Adamu: Emergence of a media avatar in Taraba

Last Sunday morning, a close buddy and professional colleague named Barr. Danjuma Anyeze Adamu called to inform me that he had just been appointed as Commissioner for Information and Reorientation in the administration of Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba state. He said he had to call me to break the news personally because he would not want me to hear it from a third party. I thanked him for the honour and addressed him as Honourable Commissioner. But he insisted I call him Sharp Knife which is the moniker we gave each other many years ago in order to keep our bond. We both had a prolonged laughter.

It was the best tiding I have heard since the outgoing year began. Barr. Adamu worked with The Nigeria Standard Newspapers owned by the Plateau state Government. He joined the media outfit straight as a sub-editor in 1975, three years after I had been on ground, meaning he had been well grounded as a reporter. I was on the sports desk as the head and we both shared the same sprawling office space that also housed the newsroom along with the sub-desk.

Let me state from the onset that Barr. Adamu and I so bonded that somewhere along the line, we lost our identities after picking Sharp Knife as our moniker. We were both singles. Till date, we don’t call each other by our first names. We simply address each other as Sharp Knife. Yes, Sharp Knife, even though we were not into butchery!

This is the origin of the nickname Sharp Knife: At various occasions attended by us in Jos where barbecues were available, Danjuma and I would methodically or craftily slice the meat, avoiding the bones… and it required the use of a very sharp knife. I can see you are salivating!

Eventually, sharp knife also became a metaphor for barbecue. One evening at a press function where barbecue was not provided, Danjuma and I searched out the organisers of the occasion and mocked them because sharp knife was not found on the menu!

Sharp Knife was a brilliant sub-editor and his pen was equally sharp as he pierced through copies from the news desk with it, turning out lucid stories under the watch of Mr. Dan Agbese who was his immediate boss as the chief sub-editor between the mid and late 80s. Small wonder, he rose to step into Dan’s shoes.

One incident is worth recalling here. It was a cool Monday evening in 1978 or thereabouts. Danjuma’s senior colleague on the desk, James Ikuve of blessed memory, snapped his fingers and requested to use the former’s car, a Peugeot 206 saloon. An hour or so later, James came back only with the ignition key! There had been an accident. Accidents do happen quite alright.

What shocked me was that Danjuma had to bear the cost of repairs of the damage alone. James contributed no dime. I was surprised he did not make any trouble with him. That was the unique nature of Sharp Knife. After that incident, I resolved not to hand over my car to anyone. Where I had to bend the rule, the borrower would have to sign an undertaking to repair any damage in the event of an accident or even theft.

After serving the paper for five years during which he rose rapidly to become the editor of Pappy Joe, a comic weekly magazine midwived by Chief David Attah (now late), he left for the Daily Times in September, 1980 as production editor. The tenure of Chief Attah as the General Manager of the Plateau Publishing Corporation saw the introduction of a couple of titles to the Standard. He established the Sunday paper and later a monthly magazine named ROCK. He was also instrumental to the formation of the dreaded Standard Football Club of Jos which I was the pioneer chairman in April, 1976.

Sharp Knife’s sojourn in the Daily Times was very brief. After spending seven months, he returned to the United Kingdom where he had his journalism training at the prestigious College of Journalism, Fleet Street, London, to study International Affairs at the University of London and obtained a Diploma.

Upon returning to Nigeria, he founded the Analyst Magazine in 1986. The publication took the media space by storm because of the bravery and incisive brand of journalism it threw up during the military regime. The fearlessness of Sharp Knife soon attracted the attention of the radical icon, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, who sought to partner with him. The Analyst, though defunct, bestrode the media space like a colossus, lasting for two years.

In 1995, Sharp Knife was bitten by the bug of law, enrolling at the University of Jos. And because we were inseparable, he did all he could to drag me along. For once, I had to use a sharp knife to cut the journalism cord that connected us for close to two decades, so to speak, by refusing to be dragged along to read law! Today, Sharp Knife has his feet in two camps and he has practised journalism and law with (admirable) panache.

This piece will be incomplete without the mention of one incident in Sharp Knife’s life. One afternoon, he came to my apartment in the company-rented block of flats at Jenta, off Akpata Street, Jos. He looked visibly disturbed; he was not in his sharpness at all. The problem was that his fiancée had asked him to destroy all his expensive UK-made electronic gadgets or no deal. Her school system in Takum, in the present day Taraba state, turned out to be a conservative institution which had succeeded in brainwashing its students not to touch the evil gadgets with a 10-foot pole or be associated with the harbourers of the infernal machines!

Danjuma was faced with a dilemma: he wanted to keep the electronics and his relationship. He said he did not know what to do. But I told him I knew what he should do and asked for just one hour. I went to my electronic technician and narrated the situation to him. Incidentally, he too had a situation he was battling with. He was losing his banker wife to a church which had brainwashed her with stories of her relations and in-laws plotting to take her life if she remained in the marriage. That is a story for another day.

I requested him to give me some scraps of television and radio sets and he gathered them into the booth of my car. I headed back home. Sharp Knife joined me in offloading the items. We then set them ablaze, took photographs of the bonfire and mailed the pictures to Takum. She was so happified by the compliance. Meanwhile, I had taken into my custody, all Sharp Knife’s electronics to enrich my sitting room. Today, it is interesting to know that the duo are happily married and they celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary penultimate Tuesday (December 17, this year).

 I congratulate Sharp Knife on his well-deserved appointment. Governor Ishaku could not have made a better choice. His emergence could not have come at a better time when the state needs a reorientation for a better Taraba. In Sharp Knife, he has found a vintage image-maker, a media avatar and an iconic mouthpiece. It is my firm belief that he will not only deliver on his mandate sharply but also leave a legacy difficult to match let alone surpass.