My First Encounter With WAMECA Winner

Auwal

By Muhammad Auwal Ibrahim

Some years back, while working with my former organisation, a colleague’s pitch got selected for the Wole Soyinka Centre For Investigative Journalism’s reality check project on Covid-19 which he shared on our WhatsApp platform. Having this background knowledge about the project, one day, a Facebook post popped-up on my feed. Upon going through the page of WSCIJ, I came across a story done in Kano, by Adam Alqali, the subject of my discussion.

I didn’t only read the story but decided to conduct a little search about the byline. It seems unfamiliar to me but the story is worth reading having possessed all the journalistic features. In the process of my searching (using Google), various pages provided information about this accomplished journalist.

One of them was the West African Media Foundation’s website showcasing him as the winner of the 2018 best SDGs reporting category. Wonderful, right? That’s the beginning of my further search. Now, for the meantime, I focused on the winning story.

I got to know that he was not only celebrated at the WAMECA award ceremony in Ghana as usual but also, the Kano state government organised a gala night held at Kano state government house in his honour. The executive governor of Kano state, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, presented him with an award. I also watched the video published by Memorila on YouTube. It was a reception that tells one how cherished and recognized he is.

Apart from the gala night, I learned that the state government also sponsored an advertorial on a national daily (see picture below) congratulating this international award-winning journalist on achieving such a feat. Probably the first from the state/region.

To the best of my knowledge, he is the only WAMECA winner from Nigeria to be congratulated in a national daily (full page), celebrated, and honoured by his state governor in a gala night organised for him despite doing an investigative report on out of school children.

From there, I didn’t relent. I continued searching for more information about him. I saw how he has won various fellowships and awards at both national and international levels. I reached the level where I couldn’t only continue reading him but reach out to this amazing journalist who, to the best of my knowledge, is the only WAMECA winner from this side of the country (northern Nigeria).

I sent him an email through his addresses I found from the internet and to my surprise he replied the following day. He was happy to hear from me. He even shared his contact with me for further communication. I called and we spoke about journalism.  His interest was in development journalism. The call lasted for some minutes. The telephone conversation has provided me with more understanding of journalism and how it should be better utilised for developmental purposes in Nigeria and Africa at large.

Who is Adam Alqali?

For your information, my reader, Adam Alqali, is the Editor of African Newspage, an African development newspaper. Alqali has over a decade experience in journalism practice.

Below is his bio as obtained from PayDesk, a “payment platform for the information business. It is a marketplace where publishers, broadcasters and editors find, book and hire professional news gathering assets around the world.”

“Adam Alqali is a development journalist based in Kano, Nigeria with over 5 years’ experience in investigative, fact checking, research and development reporting. He currently reports for amongst others, africacheck.org, Newsdiary online, National Review as well as African Newspage.”

“He has reported for many Nigerian news outlets including Blueprint newspaper; a Nigerian daily notable for its exclusive coverage of the Boko Haram insurgency. As Kano correspondent for Blueprint, he wrote investigative reports on the economic implications of the Boko Haram insurgency on economic activities in the city as well as the human rights abuses of the military-police Joint Task Force (JTF) against the civilian population of Kano State.”

“Mr Alqali is a 2015 grantee of the Nigeria Investigative Reporting Project (NIRP) funded by the Ford Foundation for the Oga Lecturer project; an investigative journalism initiative aimed at exposing sexual harassment by lecturers in Nigerian tertiary institutions. He was a grantee of the French Institute for Research Africa (IFRA) Nigeria on the Invisible Violence in Rural Nigeria Research Project (2014) and also a grantee of the Human Rights Abuses in the Context of Insurgent Violence in Northern Nigeria Research Project funded by the MacArthur Foundation (2014)”

I am not saying that this is the most recent information about him but at least, it tells us something about him, isn’t it?

What is WAMECA

I first came to know of the West African media Excellence Conference and Awards (WAMECA), in my first year of my undergraduate degree. This was after coming across a multiple award-winning journalist, Mr Kunle Adebajo now an Investigations Editor at Humangle Media. I met him when he was working on a story that I assisted him with.

Mr Kunle, soon after departing got shortlisted for the WAMECA award. Eventually, he won the best report in the ICTs and Telecommunications category of the award. This was how I came across the award.

“The West Africa Media Excellence Conference and Awards (WAMECA) is an initiative by the Media Foundation for West Africa to promote media excellence in the sub-region.”

“WAMECA is a two-part event: a Conference and an Awards ceremony for journalists.”

Conference

“The Conference brings together about 500 participants made up of key personalities, organisations (local, regional and international), media practitioners, academia, activists and civil society organisations to reflect on the challenges and changing trends in the areas of free expression, media development and access to information, and to develop strategies in tackling these challenges. It also features representatives from governments, ECOWAS, the diplomatic community and development partners as well as all the national partners of the MFWA from all 16 countries across West Africa.”

“There will also be representatives from governments, ECOWAS, the diplomatic community and development partners as well as all the national partners of MFWA from all 16 countries across West Africa.”

The Awards

“The Awards, on the other hand, are to reward and inspire journalism excellence in West Africa as well as honour West African journalists who have produced compelling works which have had significant impact on society.”

Award Categories

“Telecoms Reporting, Investigative Reporting, SDG’s Reporting, Business And SMEs Reporting, Banking and Finance Reporting, ICTs Reporting, Human Rights Reporting, Photojournalism, ECOWAS and Regional integration Reporting, Health reporting, Anti-corruption Reporting, Environmental Reporting, Oil and Gas Reporting, Overall best journalist.” MFWA wrote on its website.

Meeting The Accomplished Journalist

Communications continued. He sometimes informed me that he was coming to my state on an assignment. I was opportuned to meet with him during his visit. We discussed and deliberated on journalism in general.

For someone who wants to begin his journalism journey like me, meeting a person like Alqali was an eye opening experience. He left me with no doubt about the profession and assured me of a brighter future ahead. He praised my work and my interest in the  profession.

He has provided me with various information concerning Nigeria’s contemporary issues that I would be too young to know. Our meeting lasted for minutes at Maidugu Guest Palace situated in New GRA, Gombe. This was how I encountered an international award winning journalist.

Amazingly, for your information, after meeting him, in 2020, I was later shortlisted as a finalist for the prestigious West African Media Excellence Conference and Awards (WAMECA)  in 2021 and eventually emerged as a Runner-Up in the ICTs and Telecommunications reporting with a story I shared and subsequently discussed with him when I met him.

Muhammad Auwal Ibrahim is a finalist (Runner-Up) WAMECA 2021, AIJC Fellow, Wits University, Johannesburg, South Africa. Can be reached via awwalbinibrahim@gmail.com

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