My first contact with Alhaji Yusuf Alli was in 1994 when he was highly recommended to be the Kwara State Correspondent for the defunct A.M News by his former colleague in Herald Newspaper, Kayode Olawuyi.
I was then the News Editor of the newspaper following the closure of The Punch and needed very good correspondents for wide coverage of the states.
Alli was signed on and true to the recommendation, he exceeded expectations and made AM News a must read in Kwara within a short time with more than enough reports.
When I returned to The Punch as Group News Editor after re-opening, Alli was a natural choice when there was an opening for Kwara State Correspondent.
He came on board and bombarded the news desk with so many stories that the staff in the old communication room complained that he was sending too many stories.
I remember one of the staff saying that they needed more fax papers because Alhaji’s stories took too many pages compared with others’.
On the basis of his excellent performance, Alhaji was promoted to head the Ibadan bureau and expectedly there was no stopping the reporter extraordinaire as he moved on to become Abuja Bureau Chief, Deputy Editor, Daily, Editor, Daily and Senior Editor before his exit from The Punch.
I remember going to congratulate Alhaji when he was promoted Deputy Editor and advised that he should be more of an Editor now instead of reporting.
“Oga (as he calls me) I will try. I do my best to pass on some sources but they insist on speaking to me,” he explained.
When he left The Punch, my Managing Director at The Nation, Mr Victor Ifijeh gladly hired Yusuf on the basis of his legendary capacity to get every possible exclusive story and accurately analyse major national political issues.
As Managing Editor (Northern Operations) Alli has remained unrivalled in churning out national exclusive stories and analysis for all the titles at The Nation almost on daily basis.
For those who have whispered to my hearing that Alli who is supposed to be an Editor writes too many stories, I have always told them The Punch story of the complaints in the communication room.
He is not writing to impress anyone. Reporting is just part of him that he can’t get over.
How many journalists of his status go for an interview and transcribe the recordings during the inter-state journey back from the assignment? That is Alli, the reporter’s reporter for you.
However late you call him for an assignment, Alli does not know how to say no. He gets it done without complaints.
When I first wrote this tribute in 2018, a former colleague said, I didn’t note Alhaji’s humility.
Indeed Alhaji doesn’t pretend to be humble, he does it effortlessly.
He is older than me, but he accords me the level of respect that sometimes makes me uncomfortable. I wish I could stop him, but I know he won’t stop calling me Oga and answering Sir when we have any discussion even after leaving The Nation.
Happy birthday Egbon mi. Yusuf Alli
Repeated with minor addition from 2018 tribute)