Indy Press Spotlight: A Conversation With The Outgoing Deputy Editor-in-chief Habeeb Abdul 

By: Favour Bamijoko 

A final year student of the Faculty of Law, Habeeb Abdul, an award-winning journalist, is the Deputy Editor in Chief of Indy Press, the Captain of the UI British Parliamentary Debating Society, and Vice President at the Lord Tedder Hall Literary and Debating Society. On the 6th of May, 2023, he won the Union of Campus Journalists Best Features Writer award. At the Youth Leadership annual debate competition that was held in Lagos, in 2023, he alongside his partner, were first runners-up, while only recently, his essay for the 2024 Abubakar Jemila Essay Competition ranked second overall. This week for the Spotlight, correspondent Favour Bamijoko, had a conversation with Habeeb where he shared his ideas on chart-topping plus some casual insights. Stay with us.

Good evening, Habeeb. I’m Favour Bamijoko and I’m delighted to reach out to you in respect of an interview for Indy Press. Thank you for the audience. 

To start with, could you kindly give a brief introduction about yourself and also, a compilation of the things you do?

Good evening, Favour. I’m Habeeb Abdul, a 500 level law student. I’m a public-speaker, freelance writer and campus journalist.

Could you reflect on your sojourn at the University of Ibadan so far; what has it been like? 

My sojourn in UI has been an interesting one, to be honest. I think back on it sometimes and conclude that I would not have recorded my growth anywhere else, in any other institution. And at the centre of all this is the calibre of people I have also been very fortunate to meet. It has also helped me to discover the extent of my leadership and creativity skills. Overall, it’s been a lot. Really.

If you had a chance to come to Earth in another lifetime, would you still choose to come to UI?

In another lifetime, I hope to be born elsewhere, in a much better country than this so, yeah, UI is not a first choice.

Amongst the things you’re known for, Mr Habeeb Abdul, two of them are campus Journalism and public speaking. To take it one at a time, could you also share your experience with campus Journalism with us; what inspired your engaging with campus Journalism and how did you find it at the start?

Okay, so regarding campus journalism, I would say, I think I always say this when just kind of like relating my evolution into campus journalism. So, when I was in 200 level, there was this, I mean from my 100 to 200 level days really, I used to read press boards a great deal. I mean, I was a very, very active reader.

After every class in whatever faculty I found myself in, I was always reading the press board, trying to see what it was that, you know, the people of the fourth estate had put out at that point in time. I was just like a very random reader. So, it happened that this evening, I was at Indy and I was reading the press board and the Indy past editor-in-chief, John Okafor, met me. And I think there was one conversation we had about securing a form because the press recruitment was open and whether I would be interested in joining. So, I picked up the form and joined the press. And from then, it’s been an interesting ride. It’s been a long one and it’s been very eventful.

That’s quite an interesting way to start. what helped you develop and rise through the ranks amongst other campus journalists, has campus journalism paid off for you eventually?

So, on how I found it at the start, well I think it was cool. I was already someone who liked researching a variety of stuff, like writing and all that. So, it was cool just being a member of the press and having your articles put out there. Then it was also kind of interesting, learning from people like Chidera Anushiem, who I think was the editor-in-chief. Yes, he was the editor-in-chief at the time I joined the press.

So, you would come, you know, for weekly meetings, hear the reviews and all of that. You always look forward to what everybody else is saying about your article and always look forward to the positive comments and also hope to improve on the negative feedback. So, like these were things that kind of motivated us to keep writing and keep writing better stuff.

…as for rising through the ranks, well I don’t know about that. I don’t think it was conscious, it was more like, you know, you were good at what you do. I mean you’re good at what you do and you’re recognized for it and that kind of thing. Like, you… kind of like, you know, stand out amongst everybody else.

So yeah, that was just it. I mean when you’re good, it typically just ends like you rise through the ranks. I think that’s just it.

I think it was more of an innate quality than a conscious, okay I’m like seeking to, it’s just you being good first and maybe later you realize you can actually leverage these skills for advancement. But for the most part, I think it was just my personal qualities speaking for me.

Could you share with us some of the lessons you’ve learnt from engaging with campus journalism?

So, on the lessons I’ve learned from engaging with campus journalism, I think the most important would be, you know, just approaching things on a principled basis, yeah.

