By Francis Onyeukwu
Unarguably, Wada Maida who died on August 17, 2020 at the age of 70 in his Abuja residence left a track record which is of great relevance in the quest to the transformation of Nigeria and her civil/ public service.
Maida hailed from Katsina in Katsina State and was one of the pioneer staff of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) established in 1976 by the then military Head of State Major-General Olusegun Obasanjo.
NAN started editorial operations on October 2, 1978 with Mr Onuora Nzekwu and Professor Victor Adefela as the pioneer General Manager and Editor-in-Chief respectively in addition to about ten editorial staff including Maida.
The young Maida distinguished himself in his duties that he was among the first foreign correspondents appointed by the agency and himself deployed to London where he covered the entire Western Europe.
His vibrancy however paid off when after the military coup in 1984, the then Head of State, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari appointed him Chief Press secretary from where he returned to be the Editor-in-Chief after a counter coup in 1985.
In 1994, he was appointed the Managing Director of NAN, a position held till he retired in the year 2003 before he established his private Newspaper firm, Peoples Daily.
What made the track record of the soft-spoken, brilliant and firm technocrat unique was his recent appointment as the Chairman Board of Directors of the agency by yet his former boss and the incumbent Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari, a position he held till death snatched him away about 10.12 pm on Monday August 17, 2020.
No doubt these key positions held by Maida made him the luckiest and unique character who since the inception of the agency had occupied every strategic leadership positions in NAN which pride itself as the leading news agency in Africa.
Apparently because of the vintage leadership positions Maida held, he interacted with wide range of staff and other members of the public and in turn left a wonderful imprint in the minds of many and annals of the agency and it was for this that the news of his death was a rude shock to many.
Mr Francis Onyeukwu, the state correspondent of NAN, Awka, was one of those who received the news of Maida’s death with shock and pains due to the memory he kept of his former MD.
“Between the year 2000 and 2001, I was deployed to serve the one year mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in NAN, Abuja office.
“About one month to the end of our service year, the federal government led by former President Olusegun Obasanjo lifted ban on employment which the immediate past military regime placed.
“The management of the agency in her magnanimity granted all the corps members whose service in the agency was almost ending the waiver for them to take part in the recruitment exercise, as in their wisdom before the processes of the recruitment would be completed, we must have ended our service year.
“Sadly, in the course of short listing of the names of the applicants, out of five of us who were among the lucky batch, my name was not short listed due largely to what was later uncovered to be intentional act by two insiders,” he said.
However, when the attention of Maida was drawn to this matter on a Friday which precede Monday the date for recruitment interview, he was very angry, noting that it was evil for such conspiracy to found its way in the agency in spite the existing policy that any corps member who served in the agency was entitled to being short listed for him or her to try the luck.
Maida, who insisted that I must participate in the exercise regardless of the intentional omission, said that leadership positions should not be used for vindictiveness.
“At the end of the interview, I was among the few successful persons who were engaged by the agency in that exercise and for this singular reason I am sentimentally attached to Wada Maida,’’ Onyeukwu said.
For Emmanuel Obi, a security guard in NAN Awka who first met Maida in 1994 as a messenger during his official visit to Anambra.
Obi who was later retrenched due to the phasing out of low carder levels by the federal government-led by Obasanjo in the year 2006 said the impression Wada Maida made in his mind when he first saw him had continued to inspire him in spite his position in the agency.
“Not quite long after I joined NAN, Maida was made the MD, during his official visit to NAN Awka, after the meeting with my state correspondent and other editorial staff he held my hands and took me to his vehicle while giving me words of encouragement.
“He told me to always be obedient to my superiors and committed in my duties that certainly God will bless me through the works of my hands.
“Though he later gave me an envelope containing some cash, his inspirational speech to me that day has continued to inspire me in my services to the agency,” Obi said.
Obini Onuchukwu, the acting Registrar, Federal Polytechnic Oko, Anambra corroborated the account given by Onyeukwu and Obi on the meekness of heart of Maida as an administrator.
