Happy Sam: The End of an Era

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By Tonnie O. Iredia

Being differently endowed, Nigerians react to events differently; while some are permanently sad because they are hardly able to make ends meet, others are sad for different reasons. For example, Sam Amuka, the Publisher of the Vanguard, a most successful journalist and entrepreneur was for long fondly called ‘Sad Sam’ because in his famous articles, he permanently admonished policy makers to fix Nigeria.

Amuka used last Tuesday’s launch of Eric Osagie’s ‘the big interviews’ to pointedly describe the controversial hate speech bill as a negative and unnecessary path to national development. Perhaps in his old age, Amuka was still sad for Nigeria-great patriot. Another Sam, my brother, was a different personality who sought to make everyone he met happy. At the book launch, Sam Iredia remains ‘Happy Sam’ was my involuntary reply to one guest who asked of him from me. A few minutes later, a call came from home to say Sam was under the weather.

How serious the situation was and who was handling, was all I could ponder over before I was made to come to terms with the reality that the end of an era had come for Happy Sam. So, is happiness that ephemeral? Not really.

There is nothing ephemeral about happiness; how long any person managed to remain happy depended largely on each person.

In the case of my brother, I take ample solace in the fact that unlike many people, Sam’s sojourn in life was exceedingly eventful. It was not that of a man who just came in and left, not at all; he made a mark, wherever he went, leaving many to relish their gains from the abundance of his generosity. He was vivacious and boisterous, doing every task with much energy and commitment which left an indelible memory of him everywhere.

Those of us who are his family members, have since been inundated with calls and messages of condolences from diverse audiences with everyone making same commendable remarks. If so, it means Sam was essentially a happy man because a major source of happiness is the willingness to attract the appreciation of others.

The more a man willingly helps others, the happier he is. Many people are unable to be happy not necessarily because it is elusive but often because they perceive the concept of help from only a monetary angle, which hinders them from helping others. In truth, a poor person can help people, all that is needed is to render a helping hand to anyone in need and both parties will be happy.

It is however hard to be happy without fulfilment. To be fulfilled, one must excellently handle whatever he finds himself doing. As a clerk in a bank, Sam served as if he was the bank manager, at school he was an outstanding student.

When he was picked as Director of Budget by the late Governor Ambrose Alli, my brother developed a posture of the governor’s right-hand man. This elevated him to higher positions serving as Commissioner and moving round no less than 8 ministries which included the powerful portfolios of Finance and also Works. At a point, he became the obvious choice to act in the position of Secretary to the State Government.

When the military terminated civilian rule in 1983, Sam was one trusted aide that was understandably arrested and charged along with Governor Alli. But it was not hard for him to regain freedom from many of the nebulous charges and to return to a life of service. In 1999, when democracy was restored, he served again variously as Chief of Staff to Governor Lucky Igbinedion and later Chairman of the Internal Revenue Service.

In all, he gave of his personal best which seems to explain the eulogy-packed tribute released by Governor Godwin Obaseki at the announcement of Sam’s demise. According to the governor, “Chief Sam Iredia was a quintessential Edo son who had a lot of impact in the state owing to his versatility and sense of purpose and execution. He was a complete gentleman, humane, unassuming, composed and focused.”

Fortunately for Sam, he was also able to pursue with excellence not only what he was asked to do but what he loved to do – the game of Golf. He was till his last breadth a lover of Golf, right from his high school days at Government College Ughelli.

He was a frontline member of both the Benin and Abuja Golf Clubs. Indeed, he had a remarkable tenure as President of the Benin Club. Writing in the Daily Trust Newspaper of January 17 this year, Tony Akhigbe described Sam as the man behind the Golf Club of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital.

The UBTH Golf Club which was founded about a decade ago, has a full blown 18 course endowed with an all green putting area and featuring Sam Iredia as Chairman of the Club’s Board of Trustees.

With some health challenges in the recent past, my brother, didn’t find enough time to as usual boldly interrogate the current atomistic politics of Edo state where the ruling All Progressives Congress APC, to which he belonged, has been at war with itself.

I have no doubt whatsoever that he would never have supported the unnecessary distraction that the APC has been putting Obaseki through. He probably would have led the peace efforts at restoring some level of rationality.

As a development-loving activist, Sam would no doubt have followed the part of reason identified by former Information Minister, Prince Tony Momoh, to admonish the Abuja team that is behind the crises to give Edo, time to develop.

Chief Sam Iredia, the Obaghayiomwan of Benin Kingdom had other virtues – one of which was being thankful. Was everyone happy with him in the family?

Not exactly. Our elders in particular never forgot to rebuke him for always being away from home – a charge that I was similarly accused of. Truly, we were both the most unavailable but the busiest and the most widely known.

I can however testify that those charges did not derogate from our capacity to solve family problems. Between Sam and I, we found time to humour one another too. For instance, each time, I called to say hello, to him, he would remind me that I was speaking with my brother and not Sam the politician.

He would then proceed to shower encomiums on me for just a telephone call. On my part, because I never came across any politician I could trust, i would remind him not to play politics with me as the appreciation often far exceeded my gesture. In retrospect, I now know that being thankful all the time is a virtue, I may no longer quickly find in other quarters.

Sam left less than 10 days to his next birthday. Adieu my brother, may you find eternal rest in the Lord.

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