I mean you’re basically like truth tellers and when you’re a truth teller, and when you’re a truth teller, you cannot compromise on the representation of events in your pieces. Those are things like matters, people, these are things that reflect on other people’s minds. I mean people read these articles and stuff like that.

So, I mean you want to avoid anything that could potentially tarnish someone’s image wrongly and also the image of the press organization in the long run. So, basically the standard has always been to investigate thoroughly and you know… and always have clarity in whatever it is that you’re writing. So even in instances when I’m writing stuff and I’m not exactly sure, I always double check despite the pains of doing so because it’s very, very important for that to happen.

Also, it was just about me, you know, not sparing any efforts to ensure that, you know, we got the best stories out. I mean I wrote the best kind of stuff that I could within my means at that time and just, I mean just doing a good job, just doing a good job really. So that was one thing I learned from campus journalism.

I also think that the fact that we had this internal feedback system kind of like, you know, also made that test to be better, very critical. So, like on weeks when you like got the greatest feedback, you’re like okay yeah sure this is good. I mean I’ve probably done something nice and then on weeks when you think okay there’s something to work on and you want to like fix it in the next article.

So, like taking notes on all of these things just to ensure that, you know, you do the right things the next time. That was just it, you know, just being very conscious of our role as truth tellers, being very, should I say, specific or like meticulous in the kind of work I put out and also, you know, always challenging myself to do better.

So, I think those are like the principal lessons that I have learned in the course of my journey as a campus journalist

Which of your articles is your favorite article?

Okay, so about my favorite article, to be honest, I don’t think I can say for now that one article is my favorite. I think I’d rather rank my articles on the basis of how challenging they were, l don’t think I have a particular favorite as of now.

But for the most challenging article I’ve written, it would be the piece on the man-of-war, because that took a very, very, very long time to create. I spent several weeks with men of the man-of-war, just familiarizing the custom. Just to represent the story as someone who lived within the organization, not as an outsider who just walked up to them for interview or something.

I had to be there to just reflect the culture as it is. Yes, and during that period, I think it was also one of the most intense things I’d ever done as a campus journalist, because I remember that that period was during the Ramadan fast, and I would eat very, very light meals, like probably bread and tea or something, so that I could be able to keep the pace with the man-of-war guys as they were jogging. So that means that by the time I finished jogging alongside them when their running routine was complete, I’d be totally drained because I would have sweated, and I mean, I would have lost a lot of bodily fluid and all of that. And then that was basically how it had to be till the end of the day.

So, there were sacrifices that were made along the line, and the most intense of them really was having to go back after exams to join them on a, I think, was it 48 kilometers now? Yes, approximately 48 kilometers, like trekking from UI with man-of-war to this place that, what was it called? I can’t exactly remember the name of that location, but I trekked, and it was a rainy day, so right from the moment we got, we had not even got into UI gate when it started raining on that day, and from the moment we were just approaching the exit/ when we got outside, the rain started falling, and it did not stop until very late in the evening on that day. I think it stopped around probably between five/six. I remember that even when we were near to our intended destination, the rain still kept falling, and it was crazy because I was like super drenched, every part of me was like exhausted, but I had to keep moving, because I felt like, okay, any point at which I turn back now, will be a failure on my part to write the story, because then I would not have…. I felt like I needed to have a 360 degree experience of the man-of-war, I needed to feel what it means to be on the survival trek, right? And for that to happen, it means that I actually had to survive too, you get. And the problem with this was that there had been an interlude between the period when I was jogging with the man-of-war, and when I joined them for the trek.

So basically, you know, once the exam starts, all extracurricular activities stop. So, I had like about two, three, or four weeks of lag before I rejoined. And the trek itself was immediately after exams, almost immediately after exams. So, I was quite rusty already, because I had not been working out, like exercising, any of those things.

So I just, you know, pack my bag, you know, one night, and then the next morning, I was with the man-of-war, like. I just decided on the moment to, you know, join them. So yes, it was  like, very, very intense, very challenging in terms of physical activity; in terms of effort; in terms of, you know, just committing to like seeing it to the very end. It was crazy. So yeah, that would certainly be the top of my most challenging story. And yeah, and I think maybe, I don’t want to use the word, the word favourite, but maybe it was just like, it was a great one for me, because it just like, was a test of how far I could go, if I wanted to do something. So pretty much, yes.

