by Tahir Ibrahim Tahir Talban Bauchi.
I had written a tribute – more like an expression of my deep gratitude to Sam Nda Isaiah, for giving me a platform to consolidate on a writing adventure as a columnist on the backpage of Leadership Newspapers. The piece titled, ‘Merry Christmas in Advance to Uncle Sam’s was published last December, 2019. You see; back in the days as a Secondarian and in my University days in the early nineties, I found interest in Adamu Adamu’s articles on the back page of Friday’s Daily Trust; and was marvelled by his ‘literary imagination’. He was a master of the art and when he took you on, it was like a subway train that climaxes with the drive of a rollercoaster. He was rich in content and deep in philosophy. I was also intrigued by Mohammed Haruna who was inch perfect in detail and as statistically accurate, as the National Bureau of Statistics! These two exceptional writers, shaped my writing skills and style. Friday Dailytrust and Wednesday’s The Nation, were ‘unmissable’ by my count! My merry Xmas to Uncle Sam, has some excerpts like: “By the end of my first degree in 1999, I knew that my passion lay in writing and I just never got tired of writing and chirping away on my ‘system’. From 2010 to date, it has always been on my Android (tongue-out and a one eyed wink to Apple posers). The duo of Adamu and Haruna had successfully migrated me from computing to writing.
Ammi noticed that I was writing poems for my girlfriend and she felt that I should be encouraged to take up writing; not just as a hobby, but as a field or profession. She brought out green pamphlets of Uncle Sam Nda Isaiah’s articles, which were mostly inserts in news dailies back in the 90s. “Baba yaya, she said, I want you to be like Uncle Sam, and I want you to one day become a publisher just like him!” She collected those pamphlets every week and sent them to me in Abuja. Eventually, I ran a column on Blueprint throughout 2013.”
At that time, Ibrahim Sheme was the Editor of Blueprint; and with Abdulaziz Abdulaziz’s support I began to live Ammi’s vision of my future endeavor as a writer. To Ammi’s chagrin, I abandoned the course and ventured into politics in Bauchi. It was a 6 year stint of hard knocks in life and eventually, I was back on the writer’s table; finding and fondling my true passion. Uncle Sam Nda was an inlaw to a friend of mine and we would sometimes meet at Ceddi in Abuja. Uncle Sam was the nicest man who mingled with us as if he was our colleague or belonged to our age group. My Merry Xmas to Uncle Sam tribute also reads: “Ammi’s worry was that while writing was calling me forward, my premature leap into unchartered territory of politics was pulling me backwards. Every now and then, she gave me pieces of write ups that Sam Nda Isaiah had done before, as she tried to motivate me into another successful ‘Leadership’ story in the North, just like Sam. One day I ran into Sam, and I introduced myself. Uncle Sam was very accommodating. I blabber about me writing and wanting to be a columnist at Leadership. And I even had the audacity to say I wanted backpage! He gave me his email and his number and asked me to forward atleast 10 of my previous articles and that he would forward it to the Chairman of the board of editors, Mr. Christian Ochiama, who would screen them and give him a feedback. He assured me that once his board did that, he would get back to me. Less than a week after, Mr. Christian called up and said, is that Dr. Tahir? I said no, with this one, the Dr. is silent! He said okay, but try and find that in your view soon okay? I said yes sir.”
Uncle Sam gave me the Sunday backpage of his newspaper, Leadership. It is the biggest platform I have ever been given by anyone! A harbor for me to romance my truest passion, and a base for the development of a new generation of African-Nigerian (sic) writers. He did not know me from Adam, neither did anyone put in or chip in a word on my behalf! It was a noble and generous gesture by one of the most detribalised Nigerians I have ever met. My piece still said: “I decided to wish Uncle Sam a merry Xmas in Advance for granting me this unique opportunity to achieve my school days dream of being a successor to Adamu Adamu, on the backpage of a National daily!”
I am more than shocked by the sudden death of Uncle Sam. Big Sam! A sam that was a good samaritan who welcomed young Nigerians with open arms and warm embraces that nudged you on, and egged you on to pursue your dreams and make them become a reality. Uncle Sam ventured into politics but it was also a short stint of hard knocks. His finest quality is what has become the household name; LEADERSHIP. Leadership was the first paper to do an Editorial; Our Stand, speaking up in defense of Nigeria, against the purveyors of fake news about Nigeria, including CNN. Uncle Sam has been the flagship of so many successful journalistic careers and one can only be awed by the numbers of people he has mentored, employed, and supported to chase their dreams and become professionals and experts in their fields of choice. Sometimes when I share my articles, people make comments about me being ‘prolific’. I never get ‘suctioned’ by those comments. Never! Today I realise that Uncle Sam’s death has left behind hundreds of prolific writers and journalists with so many as Editors, Editors-in-Chief, and even Publishers. As a tribute to Uncle Sam, I thank you my Big Sam, for bringing out the ‘prolific’ in me. I thank you for the opportunity, and I thank you on my column as I still remain short of words. You have left a huge vacuum in the hall of patriotism on the site of the Nigerian Project! Adieu my mentor.