The Triumph Newspapers story:
What we met, what we did (I)
By Muhammadu Kabiru Gwangwazo
June28, 2011 – October 3, 2012
On 28th of June when Kano state Governor Muhammadu Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso asked me to work with Associate Professor of Mass Communications, Farouk Umar Jibril to revive the Kano State owned Triumph newspapers and publishing company I would never have believed that he would in only one year and four months ask me to go send all staff home and shut the company down. To my utter amazement and the obvious shock of my commissioner Dr. Farouk Jibril that was exactly what he did at the State Executive Council meeting he chaired on Wednesday October 3rd, 2012. I had been invited to attend and was asked if I had any views, to which I retorted, “what the owner wants, is what the owner gets. .”
Kwankwaso had before then told all who cared to listen that he was pleased at what we had done to bring the company back from the dead. A number of my informants (including a Special Adviser and DG on Security, Special Services) reported hearing this from the horse’s mouth as it were.
Happily endorsing our efforts was the cover photo on the colourful loose leafed Triumph company calendar with Kwankwaso proudly waving a copy of The Triumph at his first 100 Days Town Hall meeting at BUK’s Aminu Kano Mambayya House. What is more at the State Executive Council it was Governor Kwankwaso himself who asked that we be asked to assist the ministry of education with advise on how to procure a printing machine for the state KERD considering we had gotten one for the company. And this our commercial and special duties directorates did apparently with distinction.
Yet again the fact that we decided not to overburden government with what we believed was a wasteful investment of putting up money to the tune of hundreds of millions of naira to buy another printing machine we thought was a wise decision to conserve state resources. The plan that we were working on right down to the day the company was shut down was rehabilitation of the one bought in the 1999/2003 tenure of Kwankwaso. It was part of over N300 million that was then spent on the company, a situation we thought to find an alternative to. And we had contacted and gotten the Indian manufacturers and their local representatives to try to crank it back to life. Parts were went out for rehabilitation. Rollers that are key to the printing machine’s operations are now back from a re-do at some in-country local technicians workshop in Kaduna and Lagos.
That we had redesigned the newspapers and introduced a brand new sports publication was a plus we thought would further impress the people of Kano and their representative and company proprietor, the state Governor and Government. That we only asked for a mere N120 million to refurbish some of the machines that are rundown and buy a state of the art computer to plate (CTP) to cut down on time wasted and improve quality we felt was reason enough to give us more support. But we got only N50 million, less than half of our tightly scripted budget. We thus had to scrimp and save and top up to include purchase of some needed working tools, including newsprint and allied production stuff. When we shut down a sizeable stock of such stuff were in the store. In fact we even had a brand new motorcycle we had just bought for our operations in Abuja. A similar plan was in the pipeline for other states.
That we had started a total restructuring of the company, introduced a new Business Services Unit under a newly created Special Services Directorate was an innovation meant to re-launch the company into a more competitive state. That we had reawakened the commercial services directorate, gingering it with the newly carved out Special Services Directorate, whose main focus was sharpening the business end of the organisation was an exciting opening that we felt was beginning to lead Triumph out of the darkness it had fallen to the light at the end of the tunnel that I envisioned when I started my stewardship as MD and editor-in-chief.
Our regime of identifying talented professionals from within the company and encouraging them to bloom, our scouring and scouting about for new ones from outside had started to yield results such that the newsroom and indeed the other sections of the company had literally began to come alive.
We had returned the fuel dump set up since the 80s and began to stock diesel for our operations with the reawakening of the commercial press. We had with the grant of the meagre funds repaired and recommissioned the huge Bielomatik exercise books making machine. So too did we retune and commission the faithful printing machine at Commercial press that was first used to print the Sunday Triumph as a broadsheet.
Youth corpers were properly accommodated on site at rehabilitated circulation offices turned hostels. With the circulation challenges we met whereby vendors refused to display the company newspapers we bought bicycles and started a style of direct circulation with dedicated vendors, ensuring that the public got to see our papers. Our vendors were conspicuously adorned with Triumph jackets. Our staff in operations, printing, composing and lithographic rooms as well as drivers and circulation got overalls, a return to the good old days of the Triumph.
Throughout my tenure, all 16 months of it, every day was a beehive of active. On looking back I got to wonder how many hours I made of the daily 24 hours available along with those who toiled patiently and enthusiastically to retrieve the Triumph Dream. It was in that period I got to rent office accommodation for the Triumph in Jigawa state, in Kaduna and Abuja. It was then we re-established daily circulation in Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto and Bauchi. Much as we weren’t able to attain the level of circulation we expected we were able to ensure a presence. We returned our Lagos outlet as a means of re-accessing the rich advert belt that papers can only hope to enjoy from Lagos.
And all along as a political appointee of the Kwankwaso Government even if an ally from the General Buhari Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) I was also perforce involved in quite a handful of Government and political activity of sorts. What is more I began to write a column. Rather than return my RIPPLES Column of the 1980s and 90s or the more general TALKING IT OVER Column I penned ENCOUNTERS.
And still the Triumph flourished. Yet it was shut down on the pretext that Government wasn’t keen on continuing to pay to keep the company going. But then to its credit the Kwankwaso Government did absorb all staff into the mainstream civil service, including the many casuals we employed. Such casuals and some contract staff were my way of beginning a gradual replacement, easing out those who weren’t ready or able to fit into our more modern and faster pace. The thought was to get them back to government service and retain only those we needed and can afford. This was not to be as all 103 of the 104 casuals and a few of the 44 contract staff are now full time workers doing quite well at new and for many of them, much more appropriate posts in the mainstream.
(TO BE CONTINUED)