Would you be willing to do it again?

Sure thing. I’m down for an interesting challenge anytime.

From your work at Indy Press, to your work at UCJ, what has it been like?

Working at Indy Press, working at the UCJ; well, I think I’ll just, you know, paint all of them with the same brush and say that it’s been very interesting and engaging. You know, I think that my work at the UCJ has been of two types, basically.

So, it has the representative part, which is when, you know, you go as a senator to the union. And, you know, of recent, you know, working actively as, say, an editorial board member, as a committee head… on, say, you know, the disciplinary panel, more recently too. So yeah, it started from, started as a representative, but maybe not precisely.

I think I’ve been sort of engaged with the UCJ from 200 level. I know there was a time when I was to join a committee organising one of the headline events of the union in that session, but I think it did not hold anymore. And also, there was a time when I was actually like on the investigation squad too.

Then… that was like several years ago now. It was a team created by, I can’t remember, I can’t remember who was the head of the team. Then also, I was a member of the features desk. Yes, at some point. I know I published one or two articles back then, I had one or two of them published on the website. Then, last session, I was also on the election watch room. So that was like myself, Abdurahman, Tijani Abdulkabeer, Ifeoluwa from Law Press. I think they were like, probably Aduwo Ayodele, like, yeah, so they’re like a handful of us and Eriomala John. So, there were like a number of us in the watch room team at that time. So yes, I was very, very active within, you know, the UCJ business.

So now let’s talk specifically about the more recent ones. So, about the watch room thing. That was something that Abdurahman and Abdukarbeer were, you know, thinking about and I’ve also raised it with him. And then I found out that they had also like, you know, been thinking of creating something like that.

So yeah, we all worked together on, you know, monitoring the elections, you know, speaking to candidates, writing about them. And yes, I wrote some kind of like, should I say, expository piece on the various candidates. I mean, it was a very competitive election then, they had four candidates. So, it was like, you know, as like, I looked into all of them, interviewed their managers, you know, just like, you know, looked at their various campaign strategies, and all of those things. It was, it was, it was kind of like an interesting process. Then there was also the election itself, when we were like, literally like walking around campus, assessing the state of things. We’d move from say, as far as Queens Hall to Awo, which is like on the other end of the school. And then we’ll be publishing stories on the spot, right? Like literally writing this update and everything, just to keep everyone informed — when the election platform was down, when things are like literally not going the way that people expected.

So, yeah, there was that. I’m just randomly picking memories now, because there is, there has been quite a bit. And there was the committee thingy, Francis Egbokhare press debates, that was also quite interesting. I think the story is kind of well known. “Figure out a new debate style”, that was a mandate from the union, and get press men to debate in it. And then we got that done too, pretty good one. I think it feels great to have, you know, done something novel for the union. Then, yes, it’s a long and varied experience. I don’t think it’s like I can explore everything in depth, but that’s kind of like the tip of it, yes.

The inaugural Francis Egbokhare, what was your contribution to it; if it was your brain child, could you tell us what inspired it, and why did you plan something different from the orthodox Jawwar style of debate?

So, on the Francis Egbokhare thingy; as I said earlier, it was a mandate from the Union. I was asked to like, you know, create something. Then I thought about what would be best suited for a community of, you know, pressmen. And at the back of my mind, you’re like, okay, these guys are not public speakers and like experienced public speakers, you know, jawwar style and all of that.

And I needed something that’s, you know, could fit that portraiture, that dynamic basically. So, I looked into a variety of debating styles, decided on which of them was simplest and, you know, quicker to understand, easier to train in and all of that. And, also something that we could, you know, secure people that, you know, would be willing, I mean, secure judges for. So, I think overall it was just doing something that could suit the atmosphere of pressmen. That was why I decided to go Australasian.

I’d like to ask, do you intend to go into mainstream journalism later on or stick with law?

I think my options are pretty open, to be honest. But while mainstream journalism doesn’t rank tops on my mind right now, I might just tinker around for a bit and see what fits.

Speaking of debates, and public speaking, though you are an award-winning speaker,  you didn’t appear on any during the yet-to-be concluded JawWar 2024 debates, is there a reason for this dissociation from Jawwar?

