The media landscape of Nigeria has a number of indigenous language newspapers which shared in the credit of developing a vibrant newspaper industry in the country. The first Nigerian newspaper was a Yoruba language newspaper, Iwe Irohin, which was also the first indigenous language newspaper in Africa. It was established in 1859. Fiercely competitive business environment of the newspaper industry in Nigeria and the growing interest of publishers to establish English language newspapers contributed in stifling numerous local language publications that came up after Iwe Irohin.
However, one indigenous language newspaper put up a good fight in the competitive media landscape, becoming the longest surviving local language newspaper that existed in Nigeria. That newspaper is Gaskiya Ta Fi Kwabo, popularly called Gaskiya.
Gaskiya Ta Fi Kwabo (meaning the truth is worth more than a kobo) was established in 1939 at a time the media industry in Nigeria was dominated by English language newspapers mostly published by nationalists. It was established by the Northern Nigerian Government and had its head office in Zaria. Gaskiya was the first newspaper published entirely in Hausa, the largest language in West Africa and in Nigeria. What would have been the first Hausa language newspaper, Jaridar Nijeriya Ta Arewa (meaning Northern Province News) which was launched in kaduna in 1932 by the northern regional government, was not published entirely in Hausa language. The quarterly newspaper was published in three different languages, English, Hausa and Arabic (three columns each representing one of the languages). But Gaskiya Ta Fi Kwabo was published entirely in Hausa language, making it the first Hausa language newspaper in the world.
Gaskiya Ta Fi Kwabo was printed three times a week and was the world’s first Hausa-language newspaper. It was very popular at that time as its audience base quickly spread even beyond Nigeria to countries where the language was spoken. Based on its popularity, Romanised Hausa became more popular than Arabic script and began to predominate. The spelling, grammar, vocabulary and style used in Gaskiya became standard Hausa. The newspaper was among the most sought-after among Hausa speaking people especially because it was providing information about World War II to Nigerians. The newspaper mirrored Africans understanding of World War II. The newspaper did not only highlight the attitudes of Africans to the war but also chronicled the experiences of Nigerians in the war. Gaskiya also helped to generate and sustain the nationalist movement which was popular in the early stages of the newspaper’s existence.
Within the stable of Gaskiya Corporation which printed the newspaper, an English language version, Nigerian Citizen emerged in 1965. Then a few months later (in 1966) its name was changed to New Nigerian and the headquarters relocated to Kaduna where it is now based.The first editor of Gaskiya Ta Fi Kwabo was Abubakar Imam.
In 1941, some pages in Ajami were added to the newspaper for those who could not read the Roman script. They were called ‘Yar Gaskiya’ (meaning Daughter of Truth). This addition was prompted by the huge success recorded by the newspaper with a rapidly spreading audience base. The addition of Hausa Ajami further added more readers to the publication.
The Northern Nigerian Government also made a landmark achievement with Gaskiya Tafi Kwabo based on the fact that it was the first major attempt by any government in Nigeria to set up a newspaper. The Northern Nigerian Government, with the establishment of Gaskiya Corporation, began the publication of Gaskiya Tafi Kwabo in 1939 and, in 1948 established the English language bi-weekly, The Nigerian Citizen, which became a weekly shortly after. Most people think that Daily Times was the first government owned newspaper in Nigeria but that is wrong. Daily Times which was the popular Federal Government-owned newspaper actually began as a private establishment before it was purchased by the government in 1975. The paper was published by the Nigerian Printing and Publishing Company, which was was incorporated on 6 June 1925 by Richard Barrow, Adeyemo Alakija, V.R. Osborne and others. They printed the first copy as The Nigerian Daily Times on 1 June 1926. Alakija was an African barrister, while the other founders represented European interest groups in the Lagos chamber of commerce. The paper was actually doing very well but began to gradually decline when it was purchased by the Federal Government in 1975. It was resold to private establishment (Folio Communications Limited) in 2004. This means that Gaskiya Ta Fi Kwabo was the first government-owned newspaper in Nigeria.
Here are some quick facts about Gaskiya Tafi Kwabo you should know.
1. It was the first Hausa Language Newspaper in Nigeria
2. It was the Largest Hausa Language Newspaper in West Africa
3. It was the World’s first Hausa Language Newspaper
4. It was established in 1939
5. It was printed three times a week
6. It was published in Roman letters and later added Ajama Hausa pages
7. It was published by the Northern Nigerian Government under Gaskiya Corporation
8. It was the first government-owned newspaper in Nigeria
9. It was popular for chronicling experiences of Nigerians in World War II
10. Its headquarters was in Zaria
11. It had an English-language version, The Nigerian Citizen, first published in 1948.
12. It was the longest surviving indigenous language newspaper in Nigeria, having existed for over 70 years.
13. It was used to propagate nationalist struggle in Hausa language
14. It established an online version to adapt to the dynamic digitalized society
15. Its first editor was Abubakar Imam