Shocked and devastated employees of LEADERSHIP Group Limited, in this report paid glowing tributes to the late chairman, founder, publisher of Nigeria’s most influential newspaper, Sam Nda-Isaiah.
In their various tributes and eulogies, they described as their father, benefactor, trainer and mentor.
In this report, LEADERSHIP Friday captures the mood in the Abuja head office of the organisation.
Nda-Isaiah Gave Me Opportunity I Never Dreamt Of – Muazu Elazeh (GMD, LEADERSHIP Group)
The death of our chairman has left a very wide vacuum and it is going to be difficult to fill. He was a leader that was very passionate about everything he did and believed in. I learnt a lot working very closely with him even though he could be tough and sound bullying sometimes, you will realise that he was somebody that had a high standard and expected you to meet up with those standards. In fact, getting to meet those standards was always very difficult and that’s where he had problem with us.
Sam Nda-Isaiah gave me opportunities I never dreamt of, all the days I have been with him, there were times he would shout on me and say all sought of things but the bottom line was that he was someone who was ever ready to teach anytime and any day.
He Was A Non-tribal Nigerian – Ochiama (Executive Director/Chairman, Editorial Board)
The executive director and chairman of Editorial Board, Mr Christian Ochiama, described the late Nda-Isaiah as a man who was very detriabalised.
According to him, he was someone who liked to inspire people, who would encourage you, motivate you and give you all the opportunities to be who you want to be once you convince him that you are equal to the task.
He said: “Before joining LEADERSHIP I did not know Sam Nda-Isaiah. I met him here but the man had made a lot of impact on my career as a journalist. I joined LEADERSHIP as a deputy editor, in less than four months I was drafted to the Editorial Board, not just to be a member, I became an alternate chairman as a deputy editor, it can never happen in most media houses and since then I have been in that position till today.
“In a spell of five years I moved from deputy editor to chairman of Editorial Board, to standard director, to editorial director, to executive vice president, then now executive director and chairman of Editorial Board.
“It was a big lead for me professionally. At times when I go out and I introduce myself as Christian, executive director of LEADERSHIP newspapers people turn and look at me, an Igbo man executive director in a northern newspaper, how? That is Sam Nda-Isaiah for you. He was not interested in you being Christian, a Muslim, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Fulani, whatever, he would identify you as a material he can use and he would close his eyes to any other thing, he was that kind of person.
“Well, as a politician he had his own perceptions of our peculiarities as a country but those things never filter into his business, especially as LEADERSHIP is concerned I didn’t see it. Look and you will see how many Nupes are occupying any position here, remove his brothers, those ones come around, how many northerners until recently. So Sam was that kind of person and some of us learnt a lot of lessons from him that is why I follow in his footsteps here in running this place. If I want to promote people I don’t look at you and say you are Igbo or Yoruba or Tiv or whatever, I’m not interested. I learnt that from Sam Nda-Isaiah.
“If he didn’t consider my tribal origin when he was pushing me up to where I am today why shouldn’t I follow his footsteps? Even if I leave LEADERSHIP today wherever I’m going I will go with that mindset.
“The death happened so fast that until now it is still like a dream to some of us, maybe he travelled and will come back next week. So it is difficult to begin to say this is what we remember him for. His death is yet to sink in, maybe after the burial it may become a reality but the truth is Sam was very hard-working, he was focused and strategic in thinking,” he added.
He Brought The Best Out Of Me – Ogbonlaiye (Executive Director, Finance)
In a similar vein, the executive director, Finance, Mrs Felicia Ogbonlaiye, said that the late publisher brought out the best in her to succeed.
Ogbonlaiye who described him as her father said even though he lived within a short period of time, he influenced the lives of many people.
“He got the best out of me, the best in me that I don’t know, he is the only one that saw it and his death is a shock that I don’t know how to say it.
“He has his own shortcomings as a father, we quarrelled a lot but and inside that quarrel he will still call me back and say the reason why I put you on this seat is because I know you can do it and don’t always see that you cannot do something.
