Tuesday, March 5, 2024
Ignite the mind.


From Exposing BBC’s story to be false, uncovering organ havesting, and why poor remuneration conditions journalists to corruption, Lami Sadiq is a woman on a mission

Lami Sadiq is a thorough bred journalist with a mindset of Watchdog Journalism as her personal mantra and drive. With her capacity to take risks to unravel stories that are considered ‘male beats’, she changes your perception about stereotypical beats where newsroom heads and media owners are guilty of pegging and limiting women to what they consider ‘women beats’.

Sadiq currently heads the Investigation Desk of Media Trust Group, publishers of Daily Trust newspaper and owners of Trust TV and Trust radio.

In this our Special LightRay! Series on African Women in Media Leadership Project (#LAWMLP), Lami Sadiq delivers a story worth telling that is inspiring and provoking. Sit back and enjoy her media journey with us!


First, congratulations on your WSCIJ Awards on your story published on Daily Trust for winning the #WSAIR print category with your story titled “Organ Exploitation: How Abuja Syndicate Lured Minor For Kidney Harvest”.

Tell us, what’s the backstop here? Why were you interested in bringing this story to life?

Thank you very much. Actually, this is a public health story and a very important one. It is one that, if not checked quickly, could have a dangerous implication on our youth population. I got interested in this story after meeting a minor who was lured to sell his kidney sometime in February 2023. He was also sworn to secrecy and threatened, so he fled Masaka in Nasarawa State to Lagos State. For someone coming from a low economic background, his parents felt helpless until someone introduced them to us. We got involved to help create awareness on the repercussions of kidney harvesting and to urge the Nigerian government to come up with a regulatory agency that will monitor kidney harvesting and transplant.

In 2019 after the BBC reported that a man divorced his wife for insisting on voting then President Muhammadu Buhari. I had to travel to a remote community in Kanam LGA of Plateau State to verify the report. I travelled for two hours on a motorcycle along narrow dirt roads to get to the community, Unguwan Gero. We exposed that the report was false and the BBC was misled. In fact, we met the man and his wife with their three kids living happily. Today when I think of the stress it took to get to that community and the fear of being attacked, I wondered how I convinced myself to make that trip. But overall, the story was worth it because we exposed the truth – Lami Sadiq. PC: Sadiq.

What were some obstacles or barriers you faced during your investigation, and how did you overcome them?

The major obstacle at the beginning was getting the sources to trust us with the information they were providing. There was fear at the beginning and the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. But thank God we were able to convince them to trust that we could not be bought and that we just wanted to unravel what was going on.

Seeing today that the digital space is the new currency for the media, how important is this shift at this time, as you watch the media evolution happening in Nigeria and globally?

It is great! The shift is real and it appears to be disrupting the old order. I am more excited about the fact that the audience are no longer passive, and the channels of news are no longer one way. I am quite happy to see that the conventional media is adapting very fast and it is still the major source of verifying news.

Has this change personally affected your career trajectory, and what do you do in this space?

The change has affected my carrier in a positive way. It has given my reports more visibility and has given me the opportunity to engage directly with the audience. More importantly, the digital space has expanded my horizon, my networks and sources. I am able to interact with the consumers of the information I release, whether it’s through their comments or through twitter space and other platforms. It is great.

Do you think tech, AI, and digital skills are important for a journalist?

I sure do. Journalists must embrace the changing world and find ways to use modern tools to break down complex societal challenges. While we can use digital skills to enhance our work; to work faster and smarter. But our creativity comes from our human interactions and the feelings that radiate in our writings. Each journalist has a unique writing style and we must not allow AI to take away that part of us. The principles of verification, fairness, balancing etc must be championed by journalists.

How much has your career changed for you? And what spaces in your career journey have you found yourself working in by choice or as you went with the flow?

I started as a print journalist but today I can say I find myself walking the path of a multi-platform journalist. I am finding my footing in Television and even radio. Most importantly, I find myself mentoring young journalist and I am loving it.

Increased professionalism comes with training and retraining of staff as well as proper motivation. I think these are the best ingredients for a professional and independent pressLami Sadiq. PC: Sadiq.

What more do you think the media and development space can do more? Or what other gaps have you’ve identified need to be closed?

There are gaps in emolument for journalists which breeds corruption and compromise in ethical values. There are equally issues around poor access to data and information from government as well as inadequate training for journalists. There is need for the Nigerian system to value the work that journalists do, to see them as partners in strengthening the democratic process, not enemies.

When was the first time you knew journalism was going to be your passion and career?

I am one of those who knew early what I wanted to do, I just never thought it was going to be a challenging field. I fell in love with journalism at a young age watching Oprah Winfrey and Christiana Amanpour on TV. I just knew I wanted to be a journalist, I wanted to travel and I wanted to tell stories. While in secondary school, I headed the press club and that kind of solidified my childhood dream. But just after secondary school, I became confused and started to consider Law. But thank God, I came back to my senses and got back on track.

