SAM NDA-ISAIAH (1962 – 2020) Media Mogul, Serial Entrepreneur, Politician, Pharmacist, Columnist
Early Life and Education
Sam Nda-Isaiah was born in Minna on May 1, 1962 to Mr. Clement and Mrs. Eunice Isaiah.
Fondly called “Uncle Sam”, he was widely known, started his education at UNA Elementary School, Kaduna, and then proceeded to Christ Church School, Katsina Road, Kaduna, between 1968 and 1974.
Afterwards he went to Government College, Kaduna, 1974–1979; and the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, 1979-1983. While at Government College, Kaduna, he led the school to win the Kaduna State Schools Challenge – a quiz competition among all secondary schools in the then Kaduna State (now comprising Kaduna and Katsina states).
At the University of Ife, he was the national editor-in-chief of the “Student Pharmacist”, the official publication of all the pharmacy schools in Nigeria. On graduating as a pharmacist, Sam worked briefly at the Minna General Hospital, after a stint at the Kano Specialist Hospital. He did his NYSC at the General Hospital, Ilawe Ekiti, and the State Hospital, Ikere Ekiti, both in Ekiti State, in 1984. From 1985 -1989, he worked at Pfizer Products Limited. He resigned and launched into serial entrepreneurship.
Despite training as a pharmacist, the Sam would later take on a career as a major media personality and publisher of a major Nigerian newspaper, LEADERSHIP.
Sam was a member of the Daily Trust Editorial Board and maintained a weekly column entitled, ‘The Last Word’. He used the weekly column to espouse his beliefs and conceptualisation of governance, democracy and statecraft. He was also a member of the committee appointed by the Kano State Government to revive The Triumph, the state-owned newspaper.
In 2003, he headed Muhammadu Buhari’s presidential campaign publicity.
His entrepreneurial spirit led him to establish the LEADERSHIP Group in 2003. He started with LEADERSHIP Confidential, a subscription-only authoritative and elitist newsletter.
A year later, he started LEADERSHIP, first as a weekly newspaper, after launching “NIGERIA: FULL DISCLOSURE”, a compilation of his articles.
The launch raised about N17 million, a sum that was not nearly enough to rent a good office in Abuja much less start a newspaper, but he forged ahead to start LEADERSHIP. Sam has often said that his credo is, “know your limits, then ignore it”. That must have guided his actions in starting a national newspaper with that kind of amount.
Today, the LEADERSHIP Group is made up of LEADERSHIP, LEADERSHIP Friday, LEADERSHIP Weekend, LEADERSHIP Sunday, LEADERSHIP Ayau, the first and only daily Hausa newspaper, MDAs Monthly, GOVERNMENT and LEADERSHIP.NG.
NATIONAL ECONOMY and WEEKEND ECONOMY, both focusing on business and economy, were added to the stable in 2020.
Sam’s foray into the media industry was not by accident. His interest must have been piqued as a student when he used to take vacation jobs at the New Nigerian Newspapers where his late father was the Chief Subeditor. His father’s task generously rubbed off on Sam as he became a stickler for faultless use of language in communication.
Sam did not restrict himself to media business; he had his fingers in a lot of pies. Sam was chairman or board member of several companies to drive his expansive vision. Through them Sam was engaged in as diverse areas as fish farming and security services, pharmaceutical goods manufacturing, educational books publishing, e-payment, real estate, agribusiness, e-learning, telecommunications, parcel delivery, online shopping, data processing, biofuel and hospitality, park and recreation, among others.
He was the founder and Chairman of LEADERSHIP Newspapers Group., LeadershipHQ Limited, 234Register.com Limited and Leadership Holdings Ltd, and LEADERSHIP Governance Index (LGi).
He was also the Chairman of Lease Praxis Ltd, Oakhouse Forte Ltd, Allan Woods Ltd. (an education company modelled after the Washington Post Company), Free Press Ltd, The Outsource Company Ltd (an international call centre), Integrat Mobile Aggregation Services Limited (a subsidiary of Integrat South Africa), Grayston 77 Limited, PPSG Group, KhromePay Ltd, KhromeCompany, KhromeMonkey, AllFarms Ltd, Graham Foggs Ltd, Forte Agra Ltd, World Wide Canine Nigeria Ltd, Palm Rock Ltd, Mineral House Ltd, Pural Holdings Ltd, Leadership Wealth Ltd, Robertsham Hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa, Marigold Hospital, Lagos,QC Analytica, Brainstorm, Parcelmann, Leadership House Ltd – the investment company, and QXA – a fertiliser concern.
He was a director of MAP Plc, Maitama Club, Empire Securities Ltd, and Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria (HERFON).
Sam was the initiator of National Affordable Medicines Initiative (NAMI), an initiative to supply cheap, quality and affordable drugs to all Nigerians, a move that obtained the President’s seal of approval and the setting up of a presidential working committee to actualise.
