Idris @54: Inspiring leadership amidst challenges

Not many carry such a peaceful mien to dare the uncertain field of the media profession and survived the long winter of gestation. In a field defined by new innovations and creativity, creating synergy between reporting the news and creating boundless opportunities in broadening new frontiers in both personal and organisational reputation management can never be discountenanced. These and other traits symbolise the essence of Alhaji Mohammed Idris who founded Blueprint that debuted in May 2011.

Our path crossed when, shortly after I left the Peoples Daily, he called me for a meeting to discuss the possibility of taking up a position in his new newspaper outfit that was slated to hit the streets on May 2, 2011. Though not too convinced of yet another prospects of jumping into another new media project, I decided to honour him by agreeing to meet with him at his Maitama office in Abuja in March 2011.

Arriving the meeting, I met someone with an enchanting simplicity permeated in humanity that is mostly abnormal in many publishers. More interesting, I met senior colleagues whose professional competence and collaboration had spurred me in the course of my journalism career. With Hajiya Zainab Suleiman-Okino serving as Editor-in-Chief, and  Mallam Ibrahim Sheme taking the position of Managing Editor, I saw Blueprint as the last bus stop. 

After the meeting with Alhaji Idris, I resigned my position as the Managing Editor of TheRoad after spending just two months. The new media outfit had the singular luck of assembling one of the best crop of journalists that would later be described as top-heavy. One thing was clear: the publisher of Blueprint was determined to produce a newspaper that would serve as the envy of others and strong media voice in the country. 

As the day for the formal debut of the newspaper drew nearer, anxious moments blew across the minds of new staffers expected to midwife the long awaited newspaper. Mr. Isiaka Gbodiyan, AKA Creative Director and one of the country’s best newspaper designers, had put everything in the fire for the best designed newspaper aimed at capturing the interest of readers.

After several editorial meetings to determine the lead story for the preview copy. The story: ‘Doubts dog Jonathan’s one-term promise’ was picked to lead the preview edition. As we retired for the night and left Mallam Sheme to pull through for the production of the preview, the killing of Osama Bin Laden by American Marines in Afghanistan would change the cover design.

Returning the next day, May 2, 2011, the newly debuted Blueprint had carried the story of the killing of Bin Laden, making the newly debuted newspaper the first Nigerian newspaper to beat others to publish the story. The debut of Blueprint on May 2, 2011 was to celebrate the 45th birthday of Alhaji Idris whose business acumen and intelligence had led to the birth of a medium that has ‘Truth and Justice’ as its motto.     

For the consummate PR expert and business man who remains the brain behind the newspaper, creating synergies for development seems far more imperative than wielding the big stick in advancing causes and pushing for accomplishments. In his perspective, putting up a friendly disposition remains the bedrock of inspiring staffers to walk the path of excellence. Unlike others who own newspaper for other reasons, Idris is genuinely concerned with staff welfare and allows unfettered professionalism to hold sway, while restricting his intervention in sourcing funds to drive the project.

Idris who is mostly referred to as ‘Chairman’ does not carry challenges of life on his face. His ever-smiling expression and ability to relate with his workers remain his indelible traits that is charmed with the capacity to lessen tension. Chairman carries no airs and his ability to connect with workers’ conditions makes him a democrat who is too willing to dialogue and resolve issues peacefully. 

It is due to his uncommon perceptiveness as a manager of professionals that has enabled the media outfit to weather the storms despite the myriad of problems troubling publishing houses. Nearly a decade of publishing has, no doubt, toughened him and exposed him to the vagaries of publishing. Despite the downturn of media prospects, the Niger-born media owner has continued to display an unsurpassed suppleness in providing the tonic for genuine leadership and promoting cutting-edge innovations for the newspaper.

Nine years after founding Blueprint, the consummate marketing and communication consultant whose footprints remain indelible is set to launch Blueprint Television that has already been approved by President Muhammadu Buhari. The relaunch of the WE FM 106.5, according to Alhaji Idris, is expected to broaden communication platforms for his media empire. To contain the challenges posed by online publications, he advocates for a complete review that will make online publication option becomes stronger and unavoidable option for mainstream media.  

Idris was born on May 2, 1966 in Katsina but hails Niger State. He saw education as a tool for a bright future, and he was determined to improve on the quality of life by acquiring it. He got enrolled and completed his primary school education at the Central Primary School, Kontagora, Niger State in 1977. Between 1977 and 1982, the young Idris was at the Government Secondary School, Rijau, Niger State. He would thereafter proceed to the Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto, for a degree in English (1987).

Idris would later proceed to the Bayero University (BUK) Kano for a master’s degree (1995). Apart from taking the position of a part-time lecturer at the BUK (1989-1991), he also taught English and Communication Skills at the Federal College of Education (FCE), Katsina (1989–1994).

Turning to the business world, Idris founded a public relations/communications consultancy company, Biofocal Communications Ltd, Abuja in 1993 where he has served as the “chief strategist and visionary leader at the company for over 25 years, He also became the Founder/Chief Executive Officer of Cavalet Publications Ltd that served as publishers of The Market Magazine, the first business and economy magazine in the northern part of the country.

The publisher is also the Board Chairman of Abuja Property Development Company (APDC) since 2017 till date. Among other positions held by the erudite public relations expert are; Chairman, Catnose Limited; Co-Founder, Easylink Aviation; Chairman, Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), Kaduna Chapter; 24-2008 and now the Assistant Secretary, Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) (2014-till date).

In the field of public relations, his footprints have been visible as he has received laurels in recognition of his outstanding leadership qualities. He served as the Chairman, Security Committee, World Press Congress in Abuja (June, 2018); Member, Sponsorship and Finance Committee, World Press Congress to hold in Abuja (June, 2018), including being a Recipient, NIPR Presidential Special Recognition Award (2014), among several others.

He is also a Fellow, Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR); Member, Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria (PRCAN); Member, Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN); Member, US-based Online News Association and Member, International Press Institute (IPI).

As Alhaji Idris turned 54 on Saturday May 2, 2020, there is no denying the fact that he has been a strong factor in improving quality of life and providing succour to many Nigerians. Considering his achievements, this owner of flourishing media businesses is set to broaden communication platforms for more engagements with the people. Alhaji Idris remains a true leader whose deep connection to his professional calling and unprecedented achievements in various sectors of national life set him apart for broader leadership position in the nearest future.

At 54, here is sending Alhaji Idris a happy belated birthday wishes as he continues in blazing the trail in service of mankind based on ‘Truth and Justice’.

Mr Reef is an Abuja-based journalist.

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