Mohammed Idris @54: Celebrating PR Guru & Brand builder
By Jibrin Baba Ndace

He would have been a professor if he had remained in the academia. He would have been a successful General if he had chosen the route taken by some of his friends. He would have been an accomplished public servant had he joined the public service, or a top diplomat in the Foreign Service had he gone that way. If he had taken to the king of games and game of kings, with a mallet and stick on horseback, he would have been a champion polo player. If he had joined politics, he would have since made a success of it.

His trajectory has shown that whatever profession or vocation he would have chosen, he would have made the best of it. His attributes and how he handles affairs in providing purposeful leadership show that he combines the traits of a teacher, public servant, diplomat, military general, politician and polo player.

Born on May 2, 1966, Alhaji Mohammed Idris is a man way ahead of his time with an uncommon capacity in identifying opportunities in his ability as a skilled communicator. Little wonder that nearly three decades ago, he ventured into uncharted waters and took the path never taken by many in his generation, especially from his part of the country. He took a step that many considered as ‘class suicide,’ leaving a secure public employment to venture into the uncertain, ‘accident-prone’ private sector.

Armed with a Bachelor of Arts and Master degrees all in English Language from Usman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto, and Bayero University, Kano, respectively; classroom experience at tertiary level; and understanding of value addition of communication skills, Alhaji Idris set out on the lonely and bumpy road, but never looked back.

This bold step led to the establishment of Bifocal Communications Limited in 1993, as platform for using his background as a communications expert imbued with the can-do spirit, to add value to humanity. With a firm belief that communication is at the core of human existence, he embraced public relations practice and focused on offering consultancy services for clientele in both public and private sectors of the Nigerian economy.

Bifocal Communications which became a leading public relations and communications consultancy company in northern Nigeria, within a short period of its establishment, operated as a reliable brand in managing advocacy and other intricate communications issues for local and international organisations. Hence, the company has served as lead consultant in managing advocacy/public enlightenment for International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); communication and strategy to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, National Primary Education Commission (now UBEC), European Economic Commission (EEC) and Transcorp Limited among several others.

In an interview on his 54th birthday, he said, “It has been a very fulfilling journey since I left my teaching job and ventured into public relations practice with Bifocal Communications Limited. It was Bifocal that gave birth to virtually all the other brands – from one company we have about five now in the group; and they are all doing well.”

In the last three decades he has been the chief strategist and visionary leader of Bifocal Communications and in the process, ‘providing solutions to corporate clients, delivering return on investment for stakeholders, diversifying as well as creating employment opportunities and mentoring for many Nigerians who have grown to become business leaders in their own right.’

While he was focused on building his company, he was mindful of his responsibility of deepening the course of public relations practice in northern Nigerian in particular and Nigeria in general. To achieve this, he joined forces with other like-minds in the profession towards expanding it. Within a short period, he became a key player in the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, Kaduna.

His commitment earned him unprecedented goodwill within and outside the chapter which resulted in his election as chairman, NIPR, Kaduna chapter, for two consecutive terms (2004-2008). Within the same period, he was the vice- chairman, Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria (PRCAN), an umbrella body for all notable public relations consultants.

A fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations and member, African Public Relations Association (APRA), Alhaji Idris continues to be a key player among the stakeholders at national and continental levels.

At the turn of the millennium, when Bifocal was about a decade old, Alhaji Idris took another bold step by venturing into publishing with the debut of The MarketMagazine in 2004. This unprecedented move established him as a man with eyes on the future – without media background as a practising journalist, his foray into the media industry as a publisher took the world by storm. Published by Cavalet Publications Limited, The Market is the first business and economy magazine in northern Nigeria with a mission to, among other things, ‘examine the extent to which government and the organised private sector could enact a synergy for a more prosperous society.’

As he is noted for, he assembled some of best hands in the industry — a mix of experienced professionals and promising young graduates and interns on the staff roll. The team which he led, ‘created a break from the clutter in the industry with high quality editorial and pictorial content focusing on business and economy.’

In 2011, Alhaji Idris took another audacious step with the debut of BlueprintNewspaper, where he assembled a team of very experienced media practitioners and younger reporters who were hungry for challenges. Within a short period the paper raised the bar of investigative journalism.

With a dedicated team, the publisher, who is a member, Newspaper Proprietors of Nigeria (NPAN), International Press Institute (IPI), Northern Media Forum and US-based Online News Association, has kept the paper on the newsstands for the last nine years.
Despite the obvious challenges in the media industry, the amiable and charismatic publisher says for him, the journey has been worthwhile with no regrets at all. He said, “The journey has been worth it. For any journey you start and nine years down the road you are still on it, I feel significantly accomplished that the brand that started just like play is now a big brand in Nigeria.”

While embarking on continuous diversification, it is clear that he is determined to build a media conglomerate with further repositioning of BlueprintNewspapers, the re-introduction of The Market Magazine, acquisition of WE FM106.3 and birthing of Blueprint Television. According to him, “…I can tell you with certainty that we are expanding and everybody is happy for it.”

Alhaji Idris’ outstanding leadership qualities have not gone unnoticed. Some have described him as “a silent achiever,” others refer to him as a goal-getter. Yet, some others say he is doggedness, never-say-die-spirit and perseverance personified. Indeed, one close associate and former vice-president and fellow, Nigerian Institutes of Public Relations, Malam Awwal Haruna, described him as “a true leader — humble, considerate, kind, and passionate about making a difference in people’s lives.”

Whatever accolades used in describing him, one thing is clear: Alhaji Idris is a visionary leader with a Midas touch who pursues excellence at all times and in whatever he sets out to achieve.

Even though a global citizen with vast national network, international connections and philanthropic disposition, the Niger state-born publisher, who holds the traditional title of Jagaba Amana Muye, has remained firmly rooted in his community and renders community service in the nooks and crannies of the state. His comfort and achievements have never beclouded his commitment to the needs of his community and the people. Over the years, he has continued to serve as torch-bearer and a leading light in the provision of critical infrastructure and employment for his community, Malagi, and its environs.

One of his greatest qualities is his commitment to values of true family root, friendship and acquaintances. As he progressed steadily in life, he does not sever relationships, contacts and networks that he had built as a pupil, student, undergraduate, lecturer, PR practitioner, publisher and entrepreneur.

At 54, this PR guru par excellence is an outstanding example of doggedness, perseverance and discipline. He has proven that with dedication, commitment and an eye on the future, it is possible to achieve set goals.

And he has advice for the younger generation: “My message… is for them to persevere and focus on their dreams and set goals….they shouldn’t run after the money first. It will come. You need discipline to develop your passion and sustain it.”

Ndace is an Abuja based journalist and PR Practitioner