Malagi: A frontrunner’s 6 guidelines to power
By Rabiu Ibrahim
Just how did Mohammed Idris Malagi, media executive and publisher of the Blueprint newspaper become a frontrunner in the race to choose who becomes governor of Niger state in the upcoming delegates’ primaries election, a few days away, and the chase for popular votes in early 2023? Just how? It beats my imagination. He, Malagi, that was a while ago a quiet and unassuming media tender who mostly strutted the public relations and advertising space. Is this a 7th wonder?
Apparently, I am not alone in this quandary, especially within the northern media confraternity, many of whom are either dazed or amazed, calm or confused, or cross-legged cinema-style waiting for the next scene. That much awaited frame will flip on the 26th of May, 2022, as announced by the All Progressives Congress (APC). The APC is Malagi’s banner.
It is imperative that I posit a caveat that I know Malagi well enough and I am intrigued by his triple ethnic heritage: Nupe, Fulbe, Hausa. Indeed, a sales buzz could fittingly sell him thus: vote one, get three! All free.
The slippery slope of identity issues aside, I am endeared to his courage, fearlessness and most of all, his proclivity to take on entrepreneurial risks. The latter I take on. It was risky in 2003 to convince a typical northerner to invest in print media even when at the time, the Weekly and Daily Trust titles had begun to show stability. Most people would say northerners don’t read and therefore investing in the print media was a waste of resources.
This view was largely pedestrian and unsupported by any credible data. Malagi knew better. He splurged about N30 million for the takeoff of a business economy newsmagazine which he named The Market, and gave me the rare opportunity to head the editorial team. At the time I had had footprints at the African Economy magazine in Lagos, and stints at newspapers such as Today, Weekly Trust and the Daily Independent. The Market gave us room to report and analyse finance, budgets, investments, etc., as the paper attracted young graduates from multi-disciplinary backgrounds.
Malagi, about the smoothest marketer anywhere and blessed with a gift of the garb, opened doors to public and private sector entities for advertising patronage. He spent heavily to provide exquisite operating spaces that jelled with his impeccably spick outlook and made sure everyone wore the right corporate looks. This was same with the product in look and feel and content. The Market was a hit while it lasted.
His total financial exposure to the project? I cannot say, as I, having learned the rote of risk taking from the master risk taker, decided to found the Kaduna Chronicle, a local print that satisfied my desire to borrow a leaf from the Denton Record Chronicle, a US-based publication I had been once attached to during a Fellowship programme in 2001. This period coincided with The Market moving its operations to Abuja, and after a while, Malagi activated his vision 2.0 by establishing a daily newspaper, the Blueprint, now in its 11th year. Recently, at the 10th year anniversary of the Blueprint in Abuja, which held at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, he said that sustaining the newspaper has been his greatest challenge and his proudest accomplishment.
I had myself moved from journalism to corporate gatekeeping at the Peugeot Automobile Nigeria (PAN) for most of the part that the Blueprint took root and shape, and meandered its way into the firmament of mainstream national dailies. By the time my path and Malagi’s crossed again, I was out of PAN and was poking into operations in the broadcast sector, such as set-up, marketing communications, audience data and training.
Suddenly I had another reason to seek out someone with the spine to take on another risk, as it fell to me to broker the sale of a 60% equity of a budding radio station in Abuja; a deal that also had three yet-to-be activated broadcast licences in the basket. Instantly, I knew that I know someone who could purchase the nation of Somalia and make it work, if convinced. The rest is history. Malagi now controls the WE FM, Abuja and has managed to stabilize the brand, and to wit, placed me on the Board.
Repositioning WE FM was painstaking. It was off air at the time of the sale. It owed 11 months salaries to about 40 staff, with some in court seeking redress. Malagi settled all the arears and injected fresh operating funds, in addition to purchasing new equipment and power backbone. Few northerners in the media sector, if any, would do so. I know this because I am in the know. I had met with a well-heeled northerner whose garage was littered with Rolls-Royces, but who dismissed the deal unless he owned it 100%. The difference is this: Malagi co-owns. Same thing at The Market, Blueprint and WE FM. He co-owns but does not put cash-call pressure on the co-owners. Such a large heart.
Now, two weeks or so ago when it was becoming clearer by the day that Malagi was in the forefront to win the Niger state APC delegates election and become the party’s gubernatorial flagbearer, my thoughts were still in a spin as to how he did it. I was searching for answers when “Prof. Brainy” came to my rescue.
By the way, “Prof. Brainy” is a pen name for Dr. Ibraheem Dooba, a Nigerlite of note who has illustriously sustained a weekly column for nearly two decades in the Daily Trust newspaper. His opinions matter a lot to the young and old, decision makers and politicians in the Power State. But in spite of himself, Dr. Dooba, it appeared, is as bewildered as several others as to how Malagi, ‘a rank outsider’ has suddenly become an ‘insider’ and Hussein Bolt of the race.
Under the auspices of a fly-by-night body called Concerned Stakeholders of Niger State, a statement signed by Dr. Dooba as Secretary of the ‘Stakeholders’, reeled out what it called “Seven Concerns About Malagi”. Somehow, as I studied the concerns, it was beginning to read to me like a set of ‘winning guidelines’ for hitherto apolitical persons who nevertheless want to go into active political contest.
Therefore, if you’re a newbie who wants to make a hay in politics and cause disruptions and bewilderment in entitled camps, follow me. First though, grab for yourself a traditional title; in my own case, probably a Kakakin Tudun Wada, Kaduna.
First Concern from Dr. Dooba: That Malagi is “inaccessible.”
Guideline 1: Accept all invitations to events and parleys, but do not appear in person at all the events. Occasionally send someone to represent you. At this point you are after delegates’ votes and not popular votes. Therefore, be strategic in your appearances. Be a bit a pricey by being a bit scarce.
Concern Number 2: That Malagi throws money around.
Guideline 2: Make sure you make a lot of money before you go into a race, especially that you want to become a governor. It is better you’re associated with ‘having-and-giving’ and ‘having-and-not-giving’. Be a cheerful giver, thereon. As elsewhere, money lubricates.
Concern Number 3: That Malagi is imposed
Guideline 3: Work hard enough to be seen to be good enough as a choice of those that matter. Still, at this point, it’s all about the delegates within your party. They are teleguided by a few.
Concern Number 4: Other Zones are aiding Malagi
Guideline 4: You are lucky to have all zones in your state rooting for you. This is about the best traction you can get. Appeal to all. You are not bucolic.
Concern Number 5: That Malagi is a distant leader – doesn’t know anyone
Guideline 5: Keep your eyes on your few balls. You mustn’t know ‘everyone’. Cherish those that you already know. The ‘anyone’ will come to you.
Concern Number 6: That Malagi is an “Outsider”.
Guideline 6: As a so-called ‘outsider’, start out early to the stream; you’ll fetch clean water. Be like Malagi. Have an ‘outsider’s’ bird view of things, soon you will be the insider.
While I do not have a vote to cast in Niger state, I do however have a voice in national and subnational governance issues which I hardly lend except on rare occasions like this. I strongly feel that Malagi has been pinpoint in strategic stakeholder mapping consistent with the demands and hurdles inherent in a delegates’ election. Hopefully, Malagi will emerge winner on March 26th, and all stakeholders, notably Dr. Dooba and other denizens will be required to join hands for a greater Niger.
Ibrahim, writes from the Kaduna Media Academy