By Usman Adams
It is an established fact that there are two fixed dates in a man’s life the day you are born and the day you die, in between these two dates are endless stories of a man’s struggles for survival.
Consequently, Philosophers contend that ‘if you cannot fly, run, and if you cannot run walk, and if you cannot walk crawl never remain stationary in life’.
It is therefore my belief that at the age of 75 Mr Shango, Journalist, Writer, Technocrat and Politician must have undergone all those processes enumerated above.
When I heard the message from President Muhammadu Buhari congratulating my mentor and benefactor Mr Simon Shango on his 75th birthday via a radio station early that morning I shouted which prompted my twin daughters of 18 years old rushing to my room to enquire what was wrong and when I mentioned the name of Mr Simon Shango they were transfixed and only became relaxed when I further explained to them that Mr president had just sent a congratulatory message to my friend Simon Shango on his birthday. Of course the name Simon Shango resonates in my house because I had told my family members and all those who cared to know how I became a Journalist.
In that message President Muhammadu Buhari who never says anything in vain eulogized the manifold sterling qualities of Mr Shango and described him as a detribalized Nigerian I cannot agree more with Mr President as the facts I am about to enumerate would speak for me.
In 1972, the then Benue-Plateau State Ministry of Education had given me an appointment to teach English Language at the Government Technical College Bukuru after successfully completing my Higher School Certificate Course in December 1971 at the Government Secondary School Kuru.
While at Bukuru I had travelled to Kaduna to help me put together a magazine which I was planning to publish. I had not previously met Mr Simon Shango in person before my trip to Kaduna to meet him but his fascinating and scintillating stories which often occupied the front page of the New Nigerian Newspapers had always caught my fancy especially the one on the langa langa train disaster in 1961 thus my quest to meet him.
Although he personally did not do much to advance my ambition, he gave me names of some journalists including Mr Clement Oluwole, Mr Shehu Abui of blessed memory and Mr Joseph Angulu. After a night with him in Kaduna I returned to my teaching job when early in June 1972 I received a message that Mr Shango wanted to see me at the Ministry of Information Jos and that was how I got a job as a reporter at the newly established Benue-Plateau Printing and Publishing Corporation, publishers of the Nigerian Standard Newspaper, whose first edition came out barely a week after I had taken the job.
In the early stages of the newspapers establishment Mr Shango virtually recruited the most able hands from all parts of the country in various editorial departments of the newspaper,
Mr Lekan Akinola a Yoruba man, Mr Clement Oluwole from Kwara State, Mr Joseph Angulu from the present Nasarawa State, Mr Innocent Adikwu who later became the Editor of the Punch Newapapers and Mr John Chiahemen who later became an international correspondent of Reuters News Agency and James Ikuve were all from the present Benue State. Also recruited by Simon Shango was Adamu Danjuma who later became the editor of Analyst Magazine and now the Commissioner for Information and Orientation in Taraba State and many others.
Towards the end of that year 1972 I confided in Mr Simon Shango who was on the management team of the Newspaper that I was not comfortable working with the newspaper he quietly shared this view with Mr Iliya Audu the editor who later became a Senator in the second republic from Wukari now in Taraba State suggested that I should be sent to the Nigerian Institute of Journalism in Lagos to encourage me to stay on the job. It was during my course in Lagos that I met late David Attah the then General Manager at Daily Times, the late Prince Tony Momoh who later became my Minister and chief Dan Agbese who does not need any further introduction.
By 1978 Simon Shango had adequately paid his dues in the establishment of the newspaper and therefore left for Benue State where he became the state publicity secretary of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN).
Simon Shango started his career as a Journalist in 1967 and worked under such great names and nationalists like Mallam Adamu Ciroma of blessed memory and Mallam Mamman Daura the Editor of the New Nigerian Newspaper from 1969-1971.
Simon Shango Loved Journalism and spent his years in Journalism which span from the New Nigeria to the Daily Times of Nigeria mentoring young Journalists.
It is my strong contention that working under such great people from a youthful age must have shaped his views as a detribalized person. Those over six years that he had worked in the New Nigerian Newspaper at the most precarious time in Nigerian history must have adequately prepared him for future life. Indeed Journalists during his time in the New Nigerian Newspaper worked very hard to restore the dignity of the average Northerner after their leaders and their military officers were shockingly killed in the 16th January 1966 coup. The New Nigerian Newspaper became the voice of the North and the then military government in Lagos took its views very seriously.
When President Obasanjo became the Head of State after the 1976 coup he was not comfortable with the New Nigerian Newspaper and therefore brought it under federal government control by then Mr Simon Shango had left.
The present civilian government should reward all those editorial staff of the New Nigerian Newspaper for the patriotic work they did for the unity of this country through their reportage and editorial comments.
In 2013 the Benue chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) honoured Mr Simon Shango, Chief David Attah of blessed memory, Late Dr Patrick Ityoher and my humble self at an occasion. In a citation at the occasion the NUJ stated that they were honouring us for our immense contribution to the growth of journalism in Benue State. I believe that while we thank the NUJ Benue chapter for this gesture President Muhammadu Buhari’s birthday message should be subsequently followed by a National Honours award of any category the President may deem fit for his contribution in preserving the unity of Nigeria through his writings while at the New Nigeria.
Finally Jesus Christ died at the age of 33 after he had finished his mission on earth and old man Simeon in the book of Luke prayed that ‘let thy servant depart in peace’ after he had seen the birth of Jesus Christ. Mr Simon Shango at the age of 75 has not yet completed his journey on earth as he has many more people to mentor.
On behalf of all my former colleagues I join President Muhammadu Buhari in wishing Mr Simon Shango many more years of happy returns in the service of the nation.
Usman Adams wrote from Abuja