Four years ago, precisely on November 12, 2015, I published this tribute on the back page of LEADERSHIP to mark the one year anniversary of the death of my late father, Clement Ndanusa Isaiah, who transited to glory on November 12, 2014. It was exactly five years last Tuesday since he passed on. But a great soul serves everyone; a great soul never dies. It brings us together again and again. As I look back over time, I find myself wondering: Did we remember to thank him enough for all he did for us? Did we remember to celebrate him enough? As I ponder on this, I have decided to reproduce this tribute, knowing full well that it is still fresh and serves the same purpose it did four years ago, in commemoration of a great dad whose journalism blood runs through the veins of his children.
It was a cold, foggy day and I was half-asleep when I got a call from my eldest brother Sam. “Dad just passed on,” I heard him say.
My response was a thoughtless “Okay.” And everything went blank. I kept ruminating over what I was just told and to which I gave a nebulous response. Up until now, I can’t fathom why I said that.
I didn’t know how or what I felt, but I knew a mighty tree had fallen. My father Clement Ndanusa Isaiah gone? I checked my time and it was about 1am on November 12, 2014.
Okay? What’s okay? Losing a beloved father couldn’t have been okay, and I was not expecting it.
It was one of the few occasions my eldest brother called our dad “Dad”. We all called dad “My father”. And we did not call him “My father” without a reason.
He was a special father to all of us his children; we all saw him as a private possession. He meant something special in a unique way to our unique individual personalities. If, for example, I was talking to my sister about him, I would say to her, “My father said…” and she, in return, would say, “Yes, my father said…” If you didn’t know us, you would think we were referring to different persons.
Dad had a soft spot for each of us in a different way. He had different ways of dealing with the same problem for each of us. He was wonderfully fatherly.
My father was so proud of his children that, whenever he had a guest, he spoke about his children in glowing terms, giving detailed accounts of all of us — where we were, what we were doing, how many children he had, and so on and so forth.
When I was in Form 4, in Kaduna, during one of the holidays, my father, who always accompanied the driver to get us back home from school, came with a colleague. On our way back to Kano, I gave my father my report card, knowing I topped my class. Usually, I hardly gave my father my report sheet until I got home. But this was different.
When he saw the result, he immediately handed over the report card to his friend. I became the subject of discussion. Typically patronizing on occasions like that, my father offered me the privilege of naming all I wanted at every bus-stop
Somewhere in my memory, I recall a package my father sent to me while I was in the university. That was before the advent of the GSM and the Internet. He wrote my full name on the envelope but the parcel was returned to him because I was known by a different name due to my involvement in campus politics. I was the president of the student union government.
When I came home, he asked me why I didn’t get the message he sent to me. I told him that the name I was called in school was different from the name he gave me. We laughed it over. He was pleasantly surprised that I was the president of the university’s student community. He nonetheless advised that my education should come first!
Christmas was always a special time in our family during my growing-up days. My father usually gave us a portion of the Christmas ram and made Suya out of it.
When LEADERSHIP first came on board, he went out to seek a vendor in Minna to get a copy, and he asked a few questions from people around. He called me and said that the paper had a great future and would succeed.
Anytime I received his call early in the morning, I knew there was a problem with the paper’s edition for that day. Wherever the error was — page 1, 25, 40 or 80 — my father would spot it.
A veteran journalist, he was an invaluable resource person who would background and point out refreshing angles to any report. Either he was telling you about the Tokyo Olympics he covered in 1964 or the United Nations activities in New York and the World Cup finals he attended. Dad was a mobile encyclopedia. He knew something about everything and he would always say, “A good reporter should use his five sensory organs to detect news — whether through smell, sound, touch, observation, one should see news.”
He once told me that it was generally believed that he could never commit an error in the use of the English language when he was at the New Nigerian newspaper. Whenever he read the cover page, it was good to go.
Fortuitously, too, he had a way of knowing the sex and complexion of each of his grandchildren before they were born. How he became an authority on that remains an eternal mystery.
During his 80th birthday, his wish was to have a thanksgiving service and take pictures with his children and grandchildren. He prayed and blessed every one of us. We never knew he was bidding us farewell. We thank God for His faithfulness because, one year after, God has kept us strong and going.
God has been gracious to us as a family after his passage. Baba was particularly proud of his eldest child, Sam. Before he ventured to vie for the APC presidential ticket, he had shown demonstrable competence in his chosen field, Pharmacy, and in the businesses he had established. It is to Baba’s eternal honour (he was an iconic journalist) that he (Sam) founded LEADERSHIP.
Despite the family’s resoluteness and dependence on God, our faith was tested for 20 days in May 2015. God by His mighty hand saw us through. We overcame.
The family tree keeps growing. Since Baba’s exit, more grandchildren — Clement Ndanusa Isaiah, Jnr and Abraham Destiny — have joined us.
My father was a light, a star and a moon to different people at different times. He led a life of thanksgiving. He is gone but we have taken solace in the fact that everyone he came in contact with has a reason to be happy — there is always something to hold onto.
We thank God for the life Baba lived. It was full of chivalry, discipline, forthrightness, hard work, integrity, godliness and honour. He was Spartan. He was always hopeful and believed that a better tomorrow awaited his children.
Numbers 31:49 admonishes, “…and said to him ‘your servants have counted the soldiers under our command and not one is missing”. (NIV) One year after, God has been gracious to us and has kept us. Dad, we have been counted and, by His grace, the soldiers you left behind under your command, not one is missing.