“Chairman is the one that has taught me how to hold my phone and hold it for 24 hours. I sleep with my phone. I wake up with my phone because everyone in my house once my phone is ringing, my children will say the chairman is calling. He made me sit up something that I thought I could not do by myself.
“The first time that we had a meeting he called me and said I should come to his house and he was talking to me like father and daughter when he had the license of a radio and television stations he sat me down and said I should write that I need money for this license, I want this project this is where I want it, he was just talking to me so when we finished the meeting, I said is he telling me what he wanted to do or how I should do it because I became confused.
“When I got back I was reading the note and was saying the chairman really wants to achieve these things within this year? But to me any time I saw chairman I saw him as somebody with a vision and when you have vision you say a lot of things to people to digest but alI they have to say is that he has gone to rest and the little he has dropped in us is a tree that all of us are having shed under and this tree that he has planted. God will continue to water it and forever he will be remembered in my heart,” she added.”
I’m A Product Of Nda-Isaiah Mentoring – George Agba (Standards Director)
Chairman was like a father to me because George Agba name is synonymous in journalism today not because I practice journalism anywhere before coming to LEADERSHIP. I started journalism in LEADERSHIP as a young graduate from the university. When I joined the company, the chairman identified me as a young talent and the very first beat I covered was the judiciary and that was because he saw what I could offer. As I went into the judiciary, I didn’t disappoint and at the end, I was able to succeed because of chairman’s efforts.
“He was a man that will not just employ you, he will employ and mentor you, takes you as a member of his family, guide you at every step of your job.
“Those who know me don’t call me by name, they call me LEADERSHIP because they came to know me as LEADERSHIP. I am successful in this profession because of the kind of mentorship I got from chairman.
“Chairman is someone that will beat you into shape, he will not even have patience with you, he will push you till you do the job that is what I come to learn working with him as a journalist and he made me what I am today because there is Sam Nda Isaiah in me and that’s what applies to everyone that has come to work in this company and that reflects on everywhere we go because we find a very perfect mentor in him,” he said.
Nda-Isaiah Was A Father To Me – Ahmed-Yusuf (Managing Editor)
To the managing editor, Raliat Ahmed-Yusuf, the late Nda-Isaiah was more of a father than an employer to her.
While expressing shock over his sudden death, she said: “The death of our boss, Sam Nda-Isaiah came to me as a rude shock. It is a personal loss to me, especially when I remember how my journey as a biochemist ended up in the newsroom.
“Mr Nda-Isaiah was like a father to me. He has impacted my life, that of my family and my career through his tutelage. He groomed me from a proofreader to a managing editor. He believed in me and afforded me the rare opportunity to grow through the ranks to what I have become today.
“I recall a few years ago after suffering a miscarriage and also lost my new born baby, he directed that I should be given a break from the office when I was expecting my son. My salary was never stopped during those trying times that kept me away from the office for about a year.
When I had my daughter he footed the bill as I was going to have an emergency CS. Such a rare gesture!
“My heart is heavy, I am numbed and broken. I am consoled with the fact that the prayers of those of us that he touched our lives will place him in the sweetest part of the bosom of the Lord,” she said.
Nda-Isaiah Was A Perfectionist – Bayo Amodu (Editirial Director, National Economy)
Similarly, the founding editor of National Economy, a sister publication of LEADERSHIP, Mr Bayo Amodu described Nda-Isaiah as a perfectionist. He said that he was an entrepreneur per excellence who influenced so many lives.
“Our late chairman was a man of high repute who believed so much in you. He sees you even beyond the way you see yourself. When I was invited to be the founding editor of the National Economy, I looked at it as what I was not prepared for. In fact, I remembered telling some people that I may even resign because I was not prepared for it. So to speak I didn’t want his ‘wahala,’ because the chairman was a thorough person, a perfectionist.
“When he asked you to do something he always had a picture of what he wanted you to do and no matter what you do once you don’t measure to his standard he will ordered you to go back and do it. He always wanted you to do something perfectly and I learnt a lot of things from him. One, I learnt that for you to make a headway in life you must be prepared and that preparation is not one day.
