Tribute to Sam Nda-Isaiah

By Hannatu Musawa

Dear Sam,

AREWA AGENDA – My dear friend, my dear brother, my best friend… I miss you! But I guess, you always knew that would be my reality the minute I woke up in a World where you are no more. No words I can put together can describe the clashing feelings of pain and emptiness I had when I was told of your passing. It is a feeling like no other.
My brother, I am devastated and I am very, very sad that you have gone. I read the other day that there are worse emotions to have to live with than sadness. However vast and deep sadness might be, it can be uplifting, invigorating, strengthening and above all a powerful reminder of how much a loved one mattered. But I can tell you that, even with that knowledge, I don’t presently feel uplifted, invigorated or strengthened. I just feel really, really sad Sam.
They say that, “Lives are like rivers: Eventually they go where they must. Not where we want them to!” If that is so, then there’s nothing anyone could have done to prevent this moment from unfolding the way it has tragically done. Nothing could have stopped you from going.
I am here today writing the words I have never wanted to write, speaking about a subject I never wanted to speak of, feeling the loss I have never wanted to feel. You are the one who writes tributes for people Sam, yet here I am writing a tribute for you. It has been hard for me to try and decide how to articulate a tribute for you. It has been hard writing these lines, because I couldn’t find the exact words to describe our brother/sisterhood and the dynamic involved in it.

So, in trying to write some sort of tribute worthy of you Sam, my heart directs me to be selfish and speak, not of your history, achievements and accolades, but of my loss, of our almost two-decade old friendship and what your death means to me, how it has impacted me. Perhaps that is the only way I can organically express the painful knot I presently feel at the pit of my stomach. I think that if people understand where I am with your passing, they will have a better understanding of who Samuel Ndanusa Isaiah truly was!

We met sometime in 2002 at a meeting to do with politics. The very first day we met, we argued, almost exchanged and insults and proceeded to talk about our political direction, which turned out to be on par. Within 24 hours, we had discussed the prospect of changing the world together. And then we argued again. You called me ‘cantankerous’ and I called you ‘ridiculous.’ I’m sure you would remember that colorful day Sam.

From the moment we sat down and had our first argument, I knew you would be my best friend Sam, and I wasn’t mistaken. You and I came from different backgrounds: But that was never a stumbling block for our friendship. Like ‘Ying and Yang,’ we worked together and understood each other. We were like ‘Thelma and Louise!’ We complimented each other perfectly and got on like a house on fire. For the last 18 years, we shared everything that two best friends could share. You were the unlikely friend I turned to when things got rough. I was the same to you. We knew each other’s secrets, fears, habits, aspirations and problems. We kept no secrets from each other. I felt no fear in sharing my greatest insecurities with you Sam. We often played with each other on the traditional joke between Katsina people and the Nupe people, where I would call you ‘My Slave’ and you would order me to do ‘Frog Jumps.’ We were always brutally honest and full of adoration and respect for each other. We never lied to each other. Well, we never usually lied to each other, but I feel guilty to now admit to you that I hated that Turmeric Tea that you used to make me drink. I couldn’t stand it but I didn’t have the heart to tell you because you were so proud of it and you loved it so much. I guess now you know. I’m sorry my brother!
I will never forget that fateful Saturday evening when I last saw you. The cruel hand of death has snatched you away from me. I miss you every day. I thank God for your life Sam and I will cherish the memories you have left me with.
My friend, to the world you were one person, but to me you were the world! I cherished our friendship so much and now you are gone. You touched my life in so many ways, your strength on dark days helped me heal in some of the challenges I faced. You gave me strength in time of trouble, wisdom in time of uncertainty, and sharing in time of happiness. You have done so much for me and have done things that made my life easier. Whenever I had a problem Sam, you went out of your way to fix it for me, even when I didn’t ask you to. You genuinely cared about my happiness and welfare. You were always ready to fight the people who made life difficult for me. Even recently, you wanted to go and challenge people you felt were trying to make my life difficult. You were angry that people were targeting your friend, your sister. Now that you have gone, who will fight for me as ferociously as you did? Who will stand in my corner the way you used to my brother?

We had our moments, didn’t we Sam? I didn’t always agree with your ways and manner. We had our clashes, but it was never anything that we couldn’t fix immediately. We cared about our friendship too much to allow anything to seriously come between us.

When you left the World, I not only lost my best friend, I lost my brother, my ally, my supporter, my advisor, a light at the end of the tunnel. Many times when my days seemed dark, I turned to you and you found a way to fix a light for me. Sam, your way and manner was not always the softest but I knew it was always in my interest. You were always there for me, often with some stern words followed with an envelope of advice. While you taught me that failure is inevitable in life, that it was part of living a full life, you stressed that I should never be defined by the failures of life. I can remember every piece of advice you gave me brother.

