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Dr. Tosin Ajayi… eulogy to true African hero 

The death of First Foundation Medical Centre founder, Dr Tosin Ajayi, came to many as a shock. I was particularly saddened because I had the privilege of knowing Dr Ajayi through interviews...


• Why Africa Future Project Must Not Die
The death of First Foundation Medical Centre founder, Dr Tosin Ajayi, came to many as a shock. I was particularly saddened because I had the privilege of knowing Dr Ajayi through interviews I conducted with him over the years. He was a man of many parts. Most of the public only knew him as the proprietor of First Foundation Medical Centre. The Nigeria’s premier maternity hospital where a large number of today’s elite children were born. However, Dr Ajayi was an intellectual and original thinker, passionate and fiery when it came to issues about healthcare and medical practice yet extremely humble and gentle. But behind that self effacing demeanor were many surprises. I recall interviewing him at a programme in Sheraton Hotel Lagos, where he revealed to me in passing that he held the distinction of being the longest serving resident at the hotel, having lived there for over a decade before meeting his wife Helen. In another interview he told me that his company First Foundation was the first to bring in CT Scan and MRI to Nigeria, and equipped the majority of the Nigeria’government hospitals. I was also surprised to learn on another occasion that his company was the sole representative of Siemens medical in Nigeria for many years. He was therefore not only a passionate healthcare activist but an astute businessman. Dr Tosin Ajayi trained as a medical doctor at the prestigious University College Hospital, UCH, Ibadan and did post graduate training at Imperial College London. He was very active in the medical profession, especially the activities of the Nigerian Medical Association ( NMA).

He also actively participated in driving government healthcare policies. Dr Tosin Ajayi was the Chairman of the Finance Subcommittee of the Lagos State Health Reforms of 2003. Recommendations of Subcommittee later quadrupled the revenue of 24 General Hospitals in Lagos State. Well regarded by his colleagues and associates Dr Ajayi was made patron of several associations, including, Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria ( AGPMPN), Healthcare Providers Association of Nigeria  ( HCPAN), Medical Women Association of Nigeria Lagos State (MWAN) and KB  Club of the College of Medicine University of Lagos among others.

Ajayi was also a great philanthropist often donating essential medical equipment to his fellow private medical Practitioners as a way to help them upgrade their facilities. Apart from donations to friends and colleagues, he donated a complete radiology suit comprising Siemens  Computed Tomography  (CT), X-ray, Ultrasound Machine and Mammography machine to Bisi Onabanjo University Hospital, Sagamu, ( OOTH), Ogun  State. He also donated Computed Tomography  {CT} to General Hospital, Marina- Lagos and donated a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to Lagos University Teaching Hospital, (LUTH), Idi Araba, Lagos.

His awards among many include World Organisation of Family Doctors WONCA Africa Region  in recognition of his outstanding contributions and support over the years for WONCA Africa Region and Medical Mission in Nigeria and Save Nigerian Mothers Initiatives Award of Honour given in recognition of his immense contributions to the Healthcare delivery to citizens of Lagos State

At 75, his age, coupled with his numerous achievements in the medical field, one would have expected that Ajayi would be thinking of a deserving retirement. Instead, he sacrificed his time and resources into finding a lasting solution to Africa’s development challenges, with a focus on the younger generation.

A strong believer in the conscious development of the human mind through health and well being, he pioneered the advocacy for a paradigm shift in medicine and healthcare with particular emphasis on healthcare reforms, the business of medicine and healthcare, information technology in healthcare and the necessary capacity building for healthcare to flourish.
His passion led him to conceive and develop Africa Future an initiative geared towards developing children,
“…a generation of Africans who will be raised differently and thus be able to think more productively than our present generation.”

When Dr Ajayi conceived the Africa Future project, the vision wasn’t clear to most of his staff at First Foundation, except for his wife Helen.

“She’s the only one that understood the vision at first. I had shared the idea with my staff, but they struggled to get it. But my wife, once I spoke to her about it, she got it immediately,” Dr. Ajayi said in one of our meetings.

Ajayi believed that Africa, the cradle of the human race, cannot, and should not be neglected in the development of the world. Through his organisation, he advocated for re-orientation and knowledge transformation of Africa’s collective consciousness to meet the 21st Century model of human performance.

Just last Independence Day (October 1, 2019), Africa Future launched a  campaign to bridge the developmental gap in Nigeria and Africa through the first 1,000 days from conception window. The idea is to use the first 1,000 days from conception to shape the future of the continent and use a focus on micronutrients and information technology tools to drive this change.   “We chose to start on October 1 because it falls on our Independence Day and we know that everybody is concerned about all of us. The only problem we had before now was, where do we start? Now, we know how to start; where to start is the first 1000 days of conception. Once we start there, that’s it; we don’t have control over it. The intelligence coming into the world is going to prepare for itself; it’s going to solve the problems by itself,” he hinted at day before the event.

“Come and have a look at them,” he said, as he led the way through the garden to the staccato sound of hammers driving nails into the woods.