“He was somebody who believed that you need to prepare for life and the best way to prepare for life is that you must keep updating yourself because challenges must come on a daily basis. If you are not prepared you will fail.
“So, chairman believed that you have to always prepare by developing yourself, reading, so he invested so much in books. Second, for those who were close to him, the chairman was a very generous person, somebody that would just look at you and assist you financially.
“Third, he was an entrepreneur per excellence. He set up companies not because of immediate profits he believed that profit would come eventually but most people in Nigeria want to set up business today and start ripping tomorrow. He believed that when you offer value in a space of time that thing will bring you reward so he invested in so many companies, he didn’t believe in immediate gain he believed in adding value.”
My prayer is that anybody that will take over from him should be somebody that will set a high standard and make sure that he brings people up to that standard. He never believed in mediocrity, in fact, if you are a shallow minded person he would not work with you and he hardly believed in ‘no.”
Nda-Isaiah Taught Me Never To Give Up – Paul Agbo (COO, Allanwoods)
To Mr Paul Agbo, the late Sam Nda-Isaiah taught him so many things in life, prominent among is the art of not giving up on your dreams and visions in spite of the challenges.
He said: “I came here in 2012 after I finished my master’s degree from the University of Abuja, I didn’t know anybody. I just came to the gate to tell you how transparent the recruitment process can be in LEADERSHIP.
“I spoke with the security man and he directed me to the HR, that’s how I was invited and recruited, then as a young man. I had nothing in Abuja, but eight years down the line, I have something in Abuja courtesy of the kindness and opportunity Sam Nda-Isaiah accorded me.
“If I look back about eight years I will see how I have transformed as a result of the opportunity provided by Nda-Isaiah and that had rubbed on me, my family and several other persons. I saw him as a dogged business man with lots of ideas, he had a lot of visions. he looked at business from the starting point to the endpoint and does not give up easily on ideas, for me I have learnt in Sam the art of not giving up on your dreams and visions in spite of the challenges.
“He was not a consumer of public funds but thought of how he can generate, he’s not a consumer of public resources, he’s a creator of resources and that’s one thing I will never forget about him anywhere I go I will carry that thing – the art of doing business, creating something for yourself, he had impacted a lot, he changed generation and that’s one thing we will continue to remember him for. He has given me the opportunity to grow from ordinary reporter to CEO of one of the divisions of LEADERSHIP and this has changed me, gives me opportunity to learn lots of management skills. Now I am an administrator and manager of resources both human and capital resources, so for that, I remain grateful to Sam Nda-Isaiah.”
He Always Wanted To Lift People – Musa Muhammed (GMD, LEADERSHIP Ayau)
The executive director, GMD office and head of LEADERSHIP Ayau, Musa Muhammed, has described Nda-Isaiah as a man who always wanted to lift people, adding that he learnt to be dedicated from him.
According to Muhammed, “I joined the services of LEADERSHIP in 2013 as a reporter from Kaduna. After a few months I was promoted as acting editor of the then Hausa LEADERSHIP. We were a weekly then. I was converted as the editor. Right from when I was acting editor, I was interacting with chairman.
“His death is a great loss because he was a man that whoever interacted with him must learn something from him. He’s a man that always wanted you to grow by yourself, he don’t want you to rely on somebody. There was a time I was having problems with him and the company in general, when he promoted me to the chief operating officer of the Hausa LEADERSHIP, LEADERSHIP Ayua. After some months I realise that I cannot continue with the job because the job he wanted me to do I could not do it well and I know that chairman had no room for failure, so I decided to resign my appointment.
“I wrote my resignation letter and forwarded it to him and left. He called me back and said, Musa are you the one that dropped this resignation letter and I replied yes sir. He said was it because you are not doing what I said? I said it’s not possible sir, he said no no no go and withdraw your letter and see me. So that thing he did touched me and when I came back he asked me what I can do in LEADERSHIP and I told him: Sir, I’m more of the editorial, I know nothing about business and he said fine, I will take you as editorial director of the Hausa Department and I said okay sir. I’m grateful, and after some time I received a promotion as executive director, LEADERSHIP Ayua.”