When I was in hospital very ill, you travelled to London to see me. You cried when you thought I wouldn’t make it. We discussed what I wanted you to do for me in the event of my passing. I watched you shed tears when I was talking to you but I made you listen. We discussed this at length. But never once in our discussion did it occur to us that the roles may be changed. Fate had other ideas. Now I am here writing a tribute for you. This wasn’t the plan my friend. That wasn’t the plan!

Sam, you were always busy; a man continuously on the move. But even then, you were never too busy to share yourself. You were always looking to the future. You were always in pursuit of another experience, a new adventure. You always expanded your prospects with brave and enterprising decisions. You were serious and disciplined. You were very passionate and sensitive, a man with a hard exterior but soft on the inside. You loved life completely and you lived it intensely. You had such a huge, large heart. You were a patriot, had a methodical mind and you were very courageous. My friend, you were an exceptional juggler. Yet, sometimes, your multi-tasking could be infuriating to me, especially when I was trying to make a point to you while you kept going through documents, searching for God-Knows-What!
Sam, you were truly extraordinary. So was our eighteen-year-old friendship. Between the two of us, you were always the stronger one. Your life could be all kinds of chaos, but you always knew how to confront it with resilience. You always lectured me to do the same. As my friend, you had a special ability to make me feel stronger and more confident, giving me a mental toughness, which has been such an asset in so many ways. My brother, you will live in my memory forever and I will always be extremely proud to call myself your friend and sister.
You have been a constant source of comfort to me and sometimes a partner in crime as we fought the various ludicrous systems that stifled the Nigerian voice. Together, we stood against the oppression of the voiceless. People said that you taught me how to be rude in the art of putting ‘pen to paper.’ But we weren’t being rude; were we Sam? We were just being ‘real’ by using our hobbies, talents and platform to fight for the dignity of our country and say the things that needed to be said. You gave me the platform to participate in the struggle for Nigeria. And it is a struggle that I vow to continue participating in till my dying day, By The Grace of God.

With the Leadership brand that you so diligently launched and nurtured, you contributed your quota in engendering a social conscience. You knew that there were so many wrongs in Nigeria, which needed attention. And it was your belief that you had a responsibility and a calling to address it in the best way you could. You had a message for the World and you wanted to teach the World something. You used your voice to do this. You believed that, through a bond of common faith and common goal, Nigerians can work towards fixing the gaps that divide us and become a unified country. Sam, just like yesterday, I remember when you started the main Leadership journey. It took you across the country and I am honored to have been there to witness it. I am so proud to see how your little idea has morphed into such a global brand.

Life compels us all into situations where we have to find the middle ground and life imparts on us challenges to our honesty and our integrity. In the last 18 years, I witnessed you rise and meet those challenges, one after the other with bravery, durability and a sense of conviction. It was that bravery, durability, together with your principle, dedication to community and love for your country that led you into politics. I recall the heated discussion we had when you told me your intention to join politics. You were so stubborn with your intent. I remember it like it was yesterday Sam.

In your explanation to me, you said that, the World could be changed through the actions of single people. That, while few in life will have the greatness to bend history itself, each of us can contribute to effect a small change. And, it is in the total of all those acts that the history of a generation can be written; it is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. You were determined to play your part in shaping that history for your country. You had the courage to stand up and play your part and take action as that single entity.

Sam, as a politician you stood for a strong and vibrant ideal. You stood against the mighty walls of oppression and resistance and tried to sweep it down. And you had the moral courage to stand against the establishment disapproval. You believed that the future of our country does not belong to those who are indifferent towards the shared problems we face or those who are timorous in the face of new ideas and bold projects. Rather it will belong to those who can bring foresight, purpose and valor together in a personal commitment to the ideals of a greater Nigerian Society. That is what you stood for. That is what you fought for. They said, ‘Kakaaki Nupe had Big Ideas….’ “And Boy, they were right!”

Through our discussions, I learnt that public service is noble and necessary. That was the reason why you encouraged me to join politics myself. That was the reason why you fought so hard to serve Nigeria. It was your intention to serve with integrity. We spoke about this numerous times, including that fateful Saturday when I last saw you, in which you opened up to me about your plans for the future in 2023. I intend to take that discussion with me to my grave.

A pharmacist, a journalist, an entrepreneur, a columnist, a writer, a leader, a politician, a mentor, an academic, a visionist, a friend, a boss, a son, a brother, a husband and a father; Sam you were all of it. Honour, obligation, morality, consistency, loyalty, conviction, distinction, dignity, pedigree, value: these are all characteristics that you personified every day during your time on this earth my friend. It is the determining impulse of Nigeria that neither destiny nor character nor the overwhelming currents of history, but the work of our own hands, coordinated together to value and reason that determines our destiny.  There is pride in that and there is also experience and truth. Sam, that is the way you lived.  That is what you leave us with. Now that you are gone, we know what we are without.