So I’m not appearing at Jawwar this year. It was just some kind of, it wasn’t dissociation as such, because in the background, I still did some kind of work. I mean, I was on the topics committee, that was my second time on it. And yes, I was also helping out at my L&D. So, I mean, most, was what, mostly Lord Tedder Hall literary and debating society, I was helping them getting prepared for the competition and things like that. So, it wasn’t dissociation as such. I was involved up to some level, except for actual presentation on stage.

Wrapping up discussions about public speaking, you won the Youth Leadership national debate competition sometime last year. What did the victory mean to you, besides the monetary value?

My team were first place winners at this leadership debate last year. And well, I think it was, it was important in the sense that we had like literally steamrolled through every single phase without losing a single round of debating. And, you know, the thing about a particular competition is that if you lost a round, you were out. Like, then it didn’t matter how good you were, there were no best losers or anything like that. You just had to keep winning to proceed to the finals. And the way it worked was we, like, as you moved from, say, top 32 to, say, top 16 to top eight there were new groups being created, right. So, it felt pretty good, you know, transitioning from one of the more, I mean, one of the more crowded spaces to something that was exclusive.

So yes, it did mean a lot, you know, just being able to clear everybody out and stuff. And then I think that on a different level, there was the part about being able to come up with very, very good arguments, right? I think, you know, we should just clear out the opponents and make your win a very decisive one. So, myself and my teammates, Yusuf Aisha, were pretty cohesive. We understood our individual strengths and we leaned heavily on them to, you know, kind of like, you know, just make things work out. So, it was basically like, you know, balancing the, what was it, the different techniques that we had refined individually. I think the most exhilarating part for me was like just coming up with this argument that I could, you know, get everyone else out of the game. That was a really, really great part for me, beyond everything else. It was the debates and like the fun of, you know, arguing or, you know, just slamming everybody else’s, you know, lines of thoughts into the dust…that stood out for me. Yes…so that was it.

Recently, you emerged at second place in the Jemila Abubakar Memorial Essay Competition. What were your expectations putting in for the competition, and considering your track record of stellar wins, how do you manage to stay at the top of your game?

Speaking on the Jemilla Abubakar Memorial essay competition, that one was, it was, well, when I put in for the competition, I felt like I had pretty good ideas moving forward and I expected a win, to be honest. I expected a win because, I mean, I had been researching quite heavily on the topic. I’d been thinking deeply on approaches to use, how to just get myself into that top 15 brackets and all that. So it was, it was much like the same thing we had at the leadership debate, because a lot of those things are strategy, right? But it’s a different dynamic in essay writing, because you’re trying to stand out and be unique. I mean, slightly different dynamic. Let me just correct that. So, in this case, now I was thinking, okay, how do you, how do you beat everybody else? What would be the best ways? Like what’s a practical and realistic way to approach this topic? And yes, being able to think in that direction kind of helped me to craft the ideas that I did and of course, you know, emerge kind of like tops in the competition. So, on how I managed to stay on top of my game, it’s just thinking differently, really. Thinking differently, like thinking far below the surface, I would like to say. I mean, and yeah, being creative, right? Like creativity to literally just stands you out from the crowd. Like you can’t do the same things that everybody else, you know, is doing. You can’t, if you’re joining the crowd, then you’re just the same as them. So, what I’ve learned to do is like, okay, if the crowd’s like going say ten miles, I try to do fifteen. If the crowd are like, you know, thinking in say a single lane or something, I’m thinking like dual carriage or, you know, triple carriage or like, I don’t know as many lanes as you can think of just to ensure that I wasn’t typical. I mean, I’m not typical. So yeah, that’s it.

How do you define success in what you do?

How do I define success in what I do? Well, I don’t know. I guess success could mean winning in one sense, but success to me, I think overall, I mean, in the broadest sense would be just getting things done.

At present, are you working on any new or exciting project?

All right, so on new or exciting projects, I don’t know if you would call it exciting, but we are currently in the process, I mean at UI British Parliamentary Debates and Society, of which I’m the captain, we are currently organising an inter-secondary school debates competition for students in Ibadan. So, it’s novel in the sense that the British Parliamentary Debate style is not something that is taught at the secondary school level. I mean, from what you and I have probably experienced, you’ll agree with me, has been the presidential style of debating with the Mr. Chairman, panel of judges, accurate timekeeper, all of those things.

