Interview with Laila Johnson Salami
Since my teen years, I’ve been interested in sustainable solutions, with a passion for women’s rights and our environment. At school, I thought I wanted to work with an institution such as the UN or the WHO, so I studied politics and international relations. When I came to see that journalism would be a better fit, I moved from the UK to Nigeria to gain hands-on experience. I was inspired by Christiane Amanpour. I wanted to report on things that matter. I always want to learn.
I started off at a fashion channel, learning about media, production, and TV presenting. I then joined Nigeria Info FM, a radio station focused on politics and current affairs. That move was pivotal to my career as I got a lot more experience, learning from people who had been in the industry for many years. My next step was into live TV, working on Hello Nigeria. I interviewed high-profile people, in politics, business and entertainment. At the same time, I co-hosted a YouTube show called On the Couch. We interviewed people who were running for president, trying to get young people to understand more about those running for the highest office in the country. The show was successful, and I was approached by Arise News to co-host the channel’s prime programme, The Morning Show. Almost four years later, I’m still at Arise News, but now reporting on the environment, global politics, health, and human angle stories. I feel I’m becoming a better journalist story by story, and I’ve seized opportunities that best suit me.
I consider one of the biggest issues affecting young people to be climate change. Earlier this year, I was in Taraba State in north-east Nigeria. There is no healthy soil or land, and desertification is encroaching further down the south. Until I went there, I didn’t understand the extent to which climate change contributes to migration from Nigeria. Less than 10% of Nigeria today is forest, and if you don’t have healthy soil, which forests provide, you cannot grow your crops. Air pollution is another issue, and reports say it has become a bigger killer than cigarettes. Life expectancy in Nigeria is only 54 years old, and I worry the effect of pollution could reduce this further.
We cannot ignore the connection between climate change and everything else that’s happening around us – for example, increases in food prices due to the floods in Nigeria that have displaced more than 1.3m people. If we don’t have a healthy environment, we cannot prosper. We need tighter regulations, and we should be educating people from a young age to break bad habits and encourage a ‘greener’ way of life. The only way we can secure the future of humanity is by having sustainable practices. From war to poverty and hunger, and climate change – while still being in, or getting out of a pandemic – there are so many issues that make us doubtful for the future of our world. But we can make a change, if we make the right decisions.