He Was A Father To Us – Ogunsina (GM, Special Publications)
The general manager Special Publications, Bukola Ogunsina has expressed grief over the death of Nda-Isaiah, describing him as a man of wisdom.
In her words, “he was hardworking and full of ideas. He was someone that nurtured, recognised and encouraged hard work. As a former editor, and now a general manager Special Publications, I can say chairman gave me a platform to build up myself, ‘upgrade’ as he would call it.
“He always encouraged you to be better than what you are at the moment. He was someone who saw your capacity even when you do not believe in what you were capable of achieving. He was a father to us at LEADERSHIP Newspapers. He will be greatly missed,” she said.
He Had Ability To Recognise Hidden Talents – Peter Ekele Agbo (Editor, LEADERSHIP Daily)
Meanwhile, LEADERSHIP editor, Peter Ekele Agbo has described Nda-Isaiah as a man who had the capability to help people explore their hidden talents.
Agbo who said he joined the company in 2012, described the late publisher as someone that once he gave you an assignment, he wanted results and nothing short of that.
“So over the years, once he gives you an assignment he does not take no for an answer, you can’t give him an excuse, he does not believe that anything is impossible to him.
“I came initially as assistant news editor, then online editor and then back to the newsroom as news editor and you can see this year alone chairman has promoted me as group news editor to LEADERSHIP Friday editor, then three months later to editorial director, National Economy, then CEO National Economy and again he brought me here as editor.
“At a point in time when he changed my position again from LEADERSHIP Friday editor to National Economy, I resigned and he called me and told me that it was stupid of me to resign that if I didn’t want what he asked me to do I should have told him and I told him that in LEADERSHIP, they see him as god, so nobody could talk to him and he said okay if you also believe that I am a god that you can’t talk to why can’t you talk to the GMD with whom you are working close with and so from that moment he told me, my friend go back to work, I know the plans that I have for you but I will not tell you, go and do your work if you have any challenge, let me know.
“But again about two months later when I would encountered some challenges I would go back to him and said sir, and he said what have you been doing and I told him these are the challenges. He said he doesn’t want to hear about challenges, but for no challenges are challenges at all, he doesn’t believe that challenges should be an obstacle to your dream or whatever you can do.”
Having worked under chairman for years, Ekele Agbo expressed the confidence that there’s no place that he cannot work.
He Was A Transformation Master – Richard Abu (LEADERSHIP Friday Editor)
There are no words sufficient to describe Sam Nda-Isaiah’s relationship with his employees. He was a master strategist and a transformation master. He was very good at turning dummies to stars. The only requirement was that you must be prepared to learn and build your capacity.
This pharmacist-turned journalist and publisher was the best and most creative newspaper owner I have ever worked with.
I joined LEADERSHIP in 2012 as deputy editor (News), LEADERSHIP Weekend. Soon after settling down on the job, I was given additional responsibility as deputy editor (LEADERSHIP Weekend and LEADERSHIP Sunday).
After over a year in this position, I left the company to work in two other newspapers, which represented the wilderness phase of my journalism career. In October 2018, I returned to LEADERSHIP where I was re-engaged as deputy editor (Features and Production). A few months after, I was promoted as general editor and later redeployed as group news editor.
I barely spent four months as group news editor when Nda-Isaiah directed that I should be appointed as editor, LEADERSHIP Friday, the only weekly Friday newspaper in the entire Nigerian print media industry.
So, within two years, I have served in five capacities.
Following the wrong impression of him presented by some persons, who had worked closely with this enterprising and most detrabilsed Nigerian company owner I have ever met, fear had gripped me. But my first encounter with him turned out to be an eye-opener as he was far from what I heard.
Since then, every Thursday until he died was always a day I looked forward to because my knowledge base and capacity as an editor would be enriched by him through thorough scrutiny of stories, casting of accurate and catching headlines, and design of the front page. Whenever he corrected you, he offered the best solution. His chastisements were purely professional and inspiring. He was only interested in what you have to offer and not where you come from. This accounts for why the LEADERSHIP Newsroom is the most diversified in terms of gender and ethnic representations in the entire print media in Nigeria.