At what point did you feel your career was no longer just a job you showed up to? How did you pivot or even change the course of your career?

I started journalism in Abuja, as a fashion reporter and truth be told, I hated reporting fashion. However, while working as a freelance journalist with the Daily Trust in Jos, I started to enjoy other beats like crime, education, health etc. Gradually, I became intentional about what I was doing as my stories began to make impact. Also, the Report Women Fellowship of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism helped me refocus. The fellowship expanded my scope of network and I began to realise that journalism was not just my job, it is my life.

What were some of the struggles for you in the early stages of your career, and how did you overcome them?

Finding my footing was a challenge for me at the beginning because I started as a fashion reporter. I don’t consider myself a fashionable person and honestly, I’ve never taken fashion seriously. And so, reporting fashion and entertainment was a huge struggle for me at the beginning and I was faced with a somewhat career crisis. Thankfully, after a year and half on the fashion beat, I moved to Jos to pursue a Master’s degree in journalism and there, I started to do other stories, away from fashion.

Do you still have any current challenges you’re trying to overcome?

On a personal level, I’m trying to better manage my time, balance work, and family so as to be more productive. I am also learning to be more patient with myself and others as I grow, learn and transfer that knowledge to others. Career wise, there are challenges around funding. There are so many important stories that will require funding and because it is not readily available, we get to push back these reports.

What are some of the barriers you think has prevented you from hitting the career target you’ve set for yourself?

I think getting there is a matter of time. I may not be there yet, but I believe I am heading there. There are things that have slowed me down and some are family, some are cultural, and some are personal. They have certainly slowed me down but overall, there is no regret. I am only grateful that I am where I am today.

I hated reporting fashion. However, while working as a freelance journalist with the Daily Trust in Jos, I started to enjoy other beats like crime, education, health etc. Gradually, I became intentional about what I was doing as my stories began to make impact. Also, the Report Women Fellowship of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism helped me refocus. The fellowship expanded my scope of network and I began to realise that journalism was not just my job, it is my lifeLami Sadiq. PC: Sadiq.

And how do you plan to overcome these barriers? Why is it important for you to overcome them?

My biggest success in this career is the fact that I didn’t quit at the time I was under a lot of pressure to make a career change. And so, to that extent, I believe I have been able to overcome that major barrier that slowed down my progress. One of such barriers for me was an internal crisis I battled with sometime between 2017 and 2018. The job was getting too demanding and too risky that everyone who mattered to me suggested I make a career change. To be honest I almost did. But once again, I was back on track and I am still here.

What are some of the stories or projects you’ve done that was the most impacful in the course of your career?

I am more appreciative of the small impact stories. Stories that get the relevant stakeholders to build a water system in a community, to get health care services for the people, to get children, especially girls back in school etc. I have done several of such stories in Plateau State and in Kaduna State. However, I remember a story that trended sometime in 2019 after the BBC reported that a man divorced his wife for insisting on voting then President Muhammadu Buhari. I had to travel to a remote community in Kanam LGA of Plateau State to verify the report. I travelled for two hours on a motorcycle along narrow dirt roads to get to the community, Unguwan Gero. We exposed that the report was false and the BBC was misled. In fact, we met the man and his wife with their three kids living happily. Today when I think of the stress it took to get to that community and the fear of being attacked, I wondered how I convinced myself to make that trip. But overall, the story was worth it because we exposed the truth.

What career projection are you setting up for yourself you intend to meet up?

My projections are mostly about doing as many impactful stories as possible. They are about collaborating with other high-profile journalists from across the continent or globe to do collaborative investigations. I project that I will be doing these very soon.

What training programmes or short courses have you attended, which you applied on the job, that made the most impact for you?

I hold a degree and masters in journalism and I have done a lot of leadership training both local and international. I have participated in the Dubawa fact checking fellowships, Africa Women Journalism Fellowships, the RNTC fellowship, Global Investigative Journalism Conference among other important trainings.

What suggestions will you give media owners or heads of media business to help boost morale, effectiveness, and reduce toxicity in the workplace?

They need to value and respect the journalists they employ and treat them as professionals. When you value a professional, you pay them adequately.

There are gaps in emolument for journalists which breeds corruption and compromise in ethical values. There are equally issues around poor access to data and information from government as well as inadequate training for journalists. There is need for the Nigerian system to value the work that journalists do, to see them as partners in strengthening the democratic process, not enemies – Lami Sadiq. PC: Sadiq.. PC: Sadiq.

If you were to reimagine your career, what would you do differently, starting today?