So, we are looking at debating from a more technical angle, from a more intense, more challenging angle, and we think that the British Parliamentary could be that style. And then we’ve also seen, we’ve witnessed students from other secondary schools across the globe actually being engaged very deeply on issues that you consider technical, even for university students. So, this kind of thing, I mean this is literally what has informed our decisions, to just bring this to the secondary school level within Ibadan.

So, if that counts as exciting, fine, but I would certainly say that it’s new. So that’s something you could look forward to, we’ll start publicity very soon. And yes, we’re already on, it’s already underway, like a lot is already going on in the background. We’re just at the, you know, should I say public, the, you know, more public aspects of it. So yes.

How do you handle frustration and tough moments?

All right, on frustration and tough moments. Well, I think for me, it’s always just being able to understand that certain things in life are corrective, and if something doesn’t work out the way I wanted it to, I always think, okay, there’s probably lessons to be learnt here, and then the next time we go again. I mean, we keep going and going and going and going, until we win. So that’s always been my mentality.

I mean, it’s saddening when certain things don’t work out, or you encounter failure and all that. It can be depressing, but I fancy myself to be a resilient person. I can adapt to problems. I can think of walkarounds, and yes, by the time it’s all set, so they just, it could still be burdensome, but at least you have a solution, or at least you have a determination to do something better. So yeah, most times I’m thinking, all right, what is there for me to learn from this, and how do I beat down the facts that I did not get this to work out the way I wanted. It’s, yeah, it just, it mostly just comes from a place of resilience, and you know, being, should I say, solution-oriented. So that’s it. That’s how I am. On frustration itself, well, what do I do? I guess I just keep thinking. That’s it. I keep thinking, like, how else do we do this? What do we do? Like, am I missing something? I mean, there are instances where you just literally think that there is no way ahead, and you’re totally disappointed. I think the whole situation is messed up, and all of that. But really, there still could be that one solution that you’ve not explored. So maybe just taking some, a step back or something, and reflecting, or like just letting your mind, you know, digress to something else, allows you to, like, you know, see it from that new angle that you could have approached it from. So that’s something I also do when, you know, frustration sets in.

In relating with people, what are three values you look out for?

So, in relating with people, I don’t, three values, maybe that’s a lot. For me, it’s, usually my relationship with people often has to do its work and what I look out for in that case would just be, okay, how, you know, intelligent is this person and how well do they deliver on the job? So that’s, so probably just two. Yeah. How well do they deliver and yeah, their commitments too. So, I think that would be three. Right. That’s, that’s correct. So basically commitments, intelligence and skill.

Mr Habeeb Abdul, do you have any experience with romantic relationships? If yes, how did you find it? And would you advise university students to go into romantic relationships?

Experience with romantic relationships. Yes, I do. And on how I found it, well, it was great. Right, it was great. Do I advise university students to go into romantic relationships? Well, I guess it depends on individuals, to be honest. Some might say they find it stressful.

For some, it’s probably their pathway to, you know, making better discoveries about themselves as individuals, you know, like it’s good to have a variety of benefits.

I think that if you as an individual think that relationships might not be the best thing for you. Well, fine. And if you think you want to explore, fine also. I really do not see an instance where I would. So, yeah, I kind of don’t really project my own, my own perspectives on relationships into other people. Just do what you want. Really, that’s just it. Do what you want.

Throughout the time you’ve spent in UI so far, which cafeterias or eateries are the top three to the best of your experience and which three places are your best spots on campus?

Okay, so cafeterias or eateries. Well I think, okay, I think I can just tell you which one is not my, or it’s not even ranked close to favorites, and that would be Indy Hall’s cafeteria. Oh my God, no, I cannot, I don’t think that the experiences there have been good. I mean, of course, the food is okay, but there is just, like, an obvious lack of effort in the quality of food prepared, as far as I can remember. It’s, and I’ve stopped eating there since, like, probably nearly a year now. Yeah, around a year or something. It’s been very long, like, the times I’ve eaten there have been, like, extremely few and far between. So, about a year or close to. But I think that Zik and Tedder’s Hall cafeteria have kind of, like, been my go-to. I think the food, the meals  at Zik have been average of late, at least at the spots I go to. I can’t remember the name of the cafeteria now, if it has been average, you know, due to inflation, I think. Tedder’s food is also average, but these are, like, the places I still go to get my meals at. And then if I want, like, you know, probably eat proper meals or something, something better, more presentable and all that, I would just order online or something like that. So, and that can, like, change. Just, like, you trying out a new cafeteria or something. It’s never one place.