You were a superb man Sam. You were the pedigree of Arewa, Nigerian greatness! You were ‘the real McCoy’ and not a shoddy magniloquence from people who will never match the type of time, effort and sacrifice you so readily gave Nigeria. Nor the opportunistic appropriation of those currently in government who lived lives of comfort and privilege either in a, then, serving PDP government or elsewhere at a time when we toiled in the opposition movement which eventually took over power. Incidentally, for the most part, it is those adversaries to the movement we nurtured that find themselves in a Buhari-led government today.

I saw that, in mourning your passing, President Muhammadu Buhari put out a statement, which described you as “a friend and ally” and went further to say that, “the country has lost a man of conviction, a resolute and dogged believer in a better Nigeria.” But if you were such a good ‘friend and ally and a resolute and dogged believer in a better Nigeria,’ why were you not included in an administration that you worked so hard to bring to power? Why were you not absorbed into the system searching for that Better Nigeria despite the fact that you deserved a seat at the table and had dedicated almost three decades of your life supporting the movement that brought the new administration to power? It is a crying shame that you were not declared The Secretary-To-The-Government-of-The-Federation (SGF) the minute APC came into power back in 2015. This was a continuous emotional discussion between us.
You have left behind an aching wife trying to find solace in the arms of equally aching children. You have also left behind siblings who are crushed to the core. You have left behind a devastated mother. You have left behind shocked friends and admirers, And you have left behind a very crippled me! You have gone and left me, my brother. And, no. I am not mad at you Sam. I guess, I’m just simply in pain!
Sam, you cared so much for your family, your mother, siblings, wife and children. Oh how you so often spoke to me of your love and respect for Zainab, your adorable wife and your infatuation with your children. If I am here feeling the pain that I feel, I can only imagine what Zainab and the kids are presently going through. But, even to your admission, Zainab was the stronger of the two of you. I have faith that she will succeed in keeping your legacy alive and guiding and nurturing the beautiful children you brought to this World together.
Sam, those of us who knew you, who adored you, who got angry with you will miss the man you were. We will miss the friend, who was always eager to go off on another adventure, who fought with us and loved us with equal passion. We will mourn our Sam, who has now gone but we will remember you the positive way you would want us to remember you.

Thank you Sam for always being there for me when I needed you. You were always ready with stern but wise words for every problem and every situation. Thank you Sam for always forming order in situations where disorder appeared. You always had good advice for me, and a way of breaking down challenges in a way that made it realistic and manageable. Thank you Sam for being present whenever I requested. No matter the distance or frequency, you always made yourself available for me. Thank you Sam for encouraging me to be professionally dedicated. Thank you Sam for showing me how to be devoted. Thank you Sam for telling me you appreciated our friendship even when we had our differences. Thank you Sam for accepting me exactly the way I am.
Finally, I must thank you my dear Sam, for having such an impact on my life, and making it rich with friendship and brother/sisterhood. My heart sighs and tears so much right now but then I find comfort and strength in the words you always told me. You would always say, “Hannatu stop feeling sorry for yourself and get a grip of yourself so that you can overcome and function for tomorrow.” You would then follow that up with, “Hannatu, This Too Shall Pass…” I can literally hear your voice telling me these very same words in this exact moment and I take comfort in that.
My brother, now my prayers will be for your mother, Mama Eunice Clement Nda-Isaiah, your siblings, your wife, Zainab Nda-Isaiah and your beautiful children, Joshua Nda-Isaiah, Fatima Nda-Isaiah, David Nda-Isaiah, Esther Nda-Isaiah  and Mary Nda-Isaiah. You will always be adored as a son, a brother, and as a father by them.
Sam, I promise you that, for the rest of my life, I will try and work with your friends and family to ensure that we turn our current debilitating grief over your loss into something positive and worthwhile.
I admired you for so much Sam, but I adored you because you were a great friend to me. You were my best friend!

Although you have passed on too soon, I want you and I want the World to know that you’ll always be in my heart forever. Your death took away joy from my life but I will hold on to the beautiful memories of times spent with you, my brother.

You may have been ‘The Sam of Nigeria,’ as you liked to be called, but you were also my friend, my brother, ‘My Sam…. My stubborn, cantankerous Sam!’

I salute you Sam. I thank you, I honour you and I miss you…

Peace onto you, brother! “Au revoir mon frère.”

Always,
From your ‘forever-Sister,’

HANNEY (Hannatu as you like to call me)

Barrister Musawa with the late Nda-Isaiah

Barrister Hannatu Musawa is a lawyer based in Abuja. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @hanneymusawa

Arewa Agenda is a Publication of Young writers/journalist from Northern Nigeria towards Peaceful Coexistence and National Development through positive narratives

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