Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin: A reporter’s delight
Sir: The late Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin would be remembered by so many people, for different reasons: Prof. as I fondly called him would be remembered by journalists for his ever-friendly disposition to the Nigerian press. Prof. is one of the few Nigerians in the corridors of power that would not wish to ‘kill’ or rather deal with you for publishing a story that did not favour him. Rather he would call you and put the records straight. Prof. was a reporter’s delight. He would always return your call. He was abreast with all the issues in the health sector.
Prof. took it upon himself with the blessings of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to kick-start the most ambitious Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) prevention and treatment programme in the world. The programme heralded the establishment of the National Action Committee on AIDS (NACA), which he also almost single handedly, with the support of Obasanjo and the National Assembly translated to an agency, now the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA). He was the first Director General of NACA.
Prof. did not rest on his oars. As the Minister of Health, Prof. drove the plan for the refurbishing of teaching hospitals in the six geopolitical zones of the country.
As the Minister of Health he made Nigeria visible and heard at the World Health Assembly (WHA), the apex decision-making body of the World Health Organisation (WHO) that meets yearly in May. Little wonder that he was later appointed as the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund programme (UNFPA) until his death.
I cannot forget my first encounter with Prof. in 2003. I received a call from one of the Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) involved in HIV/AIDS programmes that had Prof. nominate me to participate in the First International Conference for AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA), which held in Nairobi, Kenya in September 2003. It was my first opportunity to travel outside the country. The blessings from Prof. did not end there. He later nominated me for so many international conferences and trainings including about three WHAs. Indeed, God used Prof. to build my capacities as a journalist. How can I forget? I am grateful Prof.
Prof. also gave me a surprise. As the Minister of Health, Prof. invited me to his Abuja residence where he introduced me to his wife and some of his family members. I am grateful Prof. Only God can pay you back Prof. I am sure I am not the only journalist he affected this way. I cannot but mention my good friend and best man, Agaptus Anaele, formerly with The Guardian, Punch, and Sun Newspapers and who is now a Professor in the United States.
Prof. we are grateful. Adieu. Go well till we meet to part no more.
Chukwuma Muanya is on the staff of The Guardian.
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