Having witnessed the passing of most loved ones in quick succession in recent times, (mother, wife, relatives and comrades alike) I had appreciated that death keeps no calendar and – (as the received wisdom has it ) – “all our pomp, the earth eventually covers”. Certainly it is NOT yet the end of history when it comes to the mystery of death and its surprise elements. A worthy good friend, compatriot and globally acknowledged journalist and author, the publisher of Leadership Newspapers Sam Nda-Isaiah died last Thursday at 58 after a brief illness in Abuja . All the testimonies pointed to no sign of Sam’s eternal departure “so soon”, as we often put it as if anybody is ever voluntarily willing to depart even “later, later.” May his soul rest in eternal rest. BM Themba, the great South African poet once wrote that “Blessed are the dead, for they will never again be suspected”.
Blessed is Sam Nda because unlike you and me still living , he would not be suspected of “about to die”. He would no longer be suspected of all our failings which inevitably would lead to death precisely because last Thursday he took a gracious exit unannounced. Sam’s mortality once again makes the point that all men (and women too!) must die. “Nothing so certain as death”. The Arabs put it better: “Death is the black camel that kneels before every door”! Indeed the “first breath is the beginning of death. He that is once born, once must die”. In the age of high infant mortality in the South West Nigeria, many desperate parents named their children, Kokuma ( he lives eternity). In Ilorin, many new borns not sure of their survival in those days were named Aiyelagbes ( the world is the home). But it was all an illusion. Kokumas and Aiyelagbes having survived for some time had inevitably passed on. The fathers and mothers of Kokumas have also all turned into ultimate dusts. Therefore as we agonize over the departure of the beloved which Sam was, the earlier we realize that , “Death is deaf to our wailing” as understandable as it is. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un in verse of the Qur’an meaning “Verily we belong to Allah, and verily to Him we shall return” (. 2:156).
Which then raises the point: having accepted that death defies all doctors, all vaccines, it’s time we stopped agonizing but organize our lives and think of what legacies we are living behind. Frantz Fanon, the great African nationalist and anti- imperialist in the classic: The Wretched of the Earth wrote that “ Each generation must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it, in relative opacity.”
Again Blessed is Sam Nda-Isaiah for living such indelible imprints at such a short record time. He refused to be part of the wasted generation according to Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka. He dared to discover his mission. FOR GOD AND COUNTRY! He audaciously fulfilled his mission in visibility. He did not betray his mission in “opacity“ . No dull moment. He was over self employed in country of open 50 per cent unemployment. Very few Africans paraded such multiple earned profiles: publisher, political columnist, pharmacist, entrepreneur, author and journalist and an accomplished husband and father. He lived on dignity of smart labour and productivity. At the new millennium when many educated Africans took the least resistance and opted for voluntary slavery in Europe and America hunting for the notorious “green cards”, Sam Nda opted to add value at home. In 2001, he founded the Leadership Newspaper Group which from ground zero is today a leading national newspaper. He also added to the stable: “National Economy”. I told my friend, the Leadership Managing Editor, Mallam Muazu and the Editor that I volunteered to join the newly constituted “Board of Economists his last assignment before death called. We must make sure that his legacy is sustainable. Before he became a publisher, he was also an author. He wrote “Nigeria: Full Disclosure: Selected Writings on Governance, Democracy and Statecraft, May 1999” . I appreciated long time ago Sam from a distance through his weekly column in Daily Trust titled “Last Word and Earshot”. He was a passionate Star figure of the national commentatriat. Never on the fence . He boldly took positions. He damned the dictatorship of TINA (There Is No Alternative).
Sam’s generosity in giving disinterestedly is remarkable. He promptly endorsed my candidature of Labour Party for the governorship of Kwara State dusting 1999 elections. Not few times, he urged me on. Indeed I took inspiration from his courage to make the point that he was not too young to run for the Presidency in presidential primaries within the All Progressives Congress in 2015. He generously popularized LP manifesto even tough he was unpolegetically APC. Significant statesmanship rare among apolitical Nigeria’s politicians. Just three moths ago, he encouraged me to write weekly for Leadership. He asked me to choose any day. I suggest that Nigerian media practitioners must rededicate themselves to the task of nation building through objective constructive reporting and professionalism as a mark of tribute to the legacy of the late Chairman and publisher of LEADERSHIP Newspaper, Sam Nda-Isaiah. Notwithstanding his legitimate partisanship and political involvement, Sam was for me measured and positively committed to nation building through objective commentaries. The editorial comments of leadership newspaper under Nda-Isaiah amplified the strengths of Nigeria even as they offered suggestions to overcome current challenges. At the time it was fashionable to make “nation bashing” banal headlines, Leadership opted for nation building journalism as envisaged by the Constitution with emphasis on governance accountability and accurate information dissemination. The current security and COVID: 19 health challenges facing the country called for solidarity journalism which should not unwittingly glorify the atrocities of few shadowy bandits and criminals but should rally all Nigerians for peace and sustainable development. Nda-Isaia stood for: patriotism. The underlining strength of Sam lies in education, knowledge and education! With multiple degrees, he showed that pen is needed for development than AK- 47, modern sword of attrition. Witness these:
Ph.D., Forestry & Environmental Studies (Social Ecology), Yale University
M.Philosophy, Forestry & Environmental Studies (Social Ecology), Yale University
M.S., Natural Resource Management (Environmental Education and Interpretation), University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
B.B.A., International Business & French, James Madison UniversityM.S., media and publicity School of International and Public Affairs of Columbia University.
Undoubtedly tributes for Sam Nda-Isaiah can make a book. But why posthumous praises when we should be celebrating life? It would have been a pleasure to celebrate Sam alive and have the benefits of his responses to the global accolades and even murmurs with a view of serving “GOD and the Country”. Talking of education, will the Federal Government and ASUU quickly reach a truce and reopen the universities? Think about it p! With almost one year of universities’ closures, it is a pipe dream to reproduce more of Sam Nda-Isaiahs.
Issa Aremu mni