The late Sam held strong views about governance, democracy and statecraft. Through his columns and editorials, he courageously sought to hold the nation’s political leaders to account. He called them out over their corrupt practices, poor governance, and failure to set and lead by good examples. In his writings, he was unsparing of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its leaders for various indiscretions.
He was a founding member of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) led by General Buhari before the fusion into APC ahead of the 2015 general election. Sam had always belonged to the progressive tendency that was in opposition from 1999 to 2015 when it defeated the incumbent to take power.
Sam was the first to start advocating publicly that Nigerian opposition parties needed to fuse in order to forge a common front to wrest power from the PDP in the interest of the nation. He believed in rallying a national alliance for political outreach; that is why, as a chieftain of the APC, he consistently advocated the unity of the nation as a precursor of development.
He was to leave the comfort of speaking from the sidelines in the run-up to the 2015 general election to seek the highest office in the land on the platform of the APC. Running under the campaign mantra, ‘Big Ideas’, Sam vied for the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) with political heavyweights like Ex-Governors Rochas Okorocha and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar and the eventual winner, former military head of state Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), who went on to defeat the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, the first of such feat in Nigeria’s political history.
Since then, he has used his newspapers to encourage the government to succeed in its avowed pledge to entrench good governance and whittle corruption and insecurity.
Awards, Titles and Affiliations
Sam’s relentless endeavours were acknowledged and rewarded some traditional rulers and institutions who gave him special recognition for his contributions to humanity and nation building.
In 2011, he was conferred with the traditional title of Kakaki Nupe by Etsu Nupe His Highness Dr Yahaya Abubakar, CFR. At the turbaning ceremony, the Sultan of Sokoto sent him a special gift of a horse. This was a rare honour. He was the only one of the 11 title recipients that received the Sultan’s gift on that day.
He is also the Jakadan Potiskum, a title conferred on him by the Mai Potiskum, Alhaji Umar Ibn Bubaram.
In 2013, he was conferred with Ugwumba Ndigbo by the Igbo community in Abuja and last year, he was conferred with the title of Aare Baroyin of Akure land by the Deji of Akure.
Sam also received the Nupe Kingdom Lifetime Achievement Award for Entrepreneurship.
He was conferred with the Grand Commander of Great Ife, the highest honour conferred by the Ife Alumni on its members in 2013; there are fewer than 20 such recipients in the world today.
He was also a fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) and a member of the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria.
The shift of global economic power from the West to the East engaged Sam’s interest. He is a member of the Asian think-tank, the Global Institute for Tomorrow (GIFT) based in Hong Kong, an association that took him to numerous brainstorming sessions in Singapore, China, India and Hong Kong in search of solutions to today’s global problems and the promise for tomorrow.
Sam is an alumnus of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy of the National University of Singapore and also of the School of International and Public Affairs of Columbia University, New York. He is the Chairman of Abuja Beijing Consensus (ABC).
Sam was a member of the Institute of Directors, a member of the Vienna-based International Press Institute, a member of the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) and an executive member of the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN).
He was also a member of the Board of Trustees of Nupe Foundation as well as a member of Board of Trustees of Baze University, Abuja, and the founder of SamLeadership Foundation.
Sam was a member of the Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) and the Vice Chairman of its Think Tank. He was also one of the brains behind the formation of North Central People’s Forum (NCPF), a political pressure group in the Middle Belt.
I. Nigeria: Full Disclosure: Selected Writings on Governance, Democracy and Statecraft, May 1999 – March 2004.
II. Review of the Synod Presidential Address delivered by Bishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon at the 19th Synod of the Anglican Communion in Kaduna, 2013.
III. Professor Marquis Annual Lecture at the Obafemi Awolowo University. May 2013.
Interests and Hobbies
Sam loved books. Every trip he made to any part of the world, the first place he would visit was the book stands, and he always returned with a bag full of books.
He also liked embarking on new business adventures and bringing new ideas into motion.
Sam was a devoted family man and quiet philanthropist. He generously assisted the less privileged, often supporting widows and paying for the education of many orphans of deceased friends and associates.
An extract from the article, ‘The Sam I Knew’ by Mr Azu Ishiekwene, first published on December 17, 2020, gave a hint about this aspect of his life:
“Sam was soft. And nowhere was that more apparent than when he was dealing with women, children, vulnerable groups – or when he was talking about his close friends – a circle that included the low, the high and the mighty.
“Until l left LEADERSHIP in 2015, I kept a list of about a dozen widows into whose accounts Sam gave a standing instruction to pay various sums of money monthly. That may sound small but keep in mind that the company was struggling at the time.
“And when you add the list of the dozens of indigent students he catered for, the dozens more he employed directly, helped to find jobs elsewhere, or stood up for to redress an injustice, you will begin to get the picture of Sam’s charity.”
Sam was married to Zainab and they are blessed with five children – Joshua, Fatima, David, Haddasah and Mary.
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