I am not sure I would do anything differently other than trust myself more and be more adventurous.

How and what can women in media begin to do differently and better to hold their own space within the media industry?

Support one another and dare to take a chance. Women journalists should trust themselves and take on the big stories

What tips in personal development, career pursuit, network strategies, and wealth creation would you advise other women in media, including men, to tap into?

Don’t limit your scope, read important works outside your shore and be open to learning and improving yourself always. Also, get a mentor.

How do you balance your personal life, work, and family expectations? Which aspects give you the most challenges, and how were you able to overcome them?

Actually, I am still a work in progress in this area. I can’t say I have found that balance yet, because I find work constantly intruding into my family life. I am still joggling and I will gladly welcome tips on how to mitigate this challenge.

Tell us something about the media industry you would like to see change for the better? And why is this change important?

I will like to see us weed out non-professionals because of the damage they do to our profession. This is important to ensure we have journalists who will uphold the highest standard of the profession.

In the next 3-5 years, where do you see yourself?

I see myself doing journalism but of course far beyond my current position. I also see myself continue to mentor the next crop of investigative journalists.

What are your current role and responsibilities you handle.

I coordinate and edit investigative reports and ensure they are done for our multiple platform audience.

Each journalist has a unique writing style and we must not allow AI to take away that part of us. The principles of verification, fairness, balancing etc must be championed by journalists – Lami Sadiq. PC: Sadiq.

How do you think the Nigerian media can up its ante to compete more favourable with international media organisations?

Increased professionalism comes with training and retraining of staff as well as proper motivation. I think these are the best ingredients for a professional and independent press.

In your years on the job, have you ever experienced burnout, mental fatigue, or mental health crisis? How did you handle it? How can women and men in the media reduce burnout, mental health breakdown, or prevent it?

Yes! I most definitely have. I still struggle with anxieties and sometimes when it gets overwhelming, I just want to shut down completely and retreat to a more sedentary life. I think journalists need to understand that they are not machines, and they need to decompress from the intensity of the job. I hear some people say journalists don’t go on leave and I wonder why anyone would even think that. It is very important that journalists are allowed to escape from their lives and when that happens, they should be given the space to enjoy that rest. It is a must to avoid mental health breakdown.

Let’s talk about online harrasment… have you experienced it in any form? Or any other threats on the job? How did you deal with it? What steps can women in media take to prevent or deal with online harrasment, etc?

My car was once damaged and I have been a subject of phone threats. There are times people go online in an attempt to discredit my work and use people online to do that. Safety is important and there have been times I have taken extra precaution on my movements, there have equally been times I have reached out to security agents when I feel my safety maybe compromisedLami Sadiq. PC: Sadiq..

I have dealt with threats both online and offline as well as bullying. Thank God none of that have led to any physical harm. But my car was once damaged and I have been a subject of phone threats. There are times people go online in an attempt to discredit my work and use people online to do that. Safety is important and there have been times I have taken extra precaution on my movements, there have equally been times I have reached out to security agents when I feel my safety maybe compromised.

If you were to suggest women, indeed journalists in general on how they can up their ante on online security and how women can deal with online harrasment, what tips would you give?

Be careful how much personal information you put out there. This is important because online harassments sometimes transcends to physical harm. People need information about you to get to you, and the easiest way to get that information is online. I will also advise journalists, especially women, to develop thick skin. When you do important stories, there will definitely be push backs. Some people want to discredit us, belittle us, and sometimes attack our personality. We have to be strong enough to withstand the pushbacks, and we have to stand strong and resolute. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to reach out for help, whether from senior colleagues, organisations that protect journalists, and even law enforcement agencies.

What are some common mistakes you have observed journalist make in the course of their career you’ve observed? And why do you think this happens?

For me, one of such common mistakes is that many journalists think they know it all and they are above the law. Journalists need to be humble and we need to hold ourselves to the same standard with which we hold the public. It’s also a mistake to let money be the driving force of journalism. Those who are driven by money usually do not go far. You will find that despite being in the profession for many years, they get stuck in the same position.

How do you chill, relax, while giving attention to your wellbeing?

I am more of an indoor person and so, I love to watch movies, preferably alone. Movies are my thing; they are the best escape route from my chaotic life.

Be careful how much personal information you put out there. This is important because online harassments sometimes transcends to physical harm. People need information about you to get to you, and the easiest way to get that information is online. I will also advise journalists, especially women, to develop thick skin. When you do important stories, there will definitely be push backs. Some people want to discredit us, belittle us, and sometimes attack our personality. We have to be strong enough to withstand the pushbacks, and we have to stand strong and resolute. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to reach out for help, whether from senior colleagues, organisations that protect journalists, and even law enforcement agencies – Huraira Lami Sadiq.

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