Sam Nda-Isaiah (1962-2020)

The demise of Sam Nda-Isaiah, the Chairman of Leadership Newspapers, on December 11, 2020, sent shock waves across the media landscape and consternation in the political terrain. A classical untimely death, Sam was not trapped in a threatening health condition before death came calling; he was actively engaged in activities that would enhance his business ventures up till his last few hours on earth. That Sam gave up the ghost after a few hours’ battle against COVID-19 was an indication that the virus may be more deadly than previously assumed.  Now, health experts may have to re-examine the earlier thinking that the virus fights victims in a full circle through high fever, pains, difficulty in breathing, lung infection and triggering off any underlying ailment over an estimated period of 14 days or two weeks. From Sam Nda-Isaiah, we know COVID-19, or perhaps, a variant of it could take life out of its victims in hours.

Sam Nda-Isaiah left an indelible mark in both the media and political sectors. From his days as a columnist and Editorial Board Member at Daily Trust, Sam demonstrated a sense of mission in journalism, though he did not train as a journalist. Sam’s opinion pieces were forceful and unsparing; he did not suffer fools gladly; he was never hypocritical; very practical and always direct to the point. His style was so novel that Tukur Othman, a former Managing Director of the New Nigerian newspaper, wrote about it in the Daily Trust of October 14, 2002. The veteran journalist said of Sam Nda-Isaiah’s columns: “They can effectively check the menacing tendency of our leaders at all levels to convert public resources to their own use and leave their subjects in perpetual penury. And if these types of columnists do not mean much or anything to leaders like President Olusegun Obasanjo, and others before him, then I should say unhappily that, indeed, the world has come to an end.” Many fans of Sam’s column in the Daily Trust would quickly align with this observation by Tukur Othman.

When, in 2004, Sam Nda-Isaiah plunged into the uncharted waters of newspaper publishing, he did so with determination, courage and uncommon resilience. When he was to choose a name for his newspaper, he did not look for one in a bag of symbolism, euphemism, or allusion. He picked a common name, LEADERSHIP, sending a message directly to the country’s political leaders that his publications would put them on the scale. Never mentored by any successful publisher, Sam learnt the art and craft of publishing on the job, burning his fingers on many occasions, but never relenting. He fought the adverse publishing weather to paddle his start-up from obscurity to the frontline. He did not want to be ignored; he was not ignored by the tribe of publishers in the country.

Sam Nda-Isaiah did the unthinkable in 2014 when he threw his hat into the ring to contest for the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Not minding the fact that his political master, President Muhammadu Buhari, was also in the race, Sam flew from one part of the country to another, selling his “BIG IDEAS” slogan, canvassing for support. He was not intimidated by the big names and political warriors in his party. Though he did not get the party’s ticket, Sam’s courage became a source of inspiration for young, ambitious politicians who did not have a trainload of Naira and Dollars. In 2019, several amateur politicians joined the presidential race, believing that with good ideas it is possible to make a tremendous impact in politics.

Though Sam is dead, he made a mark. He achieved what most Nigerians may not achieve if they had to live their lives five times over. Sam was born on May 1, 1962. He attended the Federal Government College, Kaduna from 1974-1979, from where he gained admission into Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife to study Pharmacy. Upon completion, he did his mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) at Ekiti State General Hospital, later worked at Kano Specialist Hospital and Pfizer Products Limited, before he migrated to entrepreneurship and politics.

May his gentle soul rest in peace.

Source: Daily Trust Editorial, 22 Dec 2020