#GSBCampusSeries:Abiodun Jamiu Started Building His Journalism Career as a Student of Usmanu Danfodiyo University
Editor’s note: For the next 3 months, we’ll accept and publish students’ experiences on Nigerian campuses through the #GSBCampusSeries. Beyond the four walls of the classrooms, so many things happen on campus, and our goal is to document the various aspects of this phase. The Grace Smarts Blog Campus stories explore academics, finances, love, school anxiety, mental wellness, relationships, and everything in between, and we invite you to be a part of our effort to share the diverse experiences of campus life.
Today, Abiodun Jamiu, who studied Political Science at Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, shares how he combined freelance journalism with academics. He narrates how journalism helped sort through his finances and helped while writing his final year project. Read his story.
I was really excited and elated when I got into Usmanu Danfodiyo University. It was 2017, and I was fascinated by the stories my brother who served in Sokoto shared with me. While I didn’t make my “O” level at my first sitting, which rested me at home for a year after finishing secondary school, that year prepared me to evaluate my choices. I decided to stay far away from home, Kwara, and search for affordable schools in the North.
A week before my UTME exam, I remembered not stepping out at all because I couldn’t risk another year. As I was busy reading, I was also scared I might fail. I did once. When the result came and I realised I scored above the cutoff mark, I networked with students from the school, especially those studying political science, and asked them what it was like studying in Sokoto.
While I did this, I came across Pen Press UDUS, a campus news outlet. It’s my first connection with the school right from home. I relied so much on the platform for news about the school and admissions generally and felt a natural inclination towards it so much that I reached out to them immediately after I got admitted about joining them. That’s how my campus journalism started. I wrote opinion pieces and one of them got shortlisted for a national award in 2019.
Journalism wasn’t a new terrain for me. I grew up in a family that read the news. My grandpa stacked Alaroye Newspaper in the house, and I always stayed glued to his radio. Every weekend, my elder brothers also brought home Complete Sports Newspaper. During my secondary school days, I’d keep my fare and trek from Oloje to Omoda just so I could use the money to read newspapers at a popular newsstand there. I also wrote a couple of articles on Facebook. So, yeah, I already had that proximity to journalism.
At the award event, I met with a couple of young journalists who were doing incredibly well at the time like Adejumo Kabir, Olufemi Alfred, Muneer Yaqub, Ibrahim Olarotimi, Yusuf Akinpelu and others. They were writing for national dallies and it inspired me to look beyond campus journalism. That night, I wrote my first news report for The Nation Newspaper. So that’s how it started: combining journalism with academics.
Financially, life was great in my first year; I had more than enough. I grew up without a mother who died when I was little, so when I got the admission – as a typical Yoruba extended family – everyone naturally felt obligated to contribute to the education of the boy who grew up without a mother. So I had enough money. But reality started to hit really hard in my second year. I watched my family fall down the economic ladder, most likely the result of the economic downturn in the country at the time, and sapa started dealing with me.
At the height of the sapa moments, especially when the semester was running out, we used to do trade by barter: my guys would take beans from me and I would get rice or spaghetti in return. There were times we cooked together just so everybody would get something in their stomach enough to read well. There were moments we mixed garri and palm oil. There were also moments I’d visit my friends, not because I genuinely missed them, but because I’d surely get something to eat. There were those who collected coolers (meals) from their babes and brought them to us.
I continued contributing features for national dallies, but everything changed when I went to the Nigerian Tribune for my internship during the break. Towards the end of my time there, I got a life-defining writing gig with Opera. I got selected for UDEME accountability projects during the pandemic. But none of these was as defining as being commissioned to write a feature-length piece for an international publication, The Guardian UK. It changed a lot of things in me; I started thinking like a businessman, haha.
It’s still the same vicious cycle, but not like before. I now cut down on expenses, monitor and manage my cash flow. Throughout my campus life, I juggled academics with journalism. It’s a lot, but I learned to manage role conflict and marshalling my goals/projects. I used to say if it’s just one project I’m able to achieve and execute quite well, it’s worth more than scrambling around three or four.