Aisha Zanna Mustapha recently graduated with a First Degree in Mass Communication from Skyline University in Kano, Northwest Nigeria. I this interview with The Humanitarian Times she speaks about life in school and the mentorship she got that eventually made her settle for journalism as a profession. Ideal
By Abdulkareem Haruna
How does it feel about graduating with a first class?
It is a little bit tough to say. Maybe to answer this, I have to tell you my story since I was a child. I started seeing the world from a different perspective at a very early age. At the age of eight (8), I participated in several competitions; even though it was a European Union Gender Inequality Competition, I became a runner. Then, years later, I got involved in so many others. But one thing that these competitions exposed me to was I was able to meet mentors. People who shaped who I was and made me very focused and who allowed me to have dreams. So, it’s not just the work I have done; it’s not just about the studies in school, not the sleepless nights because while I was studying in school, I was working too! Yes, I was doing humanitarian work, social service activism, and at the same time, even reporting and screenwriting.
It is a bit whimsical; I mean, one too obsessed with her world. I was able to get people who honor that. My mother is a journalist, she introduced me to my first love of books, and my father is always a reader, so it was like I was given the opportunity to open my mind wide at a young age. Now growing up, I was able to be mentored by people that were really good in the journalism field, like Nima Elbagir. This first class is significant for me because, in my first university, I was studying multimedia design which is also a communication field. And what happened was that it didn’t feel fulfilling for me, so I left and went to learn Arabic because I needed to tell stories in different languages to share them with the world. So I would say this first class is not just about me, but a collective work of people who have made me who I am today. I feel happy for the first class, but it’s the work of all my teachers who saw me through the years, from that little girl to now this twenty-something-year-old. This is their work.
At what point did you decide on taking Mass Communication as a chosen career path?
So before I went to Sudan, I was lucky to meet Nim Albagir, Aljazeera Correspondent, and her talking to me helped open my mind to what the work can be. So, while I was in Sudan at the same time, I started learning French, even though I had to take a break afterward. After that, I return for holidays and met some journalists from CNN, France 24, who had really come together to bring this person out of me. I came to know this was my field. I knew I lacked in some aspects of screenwriting, so I went for screenwriting at the Metropolitan Film School in London; while I was there I met other people who were able to build who I was, such as Sasha Achilli, all of those people made me who I was. When I came back, I decided to join Spanish French to really go back to what I started. So I joined Skyline University Nigeria, which is a great school; not saying it because I was a student there, but it made me most comfortable, and most liked myself. It is important because Skyline allows me to do my work, allowing me to broaden my horizon that I cannot even begin to explain. Skyline is an excellent institution for anybody ready to change the world. Whenever I said I had presentations, Skyline would create opportunities for me to harness that opportunity that I had in school programs, outside school programs, debates, and so on.
What are your plans going forward as a trained journalist?
My plan as a trained journalist is to be the unbiased, most objective journalist that has ever been. I want to change the perspective of how the northern communities see women as a journalist. And moving forward, as I always say, the story writes the writer; I might either be a broadcaster or a producer…but certainly, I am going to work in the communication field. I need to do that, and I will try to find the best organization for me here in Nigeria, to work full-time. I’ve been applying to some places.
What is your advice for the younger ones, especially girls, regarding education?
Something is missing about young girls and education in northern Nigeria …I feel they must understand the importance of education, for I was so lucky to get people to guide me and make me realize that. I have been to places that I could never imagine because of what education has brought to me. At the very young age of 16, I was at the BBC, Aljazeera, I was even able to meet the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, and she was telling me the story of her life; how she studied in Maiduguri, how she is so proud of me. At that moment, it was so special; she would look at me and tell me she was proud of me; that moment meant so many things to me because, as a woman from Arewa, you should look up to people like them. I look up to Okonjo Iweala and Amina Mohammed because they symbolize no limits. Impossible is just a word in the dictionary. It doesn’t define anyone.
What are your concerns for professional career development in Nigeria?
The concern for my professional career is that I hope I don’t fall into the same situation I have seen others. One thing for me is that I hope to be as objective as possible. I hope not to fall into the abyss of hate speech, ethnic profiling, and many drawbacks we see manifest in journalism today. Thank you.