By Ali M. Ali(1)
This year, 2020 will go down in history as the year I wrote the most tributes-some long, some short to eulogize the departed, not to glorify the living. I am penning one more today on the death of Sam Nda Isaiah, late Publisher of LEADERSHIP newspapers Group. I pray it will be the last one this year.In 2019,I wrote three tributes, two of them to celebrate icons in my corner of the world (Media) who turned 60.First it was Prince Nduka Obaigbena, Publisher of ThisDayin July and Garba Shehu, Presidential Spokesman in November of that year. And there was a dirge for my sister, Safiya who died in August. Though younger, she fretted like a mother.This year has been a downpour. Death just sauntered into my world and casually took away family, friends, mentors and colleagues. It’s cold hands snuffed the lives of such media greats as Abba Kyari, Isma’ila Isa Funtua and Wada Maida. It took away Musa Ahmad Tijjani editor of the Triumph, Waheed Bakare editor of New Telegraphon Saturday, my stepfather too, an infinitely generous man, exited and so many others like Professors Abdulhameed Isa Dutse, Balarabe Maikaba and Alhaji Aliyu Iliasu Kakumi, former Managing Director of Peugeot Automobile Nigeria (PAN). The count is endless.Sam’s death is surreal. I am still reeling in shock that Sam is gone-forever. Sam? Gone? Just like that? How? What happened? An accident? These were the volleys of questions racing through my mind when news filtered in the wee hours of penultimate Saturday, that the late Kakakin Nupehad answered the call all mortals are waiting for their turn.Most people knew Sam as “Publisher” or “Chairman” or ‘Kakakin Nupe. He was all of these and more. I however, knew him just as “Sam the Maverick”. He was a non-conformist till the end.Sam bubbled with ideas. Big ideas. Grand ideas always hovered in his mind. Some of his ideas were downright wacky. Listening to him talked about them was both nourishing and scaring. I used to marvel how he was going to actualize his ideas. One such idea he had in mind was that he would appoint a Human Rights Lawyer to head the Nigerian Police if he became President. He argued combatively that it was the only way to reform the police institution. I can’t tell if Sam somehow managed to sell the idea of having Hameed Ali, a retired soldier, with a reputation of rigidity and uprightness, head the Nigerian Customs to the President Muhammadu Buhari.Sam loved a challenge. No odds deterred him. He wagered with a self-assured confidence where others dawdled. When others shied away for bread or personal safety, Sam bulldozed his way headlong with scant regard to either and strangely triumphed. He normally came ‘alive’ at the sight of a challenge. In fact he used to love a ‘dare’.In my years of association with him, I have not witnessed a day he backed down from a ‘dare’ or a challenge. Sam took on everyone and everything fearlessly. He threw punches but he had a glass jaw.He oscillated between extremes. One remarkable attribute of the late publisher was his spontaneity and tenacity. He rarely hid his emotion. He had a short fuse and flew off the handle easily but also forgot easily like a child. One moment he was spitting fire and brimstone, the next moment, he was his jocular self. He had an unusual sense of humor. Most of the ‘Ghana- Must –Go’, the acerbic back page cartoon, Sam authored the one-liners when I was editor of his paper a decade ago.Late Sam was fascinated by ThisDay and its publisher Prince Nduka Obaigbena. He never hid his admiration for the paper and for the man.Having worked for both men,they share striking similarities.One day Sam told me that he sought Obaigbena’s advise as he was shopping for a Managing forLEADERSHIP. Nduka told him to elevate me since I was the editor. Sam said “Your Publisher said I should make you MD when I asked him.” I knew who he was referring to.i am fond of Obaigbena.Never seen a man like him. Obaigbena’s argument was that it was better to grow leadership from within than recruit from outside. I wasn’t keen.Sam had weird sense of loyalty to his friends. He would readily swim the sea to help a friend. He never forgot those who helped him either. I discovered by accident that he had listed, for occasional material intervention to widows of friends and their kids. He did a lot of charity away from public glare. He was a man of faith without the outward display of religiosity.Some described late Sam as a ‘’serial entrepreneur”. That is the nearest in capturing the late polyglot, ‘multitasker’, risk taker and trailblazer. He wanted to have his finger in every pie if it would create jobs and generate profits. He was a man driven by passion and, clearly , on a mission.