Today May 1 is Labour Day and also the birthday of the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the LEADERSHIP Media Group, Mr Sam Nda-Isaiah. As someone whom I had worked closely with in the early years of the newspaper, today will continue to be a watershed.
Two years ago, I took the decision to always celebrate this enigmatic man called Sam whose blazing fervor to reach the top did open numerous doors of opportunities that inspired him to establish a media platform for the advancement of national discourse.
Sam became a metaphor for an unwieldy paradox that may be too difficult to interpret as he combined the creativity of human intellect and a burning disposition in achieving dreams thought impossible. The life of Sam in starting LEADERSHIP recalls to memory the encounter between David and Goliath in the Bible. Even when his editors insisted that it was suicidal to start a daily newspaper in the North that had become the graveyard of the print media, the pharmacist refused to be deterred. Apart from the many errors encountered during the weekly production of the newspaper, Sam had refused to focus on the obstacles but on the ultimate goal of success to be gained from running a successful daily newspaper. Not even the resignation of his editor ahead of his newspaper going daily discouraged him.
The world almost stopped for some of us working for him a day before the daily edition hit the streets. The Chairman had left his office upstairs and took a permanent seat in the production room. He seemed to be everywhere as he screamed orders in a bid to ramp up the production process that was used to the weekly mode.
The first editor of the daily edition, Mallam Shehu Dauda, now late, was everywhere responding to inquiries from Sam and at the same time conferring with other senior editors for a hitch-free production. The pharmacist-turned-publisher would most times blow hot over a misspelt word and sometimes simply hissed and shook his head in utter disgust over faulty headlines. It was a tough day for gentle and soft-speaking Dauda whose competence was being tested. We all thought he did his best, as we retired home to wait for the outcome of a grilling exercise that would produce the maiden copy of the daily edition.
My heartbeats raced as I flipped through the pages of the first daily edition that was printed on low quality newsprints. Considering the quality of newsprints and misspelt words, including wrong captioning of pictures, I was sure that Chairman would pull down the roof. Before midday, the publisher walked in and the entire office premises embraced a graveyard silence.
Few minutes later, senior editors were summoned for an editorial meeting in the Chairman’s office. We filed silently and took our seats. The publisher of the newest daily newspaper looked neither happy nor sad; his disposition was not reflective of his inner feelings. When Dauda, whose baby was to be the subject of the meeting walked in and took his seat, he looked like a lamb prepared for the slaughter.
Speaking in a measured tone and in complete control of his emotion, Chairman blurted, “All of you seated here have put in not less than 10 years of experience in journalism. So, we have over 100 years of experience behind the production of this poor and embarrassing edition? I think we should just close down this paper and go home”.
It was the shortest meeting ever to be called by the Chairman who was known for turning meetings into a monologue. We returned to our offices, oblivious of what to do next. Less than an hour after the meeting, the production room came alive as Mallam Dauda resumed his pacing up and down in preparation for the next production. Within the first six months of going daily, the resilience and crave for excellence by the Chairman paid off as the daily edition soon attracted endorsements for a frontline position in national dailies from stakeholders.
As someone who shares the same birthday with the Chairman, I discovered that he did not only defeat challenges but was also excited by future success. Sam was never satisfied with daily triumphs, but constantly saw little daily successes as building blocks for bigger dreams. He was in love with innovation for his newspaper, and that explained why he would always come back from foreign trips with several bags containing magazines and newspapers for reviews.
As a man whose accomplishments were founded on his unquenchable willpower hinged on relentless vision, reaching the next level was always his major preoccupation. Through the years, the pharmacist-turned- publisher continued to broaden new-fangled landscapes in journalism. He brought exciting innovations that placed his media outfit in the prime position of national dailies.
Chairman’s walk to the preeminent position in the media was not devoid of challenges. He braved the tide when he founded LEADERSHIP at a time the North was considered to be the cemetery for the print media. When hope was all gone and no one dared to tread on a field avoided by media professionals, Sam proved bookmakers wrong by establishing a newspaper that has continued against all odds.
When he passed away on December 11, 2020, the newspaper founder had refused to become a slumbering soul comfortable in living in unconquered spaces and mooning over life. The late media mogul aligned himself with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s ‘Psalm of life’ that depicts the essence of living:
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
Recognising that bravery and the indomitability of willpower were the cornerstones of success, Chairman saw time as the major propeller in making humans achieve development within their short stay on earth. While he lived, Sam was so engrossed in prosecuting several projects that still holds abundant prospects in several human endeavours.
Sam was stubborn in not letting go of anything he put his hands to. There were too many obstacles to discourage his enterprising spirit, but his clear objectives and the worthiness of his causes aligned with Longfellow’s poetic lines:
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
I can attest to the Chairman’s disposition in leading from the front and not from the rear as he was never dumb but was driven by the increasing impulse to achieve success. Sam’s first posthumous birthday reminds me that:
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Today’s marks the first birthday without Sam whose tough spirit founded LEADERSHIP Media Group. He established a newspaper to provide a platform where every idea can find a space in national discourse. Even when his opponents attempted to blackmail and cripple the take-off of the newspaper, Sam walked and worked with critical stakeholders across religion and ethnicity to silence his traducers.
Celebrating the first posthumous birthday of Sam reminds me of an unappeasable personality that was never comfortable with failures. There is no doubting the fact that if Sam had lived, his sterling achievements in the media and other national endeavours could have shot him into the corridors of power.
As I celebrate the unconquerable spirit of positivity that Sam epitomised, it is my earnest expectation that our nation’s distraught citizens and government at all levels will be inspired by his fiery zeal for development and successes in tackling challenges.
Fortunately, Sam’s biggest legacy, LEADERSHIP Media Group, is in good hands. We that were close to him hereby resolved that we will do anything within our capacity to assist in keeping alive the dream.
My Chairman, continue to rest in the bosom of your Maker.