Sam Nda-Isiah

Adebayo Obajemu

Last week the media industry was thrown into mourning with the passing of Leadership newspaper publisher, Sam Nda-Isaiah.

This came shortly after the death of Gbolabo Ogunsanwo, an accomplished journalist and former Editor of Sunday Times.

The death of Isaiah represents yet a further depletion of the rank of veterans who honed their craft in the halcyon days of journalism in Nigeria.

There has been plethora of testimonies and recollections of the time and life of Isaiah by colleagues in the media profession and the general public.

As it is, the journalism community is still struggling to come to terms with the news and circumstances of his death.

This is not surprising given his cerebral nature first as a columnist and later as a newspaper publisher. Though a pharmacist by profession, his natural calling was in journalism, and in that regards, he stood for the very best in the pen-pushing profession. His writing style was elegant, and his punches at political establishment were heavy, even as his prodigious talent clearly stood him apart.

Modibbo Kawu, a colleague of his testified to his honesty of purpose and loyalty to the profession and friends.

His paper, LEADERSHIP, in a report Saturday morning, quoted his family as saying, “We are deeply saddened to announce the news of the passing of the chairman of LEADERSHIP Group/National Economy, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah.

“He died in Abuja on Friday night, after a brief illness. Nda-Isaiah was a family man, a serial entrepreneur and visioner, and a passionate politician. He was, above all, a man of faith. Even in this moment of grief, we know he is in a better place.”

Early in life through his writing, he was a champion of northern interests, a serial entrepreneur with a portfolio of thriving businesses .

In politics, he was a democrat with a liberal views, but as newspaper publisher he was said to be a stickler for perfection and a workaholic.

It was his firm belief that the Nigerian project was not working as it should be that led him into presidential race in 2015 on the platform of All Progressives Congress, APC.

Nda-Isaiah, was widely seen as a bridge-builder and champion of great Ideas, he had wide contacts and fiercely loyal to friends in high and low places.

The paper he founded is widely seen as one of the most influential in Nigeria. At the beginning , the thrust of the paper was championing the interest of the north , but later it broadened into more worthy causes such as good governance, and the need for political actors to rise beyond primordial interest. In recognition of his sterling contribution to the media profession, he was conferred with the traditional title of Kakaki Nupe ( spokesperson of Nupe land).

Through his column, he was always espousing the idea of Nigerian unity; and the depth of his writing showed that he was an outstanding student of history and global politics.

He did not hide his love for newspapering , and many still recall his column, “Last Word” with a footnote, “Earshot”, seen as a must read then.

Isaiah began the column as special writer and Editorial Board member of Daily Trust, before he founded LEADERSHIP with proceeds from the launch of a collection of some of his finest articles in 2001.

Before LEADERSHIP became a full-fledged newspaper, Nda-Isaiah was said to have begun with, LEADERSHIP CONFIDENTIAL, a newsletter that was of tremendous value and insights, especially among diplomats, top politicians and business owners.

The courage he displayed in his write-ups, often put him at odds with government, especially under former Presidents Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Olusegun Obasanjo.

His last major public outing was on Thursday, December 10, when he inaugurated the Board of Economists of NATIONAL ECONOMY Media Limited, a subsidiary of the LEADERSHIP Group.

Nda-Isaiah was born in Minna, capital of Niger State on May 1, 1962. He attended the UNA Elementary School before switching over to the Christ Church School, Kaduna in 1968 to complete his primary school education.

He attended the Federal Government College, Kaduna, from 1974 to 1979. He later studied Pharmacy at the Obafemi Awolowo University and did his National Youth Service Corps programme at the Ekiti State General Hospital in 1984.

Nda-Isaiah, fondly called “Sam”, is an alumnus of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

Nda-Isaiah began his working career as a pharmacist at the Kano Specialist Hospital before he moved to the General Hospital, Minna. He worked at Pfizer Products Limited from 1985 to 1989.

In recognition of his contributions to the media industry, Nda-Isaiah was persuaded to serve as a committee member in the Kano State government to revive The Triumph Newspapers owned by the state government. In 2003, he was in charge of President Muhammadu Buhari’s presidential campaign publicity.

He was a member of the Asian think-tank, the Global Institute for Tomorrow in Hong Kong. In 2019 he was appointed board member of the Baze University, Abuja.

The recognition of him as a media giant went beyond the shores of northern Nigeria; as he was also conferred with a chieftaincy title, Aare Baaroyin of Akure Kingdom, by Oba Aladetoyinbo Ogunlade Aladelusi, Odundun.

The Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN) among others has expressed grief over his demise.

The association, in a press statement made said this huge loss is even more devastating and painful ‘because Sam was not only a colleague but a friend to all in the industry.”

“The nation woke up this morning with the startling news of the death of one of the key investors in the Nigerian media, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, the Chairman and Publisher of Leadership Group of Newspapers.

“For us in the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN), this huge loss is even more devastating and painful because Sam was not only a colleague but a friend to all in the industry.

“His commitment to the values and objectives of the association was unflagging to the very end; he was together with the rest of us only last week in Lagos, when elections into the national executive council of the NPAN were held, and Sam was elected as an ex-officio member.

“Sam Nda-Isaiah has left indelible footprints in the annals of the Nigerian media. He started as a publisher right away with Leadership Confidential, a subscription-based monthly newsletter which, in 2004, he transformed into Leadership, a gutsy, stylish weekly newspaper that caught the eye of Nigerians as soon as it hit the newsstands.

“As a popular columnist, Sam told the truth to power. His style was brash, bare-knuckle and unapologetic. For his constancy in that, he was mostly regarded as patriotic.

“His desire to transform his beliefs into policy made him to make a foray into party politics where he ran for president in the 2015 general elections. Politics made him to drop his column but the general direction of his newspapers was consistent with what he had been writing.

“The NPAN will sorely miss Sam as an active member and for his immense contribution to the development of journalism in Africa.

“We wish to console his dear wife Zainab and their children, as well as his extended family, friends and admirers with the fact that Sam’s concrete contributions to the development of this country in particular and the continent in general are visible.