Abdulhaleem Ishaq-Ringim of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) recently won ‘Best Syndicated Writer Award’ and was adjudged winner of the ‘Campus Journalist of the Year’ award at the 2021 Campus Journalism Awards (CJA) organised by Youths Digest in Abuja. The political and public affairs analyst speaks with I-79 Media on the two awards and his works among other issues. Excerpts;
How would you describe the feeling of being adjudged the overall best campus journalist in Nigeria?
I was basically excited and overwhelmed with joy. It is a feat that is worthy of the feeling and Alhamdulillah, I must say the feeling was great indeed.
Did this come as a surprise for you considering the fact that you’re in your first year in the university?
It did come as a surprise but not because I happen to be a fresher in the university. In fact, I think it is pertinent to put it out there that Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) is not the first tertiary institution I am attending. Although I am 22, I am an alumni of School of Nursing Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH) Zaria. I graduated in January last year. I happen to have been adjudged winner of the Syndicated Writer of the Year Award in 2020 which I won as a student of my former school. I joined Ahmadu Bello University as an undergraduate this year to study economics through its distance learning center, hence my fresher status. But I was indeed surprised at winning the grand prize because I am aware of the quality and exceptional nature of the entries that were submitted especially by students of journalism from all over the country and the fact that I do not come from a journalism background. So yes, it did come as a surprise!
What informed your decision to apply for this award?
I applied because I wanted my works to be scrutinized by the best in the field of journalism and to ascertain whether the content of my works could get through a national contest and secure the same level of accolades they usually get at home. I also saw an opportunity to expand my network of mentors, I saw an opportunity to learn, and from the best in the field! And that I did!
What was the focus of the entry that won you this award?
The title of my entry is “My Naija Experience” which is a widely published opinion article. At a moment defined by heightening hateful and divisive rhetorics that dominated the national discourse which were catalyzed by toxic regionalism and ethnic jingoism, I felt the need to calm the polity by writing an article that focussed and sought to make Nigerians reminisce and reflect over certain life events that portrayed our deep “Nigerianess” and I enjoined everyone to join me in narrating what I termed “Our Naija Experiences”. Resultantly, it morphed into a campaign that sent many into the realm of reminiscence and deep reflection in search for detribalized moments in our lives and many remembered those moments. And for many, those moments represented their happiest experiences so far and the fact that Nigeria can work for us all!
Would you have won the award if you had applied using another report you worked on?
Absolutely! I have written almost 20 opinion articles/columns this year, and all have been widely published in both print and online media platforms. These articles touch a wide array of contemporary issues in politics, security, education and general public affairs. And I believe each one of them is qualitative enough to secure me a spot at the Campus Journalism Awards.
However, it is pertinent to note that one’s entry can only get him an award for one of the 15 categories at CJA, this makes him/her eligible for the grand prize. The grand prize however, which is the Campus Journalist of the Year Award, is won through a different process entirely. This process is characterized by impromptu article writing and verbal presentations during a workshop that is usually done just hours before the award ceremony. In fact, this year, the process was extended as the shortlisted candidates were asked to make impromptu presentations on the spot in front of all attendees of the award ceremony.
What are the challenges you faced while writing My Naija Experience?
Well, I cannot say I had faced any challenge while writing “My Naija Experience”. It focused on my personal experiences of Nigeria and so recalling and scribing them while correlating them to certain social theories I had learnt overtime through the books I’ve read were almost effortless.
What inspired you to do such a piece?
Mine is an article and not a report. And like I said earlier, Nigeria is going through a tough time characterized by hate and divisions in numerous forms be it religious, ethnic, regional and others. I was inspired to write that article that sought to bring some calmness to the heated environment after watching a movie titled “Up North”. The movie exposed how Nigeria can work no matter the differences of her people, all that is needed is understanding of those differences and harnessing the potentials therein to usher-in and sustain peaceful coexistence and development across several ramifications. That inspired me to write “My Naija Experience”.
How do you combine your journalism engagements with academics?
Well, I am a political and public affairs analyst, so I don’t do core journalism that may require too much time and energy. I only write opinion columns. And it appears easy and less challenging to me because I consider writing as part of me. It doesn’t affect, disturb or disrupt my academics in any way. It’s all about simple time management and I think I have been able to practice that quite well.
Kindly give us a peep into your social life and how you unwind.
Apart from writing, I read and research a lot. I am also a juvenile politician and development advocate, so I engage in a lot of programmes and projects of political and development nature, most of my friends engage in the same activities too so we socialise in the process. I am an unrepentant romantic too, to confess, so my relationship takes a huge part of my social life.
You won this coveted prize in your first year, and considering the fact that you have a couple of more years to spend on campus, what’s next for Abdulhaleem Ishaq-Ringim?
What’s next is for me to complete my economics programme and concurrently keep pushing, do more research, perfect my pattern of analysis and write more opinion columns. Consistency, I think, is the watchword for me, so I’d strive to be more consistent and I might pick a job as a regular columnist. More politics and development advocacy too.
Where do you see yourself in the next five to ten years?
I see myself at the core of policy making and implementation in this country and perhaps, even beyond; for the ambition has always been public policy.