While not many have shown the desire to vie for the presidency on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, the publisher of Leadership Newspapers, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, begs to differ with his resignation of the chairmanship of the newspaper last week in lieu of his ambition. Shola Oyeyipo writes
For many book makers, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and even some members of Nigeria’s main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), the biggest hurdle before the opposition party would be choice and the process of emergence of the presidential standard bearer bearer.
While some are thinking in the direction of a former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) as a likely candidate of the APC being his lifelong ambition, the recent entrant into the party, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, has altered the equation on the battle for APC ticket.
But late last year, the former Editor-in-Chief, publisher, Leadership Newspapers and Chairman, Leadership Group, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, declared his intention to contest the 2015 presidential election on the platform of the APC, piloted by a series of consultations. He not only attracted public attention but also the attention of some major players in the party.
Though some would not take him very seriously; others thought he was acting a prepared script while there were those held the views that he was only experimenting with his popularity and not really committed to the ambition because the APC ticket, expectedly, would be a clash of the titans with considerable war chest. But beyond whatever anyone thinks, Nda-Isaiah does appear serious.
During a courtesy visit to the management of THISDAY Newspapers at the Lagos office last year, he specifically noted that his decision to vie for the partyâ€™s ticket was well thought out. In fact, despite the cordial relationship that exists between him and Buhari, Nda-Isaiah noted that he was ready to contest the party primaries against his political mentor and one of the founding fathers of the party, if Buhari decides to take another shot at the presidency.
As 2015 elections gather momentum, the media mogul, who is one of the earliest contenders for the presidency on the APC platform, was in the news last week when he took a landmark decision of quitting his position as the chairman of the Leadership Group, in preparation for the party primary. This, of course, is one indication that he is serious about his ambition.
The Group Managing Director, Leadership Group, Mr. Azubuike Ishiekwene, said the decision followed several months of consultations with family, friends and associates on the need to answer a national call.
Nda-Isaiah, it was gathered, had told the board of Leadership Group during its February meeting that having placed the company on a solid path of growth, he felt the need to answer a national call from people of various backgrounds who have been in search for something new, and who have invested their hopes and dreams for a better country in him.
Ishiekwene, also added that the decision to step down from his current position as chairman of the group and contest the APC primary was one that his boss iwa not toying with. â€œThis is not a decision that he is taking lightly.â€
Ordinarily, not many would assume that he would just be taking such a decision without purpose because Sam, Kakaki Nupe (mouthpiece of Nupe tribe) is one of Nigeria’s most consistent voices on contemporary and domestic policy issues who has won the hearts of many of his readers as an advocate of the Achebean creed that everything stands or falls on leadership. He has consistently maintained this position for more than a decade.
He attained the status of pro-good governance advocate with his column, which dwells principally on politics, the economy and global affairs.
A pharmacist, Sam worked briefly at the General Hospital, Minna, Niger State, before joining Pfizer in 1985. He was a goal-getter who worked flat out until 1989 when he resigned to start his own business. He later became a member of the Daily Trust Editorial Board as well as a member of the committee appointed by the Kano State Government to revive The Triumph, the state-owned newspaper where his father had also left a mark as the pioneer Managing Editor in the late 1980s.
Determined to underscore his seriousness in the race, he had perfected his registration as a member of the APC at the Gofar â€“Dogara Mainadi in Makera ward of Chanchaga local government area in Niger State. According to him, he joined politics to offer a direction and chart a new course for the country, stressing that â€œthe country is nose-diving as a result of the corruption of the PDP,â€ and that “the APC is a party that would bring the needed change for Nigerians.”
During his visit to THISDAY, Nda-Isaiah emphasised that his resolve to vie for the presidency in 2015 was a long time ambition and did not intend to drop out since he had already discussed it with Buhari.
â€œI told him (Buhari) tactically that I am in the race. And he said it was politically correct. I went round all those close to him. I have gone far into the race. So, if he decides to contest, Iâ€™m going to contest. I will contest against him. I will try everything to make sure that the relationship remains the same. But I wish it would not happen,â€ he added.
According to him, his presidential ambition is to arrest the retrogression that Nigeria is experiencing in spite of its ability to join the league of developed countries and its desire to make a difference.
He said: â€œIt is now we should start doing very big things. We should have the biggest airports and the biggest seaports. Look at the things we achieved when there was no oil. Go to the universities now and compare what they did 20 years ago. We need new direction. I donâ€™t believe that there is a magic to it. I believe it is possible to make the difference.â€
He lamented the level of division among Nigerians, saying if he won the presidential election, one of his first assignments will be to ensure the unity of Nigeria, which he identified as the panacea for rapid development.
â€œThe most important thing is to bring people together. We are too divided over small issues. If any leader is sincere, it is the very thing to do. I will not say we are going to fight corruption because that is part of governance,â€ he said.
On the perception that as an antagonist of the President Goodluck Jonathan administration, his critical articles were because of his presidential ambition, Nda-Isaiah said he had been critical of previous administrations and added that such an insinuation did not bother him as he had been committed to speaking the truth.
This, perhaps, was why Ishiekwene said Nda-Isaiah’s decision to quit his position as chairman of the company was because doing otherwise would not be consistent with the media mogulâ€™s personal values, respect for public goodwill and principles of good corporate governance.
â€œIt is a matter of commonsense that any such meddling â€“ real or perceived â€“ can only undermine the credibility of Leadershipâ€™s platform that Nda-Isaiah has invested his entire life and resources to build. Mr. Nda-Isaiah is not unaware of the trepidations, genuine and not so genuine, by persons who fear the worst, not just for the company but also for what his coming out would mean.
â€œHe has set the company on a solid growth path and we are proud of his legacies. In the last one year since he stepped down as Editor-in-Chief of Leadership Group- a startup which he founded 10 years ago- he has gravitated more and more towards active politics.
â€œIn that time, he has been humbled by the tremendous show of goodwill and support across faith, ethnic, professional and generational lines.
He assured Nigerians that the management of Leadership Group, which now comprises six subsidiaries, was capable of handling the chairmanâ€™s absence and strive to making the company one of the most vibrant and trusted brands. Ishiekwene said while away, Nda-Isaiah would still continue to write his Monday column and would take full responsibility for the content of his articles.
Though the pharmacist, media mogul and presidential hopeful has continuously said he was yet to begin a full-blown campaign in compliance with the guidelines of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), he is one of the first persons to take bold steps in furtherance of his presidential ambition.