“The whole building will be covered with these boards; we want anybody driving through Opebi to see these messages. By tomorrow, I will carry my own board with my wife Helen and stand on Opebi Road to tell Nigerians that if we take care of the first 1000 days from conception we will be on our way to finding the solutions to  Africa’s problems,” he said with so much enthusiasm.

However, on the D-day, weather had a different plan; it started raining non-stop as early as 6.00 a.m. Conceived as an open-air campaign, the first thought was to limit everything indoors or postpone entirely, but Doc won’t have it; his mind was made and there was no going back.

Defying the torrential downpour, he marched into the rain with his wife, while members of his staff had umbrellas over their heads.

“The rain won’t stop us today,” he said firmly. With that resolution, he stood at the bus stop holding the banner: ‘This Is It! Africa Future: Solution For Africa’s Underdevelopment, Under Performance.” Based on his experience as a medical practitioner, Ajayi argued that the solution to Africa’s underdevelopment is “better brains, better human performance, first 1, 000 days from conception is the answer.” this view, he boldly printed on one of the banners placed in the waiting room.

Ajayi believed that the micronutrients in a pregnant woman should be enriched, preserved and maintained in the life of the child after birth for the first five years, as this will aid the proper development of the child into adulthood. Also, he said a child should be prevented from toxic stress, diseases. That child will grow up to be a healthy fully functioning human being.

“The reason for this campaign is to change the developmental direction of Nigeria and Africa as a whole. That campaign is because we now know why under development and under performance is perennial in Africa. Why are Africans not developing to their full potential? About 90 per cent of our people cannot have self-fulfillment; they cannot be operated at full capacity. We now know why and we know we can change it. We can even change it in one generation; we know what to do now,” he said.

In 2015 when Dr Ajayi first launched Africa Future, the mini garden of the First Foundation compound provided a perfect ambience for the night. Embedded in the showpiece that lasted into the night, was a conscious message for Africa’s emancipation.

The guest list cut across class and age; every group was represented, including expatriates. Notable among them Late Dr Ore Falomo, Mrs Abimbola Fashola, Dr Jide Idris, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora,  Mr Yinka Akinkugbe, Oscar Ibru, Dr Mrs Onaiga, Dr Mrs Dosekun, Caterina Bortolussi of Kinabuti, Majek Fashek (now late), Ras Kimono (now late), top fashion designer MUDI, comedian Tee A, Kelvin Orifa, Seun Kuti, Gloria Ibru…

On the bandstand was Dede Mabiaku, a protégée of the late Afrobeat creator, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. For sure, his selection as headliner for the formal unveiling of the Africa Future project was not by accident. As an acolyte of the late music legend, Mabiaku was considered a perfect choice to interpret Fela’s messages to the audience.

Just as Mabiaku was getting set to entice guests to the dance floor with heavy Afrobeat sound, Dr. Ajayi was invited for an opening remark that got many thinking.

All through the 19 minutes he spoke, the atmosphere was very calm, a sign that his message made great impact on the audience.

Dr. Oshinowo(l); Dr Tosin Ajayi(Convener) and wife, Helen, at the launch in 2019

“I’m only here to make some remarks; the lecturer tonight is Fela Anikulapo Kuti and the lecture is going to be delivered by his protégée Dede Mabiaku.” he said.

Ajayi noted that Africa forms 15 per cent of the world population, occupying six per cent of the total landmass and covers 20 per cent of the upland. However, 60 per cent of African population is 19 and below.

“We have a very young population; a young population begging for development and transformation. We go in our big cars and live in our mansions; we may be politicians, engineers, doctors, ICT professionals, but it looks like we can do nothing. We have resources everywhere, we don’t even know them; we don’t even appreciate them. We don’t even look at them; we only go round everyday, deceiving ourselves, promising what we cannot do,” Ajayi lamented.

While urging Africans to rise and change the fortunes of the continent, Ajayi called for peace and brotherly love among Africans.

“We don’t need to be jealous of each other; this landscape must change. There must be a paradigm shift; nobody is going to come to Africa to do it for us. We have to stand by ourselves and do it, and it can be done today. If all of us here are determined to start thinking of Africa and start doing something about Africa, we are going to change our continent.”

Until his death on April 26, 2020, Doc, as he was fondly called by friends and admirers, was still vigorously pursuing his lifelong objective of transforming Africa. His Dr friends and nurses at St Nicholas hospital noted that throughout his stay Dr Ajayi’s mind was preoccupied with the Africa future project.

Deep down in his heart, Doc was confident of leaving the hospital hale and hearty to continue the search for lasting solution to development challenges in Africa through the Africa Future Project.
But for his death, Africa Future would have been concluding plans for the launch of the educational arm of the project. His wife who handles that angle of the project, had finished putting together a book that would help in driving the campaign.

Today, Dr Tosin Ajayi is gone, but his vision must be sustained. The Africa Future project dream must not die. All the late medical practitioner deserves right now is a befitting burial.