Nda-Isaiah was always ahead of us in terms of news gathering and developments within and outside Nigeria. He was a voracious reader, a consummate entrepreneur and talent hunter. Once Nda-Isaiah discovered that you are trainable, he went as far as creating a vacancy where none exists to enable you develop your talent for personal development and the interest of the company. He lived for LEADERSHIP and gave it all he had.
I have missed a great mentor, a creative leader and go-getter. May his gentle soul rest in peace!
He was Very Versatile – Kayode Falade (LEADERSHIP Weekend Editor)
The editor of LEADERSHIP Weekend, Kayode Falade, has mourned the demise of Nda-Isaiah, describing him as a versatile man whom everyone would miss.
Falade said he would ever remain grateful to Nda-Isaiah for placing trust on him to handle the Weekend title. “He made me an editor even before seeing me physically. I was invited from Lagos and when I came; my name was already on the notice board that I had been appointed the editor of LEADERSHIP Weekend.
“So for that I will be eternally grateful to God and to him. I remember a lot of things about him, he was very versatile. If the chairman asked a question on the Cover Page immediately you know that you were wrong and if you have a superior argument he would bend to you.
“If you have instances where you disagree on the choice of words, the choice of stories most of the time he was right but a few occasions he will say ‘okay is that the way you look at it go and do it.’ So it is always a tasking job every production day and eventually when he sent you okay the pressure instantly came down on you and of course, the following morning when you see the paper you would be proud to say you are the editor of this paper.
Unfortunately, the lot fell on me to announce his passing on. He died on Friday on my production day. Actually, I was waiting for him to okay the page so I was calling his lines, two of his numbers were off and I knew he wasn’t such a person. I was worried, I now called the GMD who okayed the page but instructed me to still send the PDF to him with a text message explaining all these things which I did.
“So some minutes later, the GMD announced his death so it was very shocking, so devastating but as a professional I still had to go on, I surmounted courage, detached myself and became professional. We will miss him,” he said.
Chairman Was An Exceptional Boss – Christiana Esebonu-Nwaogu (LEADERSHIP Sunday Editor)
In her tribute, the acting editor, LEADERSHIP Sunday, Mrs Christiana Esebonu-Nwaogu described the shocking demise of Sam Nda-Isaiah as one that has left a void which is difficult to contemplate and impossible to bridge.
Esebonu-Nwaogu described him as an exceptional boss and a portrait of hard work.” I can’t talk about my professional growth without giving the credit to the media mogul who took a chance on me right from my days as a youth corps member 13 years ago. I must say, his demise caught me unprepared and has left my nerves and veins ranting.”
The newly promoted acting editor, said:” What the leadership family and I in particular got on December 10, some minutes to midnight was a crushing blow, the type Mike Tyson, in his heydays , handed out to his opponents in the ring.
“Everyone seems to have moved on but to me, the injury his sudden departure has inflicted on my heart has no antidote. In fact, death has again, stabbed me so badly this year that I still bleed,” she added
We Have Lost A Great Man – Sunday Isuwa (Group News Editor)
The group news editor, Mr Sunday Isuwa described late Nda-Isaiah as a very great man who did not have ‘No’ in his dictionary.
“He was a person who was determined, ensured that everything he wanted to do succeeded, his doggedness always ensured that whatever he did, he achieved the best results, he always made sure that he sets targets and ensured that targets were achieved.
“He’s somebody who would not because of relationship play with his business, he related with people equally both high and low, the middle class, the wealthy and the non-wealthy he related with everybody without difference, he was not tribalistic and in doing that he ensured that that relationship did not affect his business,
“I have learnt a lot from him not just about journalism, that when I have targets I should achieve them, you do it in such a way that people would see and know that it’s something well done. He was an incredible person and wanted to do what’s right and ensured that his business did not suffer,” he said.