Komla Dumor: Tribute to a natural broadcaster, By Muhammad Jameel Yusha’u

Muhammed Jameel Yusha'u
Muhammad Jameel Yushau

Broadcasting is a natural talent, and those who have it easily become household names. For anyone who listens to radio or watches television, there is tendency he would develop professional affection for certain broadcasters, because they can give a delicious taste to a boring story.

For anyone who worked in the broadcasting business would tell you that no matter how good a story is, and no matter the editorial effort invested in producing the story, if you don’t have an excellent and talented presenter to sell it, that story will be dead.

One person who possesses such natural talent and ability to sell a story to complex audiences is our former colleague at the BBC World Service, Komla Dumour. Komla Dumour joined the BBC World Service a year before me, and while I was working at the BBC Hausa Service, we normally cross ways in or out of Bush House, the then headquarters of the World Service, but we were neither close nor working in the same hub.

Early in 2010, I was briefly transferred from the BBC Hausa Service for an attachment at the now rested flagship programme, the World Today, which has been fused with BBC Network Africa, where Komla was a presenter, to what is now called Newsday. Komla was one of the leading presenters in World Today, and one of the most appreciated by his colleagues, because he is reliable, will come to duty on time, and has the ability to grill interviewees, when there is need to do so, and can be as humorous as you would expect a lively presenter to be.

On a number of occasions I was assigned as one of the producers of the interviews he conducted, and that was how I began to understand this gentleman who died of cardiac arrest on January 18, 2014, according reports on various news outlets.

Komla and I reporting for the BBC World Today in 2010-Source: BBC Website

It was then I knew that Komla Dumour actually grew up in Kano, my home town, and his father was a lecturer at the Bayero University, Kano, the institution I graduated from.

At the time the British general election was approaching, the World Today decided to commission a special programme that focused on British identity and how that will affect voting behavior. At the time, and I believe up till now, there was a serious debate about immigration, and what it means to be English/British, looking at how people from different cultures have settled and made Britain their home. A development that many voters were not happy with and all the main parties were trying to exploit this feeling to gain electoral advantage.

Beyond that, Peter Horrocks, the Director of the BBC World Service wants a new brand of journalism, one that maintains the traditional form of reporting, and at the same time integrate the changes in technology, social media, and diverse nature of audiences. In fact Peter was interested in integrating the various services at the BBC to work as a team, benefitting from the strength of each other.

So the World Today assembled a team to pursue this task, and one key person who could deliver on these expectations was the Ghanaian in the team, Komla Dumour. Under the leadership of Simon Peeks as the editor of the programme, Leo Honark, and my humble self, we embarked on a one week long journey along M1 which is arguably the longest highway in England, reporting from Luton, Peterborough, Leicester, Sheffield and Leeds.

Komla (right) and colleague, Muhammed Jameel during an assignment in London
Komla (right) and colleague, Muhammed Jameel during an assignment in London

During the journey, the liveliness of Komla, his jokes and sense of friendship made the trip very interesting. But the strength of Komla is when it comes to work. Komla was not only reporting and presenting for World Today, which was a radio programme transmitting at night, he was also reporting for BBC World TV, writing for the BBC News website on the same trip, and at the same time engaging with listeners on Facebook about our experiences on the trip. I could still visualise Komla presenting live at 4 a.m, at the height of a freezing winter from the empty Luton stadium.

So it was not surprising to me when I saw the kind of meteoric rise in his broadcasting career, which culminates in his becoming one of the most prominent faces of BBC World TV. One thing many people do not know is that at least two former presidents of Ghana had offered Komla a ministerial appointment, and on both occasions he politely declined, and instead decided to focus on his journalism.

Komla Dumour has a strong fan base in Ghana due to his popularity while he was working for Joy FM, and later the BBC World Service, and many youth in Ghana see him as a potential future president. He once showed me the Facebook page promoting his presidential campaign established by his fans, and I teased him by saying that I looked forward to the time he would be sworn in as the president of his country.

Certainly, Komla Dumour is the president Ghana would never have, but in his journalism career he had a presidential control of the television screen. Ghana has lost a son, and journalism has missed an icon.

I join his family, the people of Ghana, former colleagues at the BBC World Service and his entire admirers in extending my condolences over the death of this natural broadcaster who has inspired many youths in Africa and beyond.



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