Danladi Nasir Bako… 60 cheers for the consummate broadcaster
Danladi Nasir Bako, a journalist par excellence was the toast of many television viewers in the 90s, when he produced and presented the popular programme Morning Ride. Based on his track record, he was appointed the Director General, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), a position he held between 1999 and 2002 and later joined mainstream politics. As he turns 60, Bako shares his experience, excitement and gratitude with BRIDGET CHIEDU ONOCHIE.
At 60, how do you feel?
I feel fulfilled and grateful to God, because there are lots of friends who didn’t get to 60 years. Also, I had a lot of people, relations, friends, who did not wait to finish their school, get university education or go out of the country. But God has blessed me with such blessings like education, honour, dignity and recognition by my country and my people, and has given me an opportunity to live and at the same, met the likes of Nelson Mandela, to see a black man become President of America, to be around to see some incredible things happen; to be around to see the civil war end in Liberia. To be alive to witness all these things are privileges, which I consider very, very extremely rare, and I thank God for them.
People will always remember your role as D.G, NBC. Looking back now, are you happy with the NBC you left?
NBC has just marked its 25 years of existence, and so far, so good. I can say that we have done well. I did my best and I believe that those that came behind me are trying their best. I said so considering that once upon a time, we had just one or two television stations and few radio stations; and there was no funding for operation as at 1962. Today, 56 years after, we have more than 200 FM stations and more than 100 television stations and satellite dishes, and Nigerian stations are watched all over the world and our movies dominate Africa. Not just that, the music industry is progressing. Once upon a time, musicians will go to NTA, begging announcers to announce their music. In fact, they would bribe the announcer with N50, N100 to play their music. Today, the channels and FM stations can help them. They don’t need to pay anything, they just play the music to the extent that we can do a movie and music video within a week. So, we have come a long way. Today, the influence of the media, democracy, have been so incredible that TV and radio stations now present their agenda to the public, and there are various types of public and political discourse at their TV programmes. So, the impact of the media on the political development has become so remarkable that presidents now queue up to appear on channels, to appear on NTA. Presidential candidates struggling to appear on TV stations and radio stations because the media control the mind, the mind controls the votes and the votes decide who becomes the President. So the media has become extremely more powerful than it was, and I said, we started it and we are happy that so far so good. The profile of the media man and the media profession has improved so much more than it was in the past.
Were there innovations you couldnt introduce before leaving that you expect to see now?
Like I said, the ability for stations to have some kinds of self-control and sel- regulations showed that they don’t need anybody to wield the big stick to sanction them. They now have intelligent and quality people to check the contents of programmes before they get out. Most importantly, they must be able to reach out to many people, they must make themselves available, and be able to increase the participatory level of participation in the affairs of the country. The media must help the appointed and elected Presidents to realize that their role is not just to the viewer or listener or reader, but they should also be able to caution those in power. The power of politics and democracy lie in the reports and the more enlightened people get, the more they fight for their rights. So there is a direct relationship between the media and this government.
Your resigning and joining politics, which didn’t work out…
I don’t want to say it didn’t work out. The targets were different. The movement out of NBC was to satisfy some other different desire and things I had wanted to do, which included going back to school, being useful to other aspects of the Nigerian community and the world. There are so many things that I did after I left NBC, which if I had stayed back, I wouldn’t have been able to achieve. Some other people were benefitting from me too. The Cross River State Development Basin Authority, where I was a board member, benefited from my participation. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, where I was a council member benefited from my experience and in politics, as Chairman, Media and Publicity, during the Jonathan/Yar’adua Presidential campaign team, people also benefited from my experience. If I had not left NBC, I wouldn’t have had time for all these things I did to add value to the development of my country. So, when NBC was losing something, the country was gaining something. In fact, when I joined politics, I had tried to get involved with who becomes the next President, the next governor, the next everything, and not sitting down and watch what happens in Nigeria, because if you sit down in your comfort zone, you are not influencing anything. And when there is bad leadership, you will not be happy to have stayed back and not influencing affairs. But when you come out there to join the campaign organization, you influence many things, the perception of your members, and that is more important. Belonging to a political party is more than winning an election. Winning an election is a personal thing. Losing an election does not mean you are a failure. For me, contributions to the society go beyond winning an election. There are so many parts of community works that will make you relevant to the society. If I asked you who was your Senator in 1992, you probably cannot remember. If I asked you who was the military governor of your state in 1991, you also probably cannot remember. But you remembered Danladi Bako. So, life is not all about winning election. And as I said, there were things I still wanted to do. I wanted to be part of those who decide who wins election, be part of the argument and use myself as a symbol and a role model for younger intellectuals to get involved in politics, because we cannot leave politics in the hands of shenanigans and area boys. The problem we have is that we don’t educate those who should be in power to get involved in politics. So, I got in there, showed people that they can survive in politics and that they should be able to participate in politics. As I said, it is always an opportunity to serve, and when you serve your people you stand as a guiding light and shining example of integrity, dignity and professionalism. So, all those qualities are still with me and they stay with me all my life. As I said, there are phases in life and there are few things I want to do. As a kid, I had hoped that one day, I would be an ambassador, be all sorts of the things I have lined up, get a doctorate degree. Now fortunately, I am in school, about completing my Ph.D programme. So, you cannot say my joining politics did not work.
