disabilities have the potential to also move mountains compared to their able-bodied counterparts in life.
In fact, he maintains that ability in disability is his watchword, adding that he is ever ready to tell any inquisitive mind, his story from grass to grace, with all sense of pride, responsibility with thanks to almighty Allah and humanity.
This trait he eloquently exhibited to our Correspondent at the premises of the Nigeria Union Journalists (NUJ), Kogi State Council in Lokoja while robbing mind in an interview which centered on the journey of his life, his practice of journalism, the profession after his heart among other things.
Born into the family of late Chief Imam of Ogba community of Egbura speaking people in Mozum district of Bassa Local Government Area of Kogi state, Sheikh Adamu Shaibu Jibril and Princess Bilkisu Ibrahim in 1977, the 45-year-old media practitioner, who went to memory lane with nostalgic said his road to success was faced with difficulties. He, however, stressed that with determination, he accomplished his mission.
”I began my education with LEA Primary School, Ogba then proceeded to Bishop Delisle College, Lokoja next is the University of Jos, gained admission to the Kogi State University, Anyigba and finally to Bayero University, Kano, typical of a person with a disability with the attendant bitter experience. In all this, I was not deterred by my condition as I pursue my mission with great enthusiasm, passion, and with prayer, and today, I have a success story to tell the world.
”I am the most neglected member of my family from childhood, simply because of my condition but today, the most cherished child in the family, flaunting my first and master’s degree in Mass communication with a higher prospect in a Journalism career,” he said with nostalgia.
The above remarks represent the testimony of one of the versatile Journalists in Lokoja, Kogi State in north-central Nigeria, Malam Ishiaq Imam, whose experience in life, as a man challenged by polio almost from childhood, has been aptly described by many as amazing and inspirational to all and sundry who across him.
Imam, who was spotted full of life, exchanging pleasantries with colleagues and extending gestures to some of them at the NUJ Press Centre recently in Lokoja, said he had a story that portrayed a strong lesson and admission to those with the erroneous belief that nothing good comes out of those living with disabilities. A story characterized by hard times but survived because he was to make it in life.
The Reporters reports that from a casual reporter with the Nigerian Television Authority NTA Lokoja, Imam, who goes about with clutches in the course of achieving his private and public tasks, is now a principal editor with the Voice of Nigeria (VON).
Imam, who has taken his Journalism profession to the international level by covering the 2019 general elections for BBC from Kogi state as a freelance reporter, beat his chest to say that he accomplished his milestones through dint of hard work and dogged determination to break all barriers to attain his educational ambition, career progression and other dreams in life.
From humble background with little of seeing the four walls of primary school education, coupled with a physical disability (polio) with the attendant stigmatization from the society, Iman took his unfortunate circumstance in good faith as he walked through the ladder of rough edges of life to realize his dream.
Fired by the absolute zeal to achieve his educational ambition to the highest level of citadel Nigeria government can provide its citizens, Imam proceeded to the University of Jos where he obtained a Diploma in Journalism.
Not satisfied with the giant stride he proceeded to the Kogi State University, Anyigba to bag his BSc in Mass Communication, a feat he capped with a Master’s degree in the same discipline from Bayero University Kano.
He said he was not through yet as he expressed avowed determination to earn his Ph.D.; either at the University of Oxford or Havard University in the nearest future.
“My ambition is to obtain my Ph.D. soon. I am preparing myself for greater leadership responsibilities at that level, not minding my physical disability anyway.
“This is because I believe that having a first degree is not enough to achieve the lofty idea I have for my state and the country at large. As a matter of fact, my dream is to become a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria one day, to enable me to formulate policies and programs that will make life bearable for people living with disabilities.
“Therefore, my main goal in life is to obtain a Ph.D. in transformational leadership either from the University of Oxford or Havard University.
“What more, with such the highest educational qualification, I would be able to change the leadership narrative in my state and Nigeria at large as well for the better.
“Having experienced the low quality of life associated with leadership and governance in Nigeria, I am a passionate student of policy and strategic development, the absence of which, in my opinion, is one of the major causes of Nigeria’s underdevelopment,” he explained.
Besides his accomplishments, Imam is married to a dutiful wife, has four lovely children, and has a personal house in Lokoja, all this he did, surpassing some of the abled-bodied ones in the society.
“I am the first Journalist from the Ogba community, my village, in Mozum district of Bassa Local Government Area of Kogi state to obtain a master’s degree and built a house in Lokoja among other firsts,” he made bold to say.
He described disability as merely existing in name, stressing that he pursued his ambition with vigor, believing strongly that disability has no place of pride in his agenda to break his way to a success story in life.
