ZAINAB MUSA KPEROGI: WE ALL MUST BE STRONG
That Zainab, our own Zainab, is gone is a reality that is hard to accept even now. I first met Zainab 11 years ago. She had joined the newly established Weekly Trust Newspaper (which gave birth to the Daily Trust) in May 1999 while I joined the same organization in July of the same year. The entire editorial staff strength of the newspaper at the time was perhaps less than the political desk of THISDAY or The Punch newspaper.
There was the Editor- in- Chief and CEO Jabirus A. Yusuf; Ishaq Ajibola the GM, Isyaku Dikko; the Assistant Editor , a couple of consultants the late Duro Irojah (Oga Duro to everybody ) and Denis Mordi. Down the ladder there were other veterans like Aisha Umar Yusuf, Zainab Okino, Adagbo Onoja and Abdullah Doki. Then there were those who constituted and called themselves the 'Younger Elements' comprising Mohammed. S. Lawal, Farooq Adamou Kperogi and Zainab Musa (as she then was).
Working from a three bedroom office on Alkali road which is located in a rather select area of Kaduna , it was inevitable that some kind of bonding would develop. What emerged then was the crystallization of the entire group into one small but formidable family that was united in one goal: to produce a readable newspaper every Friday, take half of the day off on Saturday and resume the same tasking routine on Sunday. Zainab was a reporter at the time, and I was given the honour of being designated a senior writer.
But those nomenclatures hardly mattered because on Monday mornings when the paper is reviewed you are only as good as the output you contributed and God help you if you were caught breaking any of the numerous and sometimes tasking basic rules that govern the English language. You would be the butt of all jokes for the rest of the week, until everybody is once again caught up in the frenzy of the next production cycle. The only thing that mattered was how to avoid being the next Mudi (dunce ) of the next editorial conference.
I watched Zainab during that period closely and was struck by three things: a musical air about her that she probably wasn't aware of; her impeccable grasp and mastery of the English language; and the patience and diligence with which she handled every task assigned to her. Oddly enough, her closest rival in the way she understood and did her job as a journalist was the young man that turned out to be her husband and father of her three children, Farooq Adamu Kperogi, who was as cheeky as he was brilliant.
Zainab sang and danced at everything that caught her fancy, indifferent to who was watching—or who was jealous. That lively and playful exterior masked a very strong, determined and extremely competent young woman that had arrived at the 21st century some years ahead of her peers. This is because even though she had the liberty to do as she pleased, Zainab chose to live the life of the ideal Muslim young woman . She wore her Muslim garb proudly without being extreme, without pretensions and was at home with others regardless of their religious or tribal affiliations.
By the time their romance became an open secret in the office, everybody knew that the pair of Zainab Musa and Farooq Adamu Kperogi couldn't have been better matched. At some point the two had done a story jointly, a survey actually, which they headlined 'Why journalists don't marry each other'. Perhaps it was a private joke between them which they decided to enjoy at the expense of the rest of us their colleagues, because shortly after that ironically prophetic report, the two announced their engagement. They got married sometime in 2002, thereby disproving the result of their own survey report.
By the time they became husband and wife, between them ,Farooq and Zainab had contributed immensely in making the Weekly Trust a respected weekly newspaper that many people looked forward to every Friday. As former Editor of that newspaper, it is impossible to quantify Zainab's contribution to that paper and to the subsequent titles. We were all indebted to her in more ways than we can recall as she corrected our errors and we took the credit for a job well done.
No piece of writing ever passed through Zainab's patient and thorough professional intervention without her raising it to a standard often far above the level the original author could ever hope to attain. It never mattered to her that she was burnishing someone else's image and professional career. She did what needed to be done almost compulsively, occasionally raising her voice to say how tedious it is to have to correct other people's blunders. Today we are grieving over our loss. That is the normal graph of life. Neither joy nor grief lasts forever, though it might take a while and a lot of effort to get over some moments of trials.
We hope and pray for Zainab to rest in perfect peace. We also pray for God to nourish her children and provide for them a replacement that only He can provide.