Can we then conclude that you have no regrets leaving office as D.G, NBC as at the time you left…
No. No no, by no means. In fact, I feel so contented and so delighted, and like I said, those I left behind are there. You sees, one of my few idols include Nelson Mandela, who slightly finished four years in office and handed over, and general Abdulsalam Abubakar, who stayed nine months in power, and they still remember him today. So longevity has nothing to do with it. In fact, if anything, I am content with the performance, and you know my duty was to sanitise the place. I knew I could sanitize the place in three years, and I did. I set good target for myself. Listen, if I could walk away from my highly popular morning ride, where I was the toast of everybody. If I could leave it for my next assignment, why would I not leave the position of the D.G of NBC. I mean, morning ride was extremely popular that nobody would leave it for anything else. morning ride and master sports – the two major programmes that I created. Everybody now has versions, and there are versions of morning ride, versions of master sports. Life is more to me than all those things. Life is about how you can add value to life. I wanted to spend three years, sanitize the place and move on. The famous Michael Jordan walked away from basket ball since. There are few of us that are like that. We don’t get carried away by positions, we dont get carried away by material worldly things, we would rather be Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther Kings and others, who don’t see life as a place to gather treasures. Legacy is much more important, and my legacy in NBC still stands.
Can we say your philosophy to serve motivated your decision to take up commissionership job in your state after leaving national appointment?
Absolutely. For me, office is about service and sacrifice, and I used the opportunity to mentor a lot of young people and showed how work should be done. A lot of staff that worked with me in the ministry understood why and how the civil service in the 70s succeeded. It was because they saw in me the way it used to be done and they saw the need to work with dignity, integrity and gratitude. Those were the highlights of my tenure – probity, transparency, honesty, professionalism and legacy. I did all of that and I used it as a perfect example to show the new generation what they are doing wrong and how they can improve by using me as an example. Let me also tell you that President Shagari, up till today, still attends the Sultanate council as a member and sits on the floor with the Sultan of Sokoto every Tuesday when they have council meeting. And Alhaji Abubakar Alhaji, former Permanent Secretary, former Minister of Finance, was serving in Wamako’s government, in the same cabinet I was serving. He was serving Governor Aliu Wamako as a Special Adviser. So, we have all of that and those of us that understand what service is – service is not about being one popular, or one big man with a big name. No. Service is about what you can do for the community that you serve. A few words to mentor a few people is part of service. Once in two months, you gather two young boys and train them and mentor them – that is service. About grooming the younger generation of journalists. We must do what I did in Sokoto State – go back and serve on a daily basis in the radio station and TV station, putting them through and explaining to them why they need to read beyond themselves, why they need to read other people, why they need to read literature. I would leave University of Lagos as a Master Student in 1980/81 and drive to University of Ife and Ibadan to go and read encyclopedia Britanica to find out information about certain things.
There was a day in 1988, when former Minister of Health, Professor Olikoye Ransom Kuti, invited me to his office. I met him seating with a Professor of Epidemiology, Professor Etim, that was the first day he told me about HIV – that there was a new virus called HIV and he asked me if knew about it. I was ashamed that I didnt know. That day, I went to the library to go and find out about it. I found a times magazine, the new section of science and medicine and I discovered that it is called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and I started doing my research. By the time I got back two weeks later, I was ready to interview him on Morning Ride, and he was very impressed that I went to do research on HIV. So, I did research but a lot of young ones don’t bother about research. They dont even ask any questions, they are in a hurry to hear themselves on air, they are in a hurry to write a column, there are in a hurry to do everything, and their stories are dry. Apart from The Guardian Newspapers and few others, most newspapers in Nigeria are so dry. There is no evidence of research, no evidence of knowledge, there is no evidence of intellect.
So, we must be able to first off all, restructure the curricula of mass communication and journalism. We must be able to ensure that people are better trained. Right now, the training is weak, and so, they come out very poor. And because of proliferation of radio and TV stations, people go and employ their in-laws and friends as managers of news, when they have only worked for newspaper house for three month. They become managers or feature editors, from there, two months later, they become eeditors of the paper. Fortunately, the new NBC boss takes all these things into consideration, at least, for broadcast media, and I do hope that Newspapers Proprietors of Nigeria and Guild of Editors can enforce that of print media so that not just any character can come in as editor on a paper. At another level, we have to go to social media to see how we can work on social media to create more platforms for us to reduce the effect of neglibility. For the other part of the general conventional media, all of us need to make serious effort on the quality of the people that go on air, either on radio or on TV. Right now, the ladies are more concerned about hearing their voices and speaking grammar and the men are more concerned about ego tripping and ego massage. So, we have a problem. Nobody works on content anymore. You open a station, expecting to hear additional information about things you dont know, but you cannot, because they don’t even know themselves.
So, a lot of them need to read wider, study harder because the listening public and the reading public are much more enlightened than they imagined. We need to work together with the Ministry, the parastatals that are involved, the professional bodies, NUJ, the general body and the mass communication department of Universities, everybody has a role to play in this regard. People like the ministry of information must be a sole conscience of this kind of drive. National Orientation Agency must be people who can inspire these kinds of people. We need to have people at that level to inspire the younger ones and drive them. A lot of people who heard me as DG of NBC will say ‘wao’, I know that I can understand and be convinced because he has proven to be a professional in all the programmes he created. So, I can listen to him. But when all sort of characters are appointed at NTA, FRCN, NBC, there is nothing aspiring. So, when they talk, it doesn’t get anywhere. Nobody is interested in what they say.
It is almost the same thing at all levels. If you have certain people in certain positions and you know that they dont convince, then what inspire you? They don’t just get anywhere because they don’t have the clout. Our recruitment process is weak, unfortunately, we dont realize that TV and radios have acquired bigger roles in the society than they used to be. Today, more than a 100 million people have access to radio and TV, 99 million have access to Internet. So, we must be able to groom the people that are working within this platforms. We must be able to drive them to be more professional, to read more and to do more to raise the level of the bar we expect.