On May 2, 2011, the chairman Bifocal Group and Publisher, Blueprint Newspapers, Alhaji Mohammed Idris, turned 45 years and that also marked the birth of Blueprint Newspapers Limited, publishers of Blueprint (Daily) and Blueprint (Weekend). Today, Alhaji Idris is 54 and Blueprint Newspapers is nine. In this interview with ABDULRAHMAN A. ABDULRAUF, Alhaji Idris speaks on the journey so far.
How do you feel?
I feel happy. I give thanks to the Almighty Allah who gives life and takes it at the time He so wishes. We should all be grateful. We give thanks to God, especially at this time that the entire world is facing serious challenges in all spheres.
You turned 54 years old today, and Blueprint newspapers will be nine years old on the newsstands. Any regrets embarking on this journey?
No. Not at all, far from it. I think it is a wonderful period for me. I feel great. 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 this brand that we started just like a play is now a big brand in Nigeria. I don’t think there are regrets – none at all.
What have been the challenges?
The challenges are the one known to you and all industry players. I remember nine years ago, the cost of news print is about one third of what it is today. Everything that we use in the newspaper is imported-virtually everything – the paper, the ink, the machine and equipment is denominated in dollars and everyone knows what the dollar is now. Everything is about a third of its value when we started. It is a big challenge. And whenever there is a problem or when the economy is facing a challenge as it is now, the media takes a big bashing of it. It is really challenging and this is not peculiar to Blueprint. Everyone in the industry is complaining. This is not just in Nigeria, but the world over. And the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened an already bad situation.
In nine years, Blueprint has maintained two titles, Daily and Weekend; what do we expect going forward?
Firstly, I will tell you that you will see a better Blueprint Newspaper, and a more refreshing weekend title. And you are also aware that we have gone into the broadcasting with the debut of WE FM 106.3 here in Abuja which was re-launched
last year. It is doing very well. It is one of the top stations in the capital city. Similarly, President Muhammadu Buhari has graciously approved our request to start a nationwide television. We are already doing the preliminary works for the take-off Blueprint Television.
Can we say that you are focused on building a media conglomerate?
Well, if you say so, but I can tell you with certainty that we are expanding. And everybody is happy for it.
Your first in-road from public relations to mainstream journalism was with the debut of The Market Magazine. What are your future plans on the brand?
There have been discussions on The Market Magazine. Initially, we were thinking that we would re-introduce it as a pull-out of Blueprint Newspapers, but because of the request we are getting from the general public, especially those that have been subscribing to The Market Magazine, we are feeling the need to re-introduce it and re-package it as a brand of its own. It was already a successful brand before we decided to merge it with Blueprint Newspapers. We are re-introducing it very soon. We hope to achieve that, everything being equal, before the end of the year.
What is your message to your colleagues, Blueprint staff and media practitioners in general?
First of all, for those in Blueprint Newspapers, I thank them for their hard work perseverance. The business of the media is not just that of the owner or publisher or board of directors, it is also for those who are operating it. And like I always tell media practitioners, we are all in this together – the media owners, practitioners, and other stakeholders are all in it together. Therefore, it is very important that we look at it from that angle and see how the industry can be strengthened.
Blueprint Newspapers, like every other newspaper, is feeling the pinch of the new media. When we started nine years ago, the online media was virtually non-existent, but now it is a reality, we cannot run away from it. So many people are complaining about the new media, but my message is that mainstream media owners should strengthen the online publications. That is the only way the industry can be strengthened.
We can’t run away from it. It is the future and the future is already here.
Will I be correct to say that this journey started with Bifocal Communications?
Well, I thank God. Yes, it has been a very fulfilling journey since when 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.
Your message to the younger generation
My message to the younger generation is for them to persevere and focus on their dreams and set goals. My advice is that they shouldn’t run after the money quickly. It will come. You need to develop your passion and sustain it – be disciplined about it. That is what has helped me. And the result is what we see today.