Tribute to consummate newscaster Aisha Mustapha

It was difficult for me to come to terms with the news of the death of a personified news character, Aisha Bello Mustapha. When few days ago my phone rang, the same Aisha was on the line with her distinct branded newscasting voice. Like siblings, my concern for her was spontaneous on hearing about her sickness, direct from the horse’s mouth. The mutual conversations continued on phone beyond what can be revealed in this write up. Sadly, though, I never thought that the call was a farewell-thee one. 

The reality of her death, however, became so devastating with  accompanied flurry of uncontrollable tears streaming down my forlorn face.

That was an open betrayal of my deepest emotional emotion. The more terrific one like the punches by Mike Tyson and late Muhammed Alli cowed me down when i saw Aunty Aisha’s lifeless body on a stretcher. I ruminated over her sojourn on this planet and concluded thus: Hmmm, here lies the motionless body of this great woman, who had toured the seven continents of the world and had seen it all in the course of rendering quality service to the nation. 

That was at the National Mosque, where I joined colleagues and the congregation for her janazat. Indeed, it was a well deserved last respect for my dearest sister from another mother. In my state of sadness, for the loss of this great senior colleague, I became speechless like my other sisters, Halima Musa and Rabi Abdallah. The truism of a wise saying also engaged my busy thoughts on that ill-fated black and dark Monday, 11th December, 2023. Alas, the death of 

the famous newscaster extinguished the fire of activism in me even as a media General.

Hmmmm, what goes around, surely comes around. Not in the case of Aisha coming back anymore, but the sting of death is going round circlically, critically and clinically taking away its victims. The former NTA Director General, Yakub ibn Mohammed, and I shared the sorry story about the end of the news for the  consummate and passionate newscaster. The shared moments of sorrows between my mentor, the “boss”, and his mentee, “boy”expectedly dovetailed into consolatory sermonisation towards mitigating the pains in our hearts for the irreparable loss of Aisha.

The DG said, “As Muslims we must accept unconditionally, that it was her (Aisha’s) time and turn to answer the last call by her Creator. So sad”. Thereafter, my earlier line of thought that was put on pause when I saw the former DG resonated thus: “The angel of death had made the round and took away a beautiful soul from NTA family”. One in a million, you may say, with the Director General, Saliu Abdulhamid Dembos, as the chief mourner.

In her life time, she was the doyen of newscasting. A role model and veteran broadcaster who through dint of hardwork gained so much milage in visibility, popularity, responsibility and respectability on NTA Network  News.Cyril Stober and Aunty Moji Makanjuola can write a book on this my assertion. Quite often, as a newscaster she broke the news about the death of many notable personalities to end the news bulletin. She displayed on each occasion, after reading obituaries, uncommon spirit of a strong believer by reflecting on the departed ones, believing in the reality that one day someone will also brake the news of her own death.

By the sudden turn around, it took a newscaster to brake the news of her death on the same station, same belt and same time. What an irony of life’s turn-by-turn of deaths syndrome in this ephemeral life. According to the holy Quran, every soul must taste death. It therefore goes to say that when it is my turn as writer of this tribute and your time as readers, no Jupiter can fast-forward or rewrite the destined time, date and where we will breath our last.

She will be remembered for her delightful news presentations, garnished with fantastic diction laced with confidence and candour. To the late veteran broadcaster, news presentation was like eating bread and butter. The late Aisha was a co-producer of one of the weekly flagship programmes on NTA, Newsline. If in doubt, enquire from the former Executive Director News Shola Atere, the Director News Aliyu Baba Barau, and Aunty Asabe Abubakar.

The amazon Aisha gave her best for several years just as she replicated the same enthusiastic and charismatic service in her production and presentation on Nationwide and AM news as well as programme belts. I also recall with nostalgia, her scintilating pedigree of performance as a producer and presenter of a weekly programme, “Environment Matters”. She made her indelible marks to make the programme a must watch by lovers of nature and environmentalists. Ask Jennifer Igwe in Lagos Network Center. No wonder, she became an expert on Climate Change, owing to her deep wealth of experience and expertise garnered from her various participations in national and international dialogues and conferences which broadened her horizon on the global perspective that shaped her views to becoming an authority on the subject.

Looking back at my years of service especially at NTA Headquarters, Abuja, when my path crossed with the deceased. We were rostered severally on the same shifts for the production of several news bulletins. We worked dedicatedly, creditably and cordially, like brother and sister. Sometimes, she was my news producer while i served under her as production editor. Her winning and disarming sense of humour can’t be easily forgotten. She was amiable and amicable to staff on her shifts which paved the way for mutual cooperation and coordination. Emmanuel Ayinmiro, Oyinnaya Kalu Oka and Odan Masawaje will testify to her sisterly disposition. 

Not many of those who became TV  celebrities were able to combine humility with integrity and simplicity, but Aisha Bello Mustapha did. In fact, she stood out in character, superb human working relations and professionalism. She bestrode like a colossus, the newsroom as a distinguished, calm and collected broadcaster who paraded high value marketability credential and an on-air aura of a TV goddess that attracted viewers’ buy-in. She was persistently painstaking, passionate and professional about rendering service till she retired in 2022.

ABM will be greatly missed by family, friends, colleagues and fans who were unable to hold back their tears as she had her last journey on earth from the National Mosque to the cemetery, her last home. Her death at 57 drew the curtain, like a dramatis personae in a movie who played her part diligently and quit the stage when ovation was loudest. Call it the end of an era in the anals of the nation’s broadcasting sector in general and in particular, the Largest TV Network in the continent, NTA. 

As Aisha joined the league of late veteran broadcasters on the other side of the planet, she had been well received and welcomed on board by the likes of Tokunbo Ajayi, Yinka Craig, Cele Eradiri, Tunde Saiki, Sikeola Ipinlaye and Jonathan Bulus, among other departed members of the NTA family. Adieu Aunty Aisha Bello Mustapha. Goodnight to a mentor of many young broadcasters.

Fare-thee-well, till we meet to part no more in jannat Firidaus. 

Abdulkadri, former NTA defence correspondent, writes from Abuja.