Onuchukwu who was recently honored as `NAN Ambassador’ by the agency, due to a number of donations he has made to the agency’s offices in Enugu and Awka since he transferred his service from NAN to Federal Polytechnic Oko, said the treatment he received from Maida in 2000 when he went for recruitment interview made him to have serious attachment to the organisation.
“Before our interview, Maida in a brief remark told us that NAN is a media organisation for all Nigerians committed to project the image of the nation well, noting that fairness, equity and professionalism were the watch words of the agency.
“I can gladly say he was a man of honour and integrity, a very kind man with high sense of humour, because apart from securing employment as a reporter during his tenure as MD he encouraged me which made me to face my journalism job seriously,’’ he said.
Chief Vitus Egwuagu, retired as the Deputy Managing Director, Technical Department, NAN Abuja, he described the late Maida as a very nice colleague who never interfered with another person’s duties.
“I joined NAN in 1983 while Maida was in London as a foreign correspondent, from where he was appointed the press secretary by Buhari until he returned to the agency in 1985 when we met.
“While he was the managing director and I the head technical department, we worked closely and achieved a number of things which made the agency stand out as a formidable media outfit,’’ he said.
According to Egwuagu, it was under the headship of Maida that NAN transformed into computerization and transmission of its editorial contents via satellite, making her the first media organisation to achieve such height in the country.
He equally said that the present magnificent office complex of the organisation located at Central Business District of Abuja was constructed and completed in the year 2000 during Madia’s tenure.
Egwuagu who shared a lot of memories about his late colleague said he was seriously touched by his death, saying, `our close relationship which started in NAN continued after our retirement.’’
The former deputy managing director who said they both left a lot of legacies in the agency regretted what he tagged `out sourcing of technical duties of the organisation to contractors’.
For Mr Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and publicity described Maida as a mentor in media unionism saying that he was synonymous with brilliance, humility, patience, kindness and courage.
“His thoughts, ideals, views on journalism and in life motivated many of us who came close to him and will continue to inspire us,” he said.
Shehu whose tribute on Maida was full of emotion added, “in my early days as an Editor at the Triumph Publishing Company in Kano, the late Chairman of the Peoples Daily and the News Agency of Nigeria, Malam Wada was in the forefront as mentor and senior colleague to me.”
“He found me a worthy foot soldier in the mobilization of the younger generation of editors to support the aspiration of a ticket on which he and the then editor of the Daily Times, Onyeama Ugochukwu ran as Deputy President and President respectively.
Senator Ibrahim Ida, the Sardaunan Katsina, obviously presented a more graphic account of Maida from infant till his death, noting that Maida’s death seriously created a vacuum that would be hard to feel in him.
“Surely, it is a million times more staggering, bewildering, shattering and confusing to lose a friend, a companion, a non-blood brother, a confidant and someone you have known most of your life,’’ Ida wrote in a tribute for Maida.
We knew each other from childhood, but were in different schools. We were later brought together at the Secondary School, Katsina, but I was a class ahead. For the four years we spent together, we were in Magaji House and always in the same room.
“Wada was careful, cautious, intelligent, thrifty and quiet. He would not involve himself in things that did not concern him. He was a man of few words but was a prolific writer. However, the good journalist that he was, he never wasted words.
“He was a caring husband to his beloved Amina and an excellent father to his children: Pharm. Farida, Arch. Fadila, Dr. Aminu, Eng. Nabila and soon to be Dr. Abdullahi. He lost his precious Nusaiba to a protracted illness in 2006. One thing that was always on his lips was the fond memory of Nusaiba, her youngest daughter.
“Wada had the simplicity and the ability to make you feel that you were the only friend he had in the world. Every friend was special to him, and he believed that when people came together, especially childhood friends, they would achieve a lot and provide one another companionship and protection,’’ he noted.
Though a lot of tributes have been written in honour of Maida, it is certain that a few persons as well might have recorded unpleasant treatments from him which showed his frailty as a human.
All that could be said at this juncture is for everyone especially those in leadership position to explore the good virtues of Maida and fair to all irrespective of creed, tribe and colour as that might help accelerate Nigeria’s quest for all-round development.