2016 as the Year of Daily Trust newspapers

theophilus-abbah-receiving-an-award-from-the-president-of-abuja-newspaper-distributorsThe wave of applause and the sea of heads that surged towards me at the stony but dusty ground of Abuja newspapers distribution centre at Area 1 in activities-choked Garki on Saturday, December 9, 2016 caused my head to spin. With diverse tongues and rapturous crescendo, the distributors lifted me up from the white plastic chair on the high-table and, clapping and chorally hailing Daily Trust to the clouds, escorted me to the improvised platform, to receive an award on behalf of my newspaper.
“I sell 700 copies of Daily Trust every day,” one distributor told me in a whisper that rose above the din of voices. “It’s Daily Trust that makes it possible for me to feed my family,” another told me as he pleaded for my business card. The citation read ex-tempore by the President of the Abuja Newspapers Distributors Association (ANDA) contained an array of lexemes which seemed to have been coupled together from the remarks by individual distributors of dailies in Abuja. As I received the distinctive plaque from a green pack (other packs were red), words of appreciation dried up from my throat, as all I could mutter was “Thank you! Thank you!”
To a newspaper man, an affirmation of this colour by newspaper distributors is a soothing balm; it boosts one’s confidence that the future of print publications is not as bleak as prophets of doom have drummed into our collective consciousness. The distributors declared Daily Trust as their ‘Newspaper of the Year 2016,’ using one criterion – sales. To them, Daily Trust brand had won the confidence of Abuja newspaper readers so much so that it finds its way from their shed and arms into readers’ cars and tables, faster than any other competitive daily in Abuja market. I felt like shouting Halleluya!
Abuja newspaper distributors’ endorsement was one of seven on the layers of awards received by this newspaper, its staff and chief executives since the season of awards opened in November. Our reporter in the Senate, Ismail Mudashir, won the Senate’s Investigative Reporter of the Year award for 2016 on November 24. The Diamond Award for Media Excellence (DAME) on December 3, adjudged Daily Trust brand as winner of UNICEF prize for the Child-Friendly Medium in Nigeria in 2016. The Institute for Service Excellence and Good Governance handed its Excellence in Journalism Enterprise award to Malam Kabiru on December 8, 2016 in Abuja. The Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism gave our chairman, Malam Kabiru Yusuf, its prestigious Lifetime Achievement in Journalistic Excellence award in Lagos on December 9, 2016. On Sunday, December 18, 2016, the Nigeria Media Merit Award (NNMA), at its 25th award event, named Daily Trust as winner of Babatunde Jose prize for Newspaper of the Year 2016, and Malam Nasiru Lawal Abubakar, the Editor of the Daily Trust, as the winner of NNMA’s Editor of the Year 2016 award. The NMMA recognition was like icing the cake of awards for Daily Trust in 2016.
From its birth in 1998 till date, that is, 18 years of its existence so far, Daily Trust has demonstrated such resilience that asserts its courage to remain on the newsstand through impactful journalism and constant innovations. This attitude stems from the perception that the Northern part of Nigeria is a graveyard of newspaper publications, regardless of ownership and professionalism. The demise of once vibrant publications like The Triumph in Kano, The Democrat, The Sentinel, The Citizen, Hotline, and the comatose state of the once-influential and elegant New Nigerian newspapers in Kaduna, provide the empirical support to the conclusion that the north, rather than being a fertile ground for newspapers, is an arid soil where newspaper seeds die fast.
But Daily Trust has defied this theory and stood out as an independent and courageous publication, not only in the North, but in the country, though it operates for the heart of Nigeria, Abuja, not Lagos, the headquarters and hub of the publishing industry. For advertising and business purposes, competitors from the Lagos Press, emphasize the ‘northernness’ of Daily Trust in order to highlight a restrictive mark on the geographical spread of the newspaper. But that is mere sophistry, as the newspaper has bureaux and reporters in all states of Nigeria. To spread out to the South of Nigeria, Daily Trust has set up a printing plant in Lagos, from where its dailies are ferried to South-West, South-East and South-South States. Therefore, with four printing presses, one in Abuja to cater for Abuja and North-Central readers; another in Kano to reach the North-West states of Kano, Katsina, Jigawa, Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi States; and the third in Maiduguri to cover Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Bauchi and Gombe States, Daily Trust attempts to tackle the herculean challenge of reaching all parts of Nigeria with its news, views and perspectives on a daily basis. There are over 50 dailies in this countries; I can’t quickly recall any newspaper that has provided this strategic approach to its spread.
In order to beat the adverse weather buffeting the industry dangerously, and to achieve enhanced copy sales, the management has come up with diverse innovations in editorial and operations arms. Constantly, reporters are encouraged to do investigative stories, supported with empirical data and impressive graphic illustrations; we have introduced the practice of Solutions Journalism to reporting Agriculture, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and Women-in-Business; we have launched the TEEN TRUST, a weekly publication, which became an instant success and the darling of students in secondary schools; YOUTHVILLE, a pullout, won an international acclamation in Bombay in 2015, and we have embarked on a host of other improvements that should shoot the newspaper to the front row of the Nigeria media industry.
Ironically, those who should take the credit for these awards do not lust after laurels. Malam Mannir Dan-Ali, the Chief Executive Officer/Editor-in-Chief, a reporter at heart, lubricates the journalism mechanism at Daily Trust; Mr Abhay Desai, the Chief Operating Officer (COO), is a tireless thinker and fearless implementer of ideas; the Associate Director (Business & Strategy) opens diverse doors for reporters and marketers; and Malam Mahmud Jega, the man who has the memory of an elephant, remains our oracle in journalism and the perfect guide away from hidden pitfalls.
This year’s awards have put us in the spotlight. They have come as an inherent reminder that we are being watched; hence we should do better what we have done well, and launch to conquer territories that have eluded us over the years.
No doubt, 2016 has been fair to us.

Theophilus Abbah

With about two decades of Journalism experience, I now specialize in investigative journalism, counter-terrorism analysis, anti-corruption investigation, forensic linguistics, risk analysis, mentoring, book publishing, and biblical interpretation. At present, I am the Managing Editor of Daily Trust newspaper, based in Abuja, Nigeria. I have written and published many investigative reports. I am a recipient of the 2010 Forum for Africa Investigative Reporters (FAIR) Editor's Courage Award and finalist in the Wole Soyinka Investigative Journalism Award (Print) in 2012. I am the author of novel entitled Lost in the Wind and a doctoral candidate at the University of Abuja.

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