In a philosophical tone, he said:” Disability is not a curse but a path some people have to follow in their journey of life which can be natural or man-made. It is also to prove the greatness of the supreme being over His creatures, especially the humans. We are like a pencil in His hand and He can use us to write anything He wants to write to communicate His mightiness to humanity.
“The reality is that nobody is immune to physical disability, so whenever it comes, irrespective of the cause, it should not weigh our morale down in our determination to achieve our purpose in life.
“Physical disability, as unpalatable as it may be, should instead ginger the victims to push ahead with dogged determination to achieve their desired goal in life, rather than bemoaning over such fate they cannot change.”
Baring his mind to the plight of fellow persons living with disabilities in Nigeria, Imam expressed concern that the society had not been encouraging this class of population for them to excel.
He blamed many parents for their lackadaisical attitude toward the education of their children living with disabilities, adding that the development had limited the capacity and ability of those classes of children in achieving their desired goals in life
“Most parents do not live up to their responsibility in terms of caring for children living with disabilities in Nigeria. As such, people must struggle harder to succeed with doggedness, in spite of physical challenges. The educational institutions are not friendly to us too. All these need to be changed for good by our leaders in the country. This is one of the things I hope to pursue while in a position of authority in the nearest future in
On how he came into the media, Imam said his love and passion for journalism started from his youth when he developed a serious interest in reading any written material at his disposal, even before seeing the four walls of primary school.
He said: “I have the age-long dream to be a Journalist in life, to the extent that my people called me director of information because I always read features written by Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese, and Yakubu Muhammed and engaged in enlightening them on news around them.
“In addition, I always monitor BBC radio and gather information, with a view to informing the people about happenings around and outside their environment.
“My brother, Musa Mohammed, an Islamic missionary with an Islamic propagation center in Ughelli in Delta State, also made an immeasurable contribution to boosting my interest and success in Journalism.
“At an early stage in life, Mohammed thought me how to read any book at my disposal. He would bring me books on the Principle of Federal Character and Federalism in Nigeria, co-authored by Prof. same Oyovbare and other authors to read and internalize what I read.
He also bought me English language textbooks to read which enabled me to know the rules and use of grammar to be able to effectively communicate with people.
“He said to me, with your verse knowledge in English language and journalism, even at this stage, the people will begin to see you as a reliable person to inform them about developments in and outside Nigeria and you discover that you will achieve greatness in Journalism in life.
“I imbibed that idea and within some time, I started writing letters and informing my people about happenings in Nigeria, even before gaining admission into secondary”.
On his foray into the practice of journalism, the father of four said his first attempt as he went to the Nigerian Television Authority NTA Lokoja, soliciting the assistance of reporters to be interviewed to enable members of the public to raise N 3,000, being his WAEC fee.
He said when the news about his story was aired, the then General Manager of the station, Ejembi noted his diction as being suitable for broadcast journalism and gave him a casual job, to be writing stories from press releases and transcribing English stories to Hausa stories, on N7,000 salary per month.
However, his job at NTA only lasted a few months as he was laid off because the Authority scrapped the idea of using casual workers and he was thrown into the unemployment market but little did he know another luck was waiting for him.
According to him, success came his way again when he secured another casual job with the Voice of Nigeria (VON) as a reporter, where he interviewed a one-time Senator from the Central Senatorial district, Sen. Mohammed Ohiare in Lokoja and told him of his aim to join VON as a full-time member of staff and Ohiare asked him to come to see him at the national assembly for the letter to VON for that.
He further told our correspondent that with his condition, he traveled to the National Assembly, Abuja to see Sen. Ohiare on his mission but missed his target only to stumble on Sen. Umbi Wada of the blessed memory from Gombe, by sheer luck and courage to secure a permanent job.
According to him, Wada wiped his tears by giving him a letter to be employed by VON as a full-fledge staff, and today, he is a principal editor with the organization and the rest is history today.
The import of this piece is that there are thousands of people living with disabilities today in Nigeria with great potential to contribute to the social, economic, and political development of the country but cannot because no help anywhere to assist them to realize their ambition.
While Ishiaq Imam should be commended for summoning the courage to bulldoze his way to acquire his education to the highest level as a self-man individual, there are many of his colleagues begging for the assistance of government and another well to do individuals to achieve their aim in life.
Helping this class of Nigerians to realize their lifelong dream will go along to boost the process of building citizens whose input remains crucial to the development of Nigeria as well to ensure a better society for all and sundry.
Ahmed is a member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, writer, reporter, and media consultant.