Today, our founding chairman, Sam Nda-Isaiah, is 59. He had dreams and life-time accomplishments far beyond his years. If he were alive, this editorial will not be written to mark this day.
He abhorred drawing attention to himself as a result of which a day like this might have been spent with his family, and Sam being Sam, he would have been hard at work, too.
But he is not here, in person. Today is the first posthumous birthday of Sam Nda-Isaiah, who passed on, on Friday, December 11, 2020. A man of big ideas, infectious zeal, boundless energy and a patriotic spirit, the events of recent times make us wonder what Sam Nda-Isaiah would be thinking of his country now.
Hardly a day passes without reports of killings, kidnappings, banditry and virtually every franchise of lawlessness partly caused by environmental factors, but largely motivated and compounded by ethnic and religious bigotry and sheer lack of tolerance.
One foreign newspaper called Nigeria a “bandit country”. It’s not their fault. In a painful but apt characterisation, minister of defence, Major General Bashir Magashi, also said, “Nigeria is bleeding.”
The killings in different parts of the country, now so casually shared in viral videos, have descended from predatory to a level worse than bestiality. Life is taken so lightly that innocent civilians, security agents and even state institutions have become fair game. Governments at all levels are bereft and those supposed to guarantee security are themselves frightened and insecure.
What would Sam Nda-Isaiah say of his country today?
It’s a country he loved so dearly, defended passionately and served unpretentiously in his capacities as a professional, businessman and politician. As we remember Sam Nda-Isaiah today, we also remember, with a heavy heart, Nigeria that he loved unreservedly.
He did not love his country in words only. In the over two and a half decades that he segued from his profession, pharmacy, to journalism, he invested himself in the art of speaking truth to power, a gift he inherited from his journalist father and honed through years of dedicated practice and personal education.
Sam Nda-Isaiah was a bridge-builder and an ardent believer in a one, united and strong Nigeria. A down-to-earth pundit and straight shooter, he said in many of his writings that he believed that Nigeria is stronger and better together.
He saw from his many personal travels and expansive self-education that countries with large populations and focused, disciplined leadership are able to get a whole lot more done for citizens and secure their place in the world. China was his ever-present example.
Not that he under-estimated the challenges of a multi-ethnic nation like Nigeria, but Sam Nda-Isaiah believed that given the country’s potential, and with the right leadership, there was nothing it could not achieve.
After years of punditry, he threw his hat in the ring in 2014 and, in a bold, courageous move for which he will forever be remembered, he contested the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC), a party whose formation he played a frontline role.
He lost the ticket, but his ideas were not defeated – ideas for a change in the bankrupt, beggarly status of state governments and the renewal and transformation of the country. He continued to canvass these ideas as a party man, a businessman and a visionary till the very end.
It is remarkable that perhaps the only birthday that Sam Nda-Isaiah marked in pomp and circumstance was his 50th. He did it not necessarily to announce himself as he was already an established publisher, businessman and politician at the time. He hosted the event to unite the fragmented and hopelessly divided opposition when he perceived that only a united front could end nearly 20 years of the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) arrogant and rotten rule.
We recall that, that birthday, nine years ago, was the first time some of the opposition’s biggest prizes – General Muhammadu Buhari (as he then was) and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu – would be meeting face-to-face after a futile and catastrophic merger attempt in 2011.
That meeting, orchestrated by Sam Nda-Isaiah, was not just an event to mark his birthday, it also sowed the seed for the eventual successful merger of five legacy parties which produced the current APC administration after the historic 2015 election.
But Sam Nda-Isaiah was not just a politician and a loyal party man, he also made friends across party lines. He was an entrepreneur with a huge appetite for risk and a gift for finding talented people wherever they may come from. He despised mediocrity and went the extra mile to reward hard work and creativity.
These are values in acute short supply as a result of which our country is in a sorry state today. But we are sure that as Sam Nda-Isaiah looks down on his country today, he might demur in his accustomed impatience, and agree that it is not too late for the country to pick up the pieces and reinvent itself once again. It may look like the eleventh hour, but yes, games change even in the dying minutes.
As a newspaper, we use the occasion of his 59th birthday and first posthumous remembrance to renew our pledge to uphold the values of fairness, justice and faith in a strong, united country.
We remain solidly for God and country, knowing that nothing will deepen Sam Nda-Isaiah’s legacy more and bring greater joy to his memory.