I like taking strolls a lot. So, like, I walk around a lot when I have the time. I’m not sure I have, like, a favorite spot in particular, because when I take these walks, I don’t, like, really sit around. Yes, I just, like, you know, move, move. I think I like Tech Road at night. Not exactly, but still relatively free and quiet.

A random street content creator comes up to you and asks, “Burna Boy or Davido or a third secret thing, which artist from Nigeria do you prefer?

Okay, I think I would certainly say Burnaboy. I would say Burnaboy. I like his lyricism. I’ve always liked him, actually. I mean, that’s when he separates all his, when he separates his artistry from all his, you know, public misdemeanors and, you know, I think I like his music. I really, I mean, some of my favorite tracks would be Onyeka, and this is me just mentioning one, but there are actually, like, a lot of others out there that I respect Burnaboy for. So, I think Davido is great, he’s a popular artist, he’s a vibe, he’s someone you can relate to on a whole lot of levels, but I just like Burnaboy’s music better.

To round things off, Mr Habeeb Abdul, what do you think about the rising inflation and Mr Tinubu’s performance on the Nigerian stage so far?

Okay, so I think that the inflation has actually been quite terrible online. It’s, like, very rapid, like, very insane. It’s just, it’s just moved from points A to, like, points G or something, because I’ve seen things double in price, like, things that I literally bought for, I mean, not even just double in price now, triple in price.

I mean, you can see a Congo of Rice now, it’s, like, practically, it’s already #3,000, and it used to sell for around #1,000, #1,200, in the worst case, probably #1,300, things like that. And even those times, we were still complaining. I mean, for differences of, say, #100 to #200 or #300 naira, but now it’s, like, just insane, like, it’s gone very wild. Everything is just, you know, very expensive. Then, on Tinubu’s performance, well, personally, I think I would say that I’m just, like, waiting to see where all this is headed, right?

I mean, if someone thinks that neoliberal policies would fix the country, would reform the economy, and all those things, and yes, the reforms, I’m looking out for those reforms very closely. I mean, things like the recent, implementation or intention to implement the Oronsaye report, I’ll see how that works out. I also want to see where this whole devaluation of the currency would lead us. I want to see where the increase in the monetary policy rates, I mean, in the interest rate, rather, would lead us. So, like, it’s just a matter of curiosity for me. I don’t think that one can give any true assessments of Tinubu’s performance until we see the conclusion of those plans, right? I mean, they’re intended towards something. And based on my own knowledge and familiarity with some of those concepts, I know that they are supposed to, like, have some benefits in the short to medium to long term. So, those benefits are, like, some of the things that I hope to see very soon. So, yes, I would just maintain that I’m still curious, I mean, still assessing, can’t make a conclusion yet, can’t make, like, a declaration yet.

Are you an ardent worshiper of any religion? How has it helped you, if yes.

Okay, I think the word ardent does not qualify me. On religion, I’m a Muslim.

I subscribe to Islam. And, yes, generally, we think of ourselves as people, like, on this path of consistent growth. So, yes, I mean, there is a lot of room for improvement. That’s just it.

What advice would you give to other students, both younger or older?

Okay, I don’t know about advising older students. They certainly have more experience, and if anyone should be giving the advice, it should be them to me, not, like, the other way round. But as for younger students, well, I guess I’ll just encourage them to, like, be creative, be dynamic, you know, attempt to be different, and also be relentless. Like, that’s just it. I mean, I know this sounds pretty cliche; something you hear from some, some motivational talks or something like that, but that’s just the truth. Like, these are some of the things I’ve worked out for me. These are some of the principles I’ve lived by, and I think, if I was to advise anybody else, I would just tell them the same thing. I can’t tell them anything else, that I haven’t applied myself. So, that’s just it.

Thank you very much, Mr Habeeb for your time. I wish you many more years of success and happiness.

Thank you, Favour.

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