Renowned broadcast journalist, Prof Ladi Sandra Adamu, is a woman reputed for her firm disposition. But behind her tough mien is a humane woman who as a trained broadcast journalist has seen both sides of the journalism profession, namely training and practice. By a dint of hard work, she rose to become the first professor of broadcasting in the entire northern region made up of 19 states and the Federal Capital Territory. She spoke with TONY AKOWE about her life as a journalist and a teacher, particularly the transition from practising journalism to teaching it.
Prof. Ladi Adamu
In a region where women are not usually encouraged to go to school, rising to the level of a professor is no mean achievement. Yet that was the feat accomplished by Prof Ladi Sandra Adamu, the first professor of broadcast journalism from the northern part of the country.
Prof Adamu has every reason to be grateful to the Nigerian Army for the successes she has recorded in life. As a young lady growing up, she had lost her father, Adamu Pankshin, who died as a soldier in the line of duty. The late Pankshin was better known to many old time soldiers as Sgt Major Adamu Pankshin, and he had made history as the first Nigerian to become a Regimental Sergeant Major of the Nigerian Army Corps of Engineers in Kaduna.
Prof. Adamu told our correspondent that Sgt Major Pankshin was the man that shaped her life. “Physically, he taught me how to write in his spare time. He made sure I had the best of education. I was among the pioneer pupils who attended Army Children Nursery School. I attended Queen of Apostles College (now Queen Amina College, Kakuri) from Primary Six. Then, there was Primary Seven.
“He ensured that I had lessons after class right from primary school. All his children who performed well in exams got extra pocket money which we used in buying comic books and other items of interest like chocolates and biscuits.”
Born in the Barracks in Yaba, Lagos, Adamu had a wonderful childhood experience. She said: “I had a cosmopolitan upbringing in Lagos, Kaduna and Enugu. I lived with people from all over the country in the barracks. It was a happy childhood. My father being the RSM at Mogadishu Barracks, our house was a detached four-bedroom bungalow with television, 24 hour water and light. Everything was normal until the civil war broke out. The family was scattered at the initial stage only for us to regroup when the situation stabilised.”
She recalled that as a captain in the Nigerian Army, her father was nicknamed The Soldier’s Soldier by his colleagues due to his bravery and exploits in war and peacekeeping operations.
Pankshin, a prince, was a man with exceptional talent and capacity to survive in the army. He had zealously joined the army against all opposition from the family and lived through the jungles and storms of the Nigerian civil war between 1967 and 1970, during which he earned the appellation of “Soldiers’ Soldier”.
For his military exploits, he became the first soldier ever to be honoured with a song by renowned Hausa praise singer, Mamman Shata. He was also one of the best (British) trained soldiers in the Nigerian Army during his time. He was also believed to have impacted positively on the lives of many of his colleagues and subordinates.
Pankshin was one of the pioneer hands of the Engineering Corps of the Nigerian Army as we have it today.
“He was a legend and my mentor. I wish he was alive to witness my achievements,” Adamu said.
Although she decided to pen down her experience and memories of her father in a book that has become a best seller in the country, she told The Nation that “life without a father is traumatic for the family and particularly the children.
“My father died in active service. Fortunately, we were trained by the Nigerian Army under a special scholarship scheme that was in place then. I don’t know whether such schemes are still in existence now.”
With a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism (specializing in radio and television) from Columbia College, Hollywood, and a master’s degree in film/script writing from the Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, Prof Adamu is today northern Nigeria’s first female professor of broadcasting. Available records suggest that she is in fact the only professor of broadcasting in the entire northern Nigeria.
She said: “When I began my education, I never thought that one day, I would become the first professor of broadcasting in Northern Nigeria. I didn’t know that I would make or break any academic record in that field of study or write my name in gold as reported by the broadcast stations.
“The idea of becoming the first professor of broadcasting was hatched by my postgraduate students in the Department of Mass Communication, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria when I became an Associate Professor in 2014. Having attained the full chair of professor (backdated to October 2017), I was given the specialisation of broadcasting because anybody promoted to the rank of professor must have a specialisation attached to it, based on qualifications and academic publications.
“At a luncheon in honour of my professorship as the first female professor of broadcasting in Northern Nigeria, industry people present at the occasion made it known that I was not only the first female but the first broadcast professor in the region. All I can say is to God be the glory.”
On her return to Nigeria after graduating, Prof. Adamu worked with the Nigeria Television Authority, Jos as an announcer and presenter. She was later posted to the News and Current Affairs Division as a News Editor and sometimes as a reporter.
Her career in journalism took her to the defunct Democrat newspaper as Deputy Editor with the weekly title, also overseeing the women, children and entertainment pages.
But her talent was never lost on those who knew her, as she was soon poached from the media industry to help build aspiring journalism and communication students. She joined the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria on the prompting of the late Dr Joe De-Goshie to help in nurturing the young Department of Mass Communication.
She said: “As you can see, I moved from the field of journalism to the classroom. My former colleagues referred to me as a classroom journalist. This migration assisted me in my teaching practice. It has also impacted greatly on my students, many of who are now practising journalists.”
Prof. Adamu is not comfortable with the nation’s educational system. She believes that a lot needs to be done to put things right.
In her words: “The Nigerian educational system needs restructuring in curriculum development, especially in terms of practical exposure. There is need for better funding in form of physical structures, equipment and laboratory consumables, to enhance teaching and research.”
Although she says she does not have any political ambition, she is willing to serve the nation in any capacity. This she is already doing as a member of the technical research committee set up by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND).
She is not happy that women are not given full opportunity to participate in governance in the country. She said in spite of the seven women in Buhari’s cabinet, there is room for more women to serve as ministers.
Congratulating the women appointed as ministers, she said: “I believe there is room for more cabinet ministers. Smaller African countries abide by the Beijing affirmative action which states that women should be given a number of posts. I want to believe that for cultural reasons, women are not given the full opportunity to participate in governance in Nigeria.
“Two decades ago, I read a study on global value of women. Out of a sample of 113 countries, Nigeria emerged 93. This is very pathetic, given our population and impact on the continent. There is need to emphasise on girl child education, particularly in the North.”
Growing up in a north that was closely knit, she is concerned about current developments in the region. But she has one consolation, that the north is indivisible.
She said: “As a Northerner, I believe in one indivisible north. Culturally, I am Hausa. Many will be surprised at this remark because I come from Plateau State. Most of my life is spent in the midst of Hausa people. Where you grew up is more important than your ethnic background.
“I remember that many Gombe State indigenes who fled from Jos during the crisis came back because they could not fit back home. Growing up in Kaduna in the old Northern Region has a of lot impact on my life. We were considered the same people.
“People only began to see differences in us when states were created. It was then I knew that some of my friends were from Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Kano, Taraba, among others.
“Even some Ogoja people in the barracks were considered as northerners.”