In a clime where life expectancy is ridiculously low, that Hon. Abike Kafayat Oluwatoyin Dabiri-Erewa has turned 50 years is a function of grace, writes Olawale Olaleye
Hon. Abike Kafayat Oluwatoyin Dabiri-Erewa has a personality that is ensconced in simplicity. She, however, does not compromise style. By virtue of her background as a broadcast journalist, looking good is sacrosanct. Yet, she is neither given to gratuitous exposure nor inclined to vain talks. As a journalist, Dabiri-Erewa had a celebrated career that enjoyed the glamour of the broadcast media. Her fame notwithstanding, she kept her head high and maintained as much dignity in a career that soon flourished incredibly.
Mother Theresa of the tube, as many of her admirers chose to call her, Dabiri-Erewa had put in 15 straight years into successful journalism at the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) where she gained and exhibited amazing understanding of the industry, given both her academic and natural aptitude for that calling.
At her peak as a journalist, Dabire-Erewa anchored the weekly NTA News line programme to the delight of millions of viewers across the different ethnic and religious barriers in the country. She used the television as an effective tool to draw attention to those Nigerians suffering from poverty and injustice. Her passion and dedication to duty, no doubt, stood her out as well as endeared her to many.
Many still vividly recall her investigative report on the little Mary, the miracle baby for eight years. And despite her firm belief in service to humanity, Dabiri-Erewa voluntarily
retired from active journalism to go into politics where she contested election into the House of Representative. The journalist-turned politician sustained her tradition of hard work even as a politician in the lower chamber of the National Assembly.
This was particularly evident in her stance when in 2006 Dabiri-Erewa and some of her colleagues opposed the third term bid of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Thus, with four years of successful outing in the House, securing a re-election was a walkover for Dabiri-Erewa as her feats counted significantly in the election and having deployed the influence of her former committee on Media and Publicity to good play.
As Chairman, House Committee on Diaspora Affairs, a committee whose challenge is to ensure that Nigerians in Diaspora are integrated into developmental activities of their motherland, Dabiri-Erewa has leveraged the committee to addressing issues affecting many Nigerians abroad while celebrating those who had excelled in their chosen endeavours. Her committee, for example, had intervened on issues that pertain to the plight of Nigerians in Brazil, India, Libya, China, Malaysia and several other countries.
Dabiri-Erewa has also registered her presence in the House through the many bills she had sponsored. For example, she sponsored such bills as Freedom of Information Bill; A Bill for an act to ensure full integration of Nigerians with physical disabilities and eliminate all forms of discrimination against them; The Nigerian Infant Health Welfare Bill (To ensure every child under 5 gets free qualitative medical care); Nigerian Diaspora Commission Bill and a Bill for an act to repeal the Nigerian Press Council bill and replace it with the Nigerian Press and Journalism Council bill to strengthen the NPC and promote the practice of Journalism and welfare of Journalism in Nigeria.
However, in 2009, her bill on the freedom to practice journalism after a certain qualification had sparked controversy. The bill was seen by most practitioners as a way of gagging the media and allowing more chance for tyranny and nepotism since most of the board appointment would be made by the President and/or Government executive members. But during a television programme aired on November 30, 2009, Dabiri-Erewa denied the insinuations, especially hindering media freedom. Instead, she said the bill was designed to make Journalism a more professional career in the country.
Born in Jos, the Plateau State capital, Dabiri-Erewa is from the family of Alhaji and Alhaja Ashafa Erogbogbo of Ikorodu area of Lagos State. From Maryland Private School, Maryland, Ikeja, where she had her primary education to St. Teresa’s College, Oke Ado, Ibadan, for her Secondary School education, she proceeded to the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, where she bagged B.A. in the English Language. She was also at the University of Lagos, and later Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government, the United States of America.
As a result of her weakness for a quiet life style, Dabiri-Erewa did not make her 50th birthday which was October 11, an attention-seeking exercise. For the sassy-looking politician, being on a Thursday made it impossible for her to do anything since she would be at work. Apart from prayers, which held at her residence in recognition and appreciation of God’s rare grace for a sparkling 50-years old lawmaker, the day went normally. But she is said to be planning a “small thing” for the children by next Sunday and might also throw-in another one for the adult sometime in December.
That Dabiri-Erewa elected to let her 50th birthday go unnoticed says a lot about her personality which despite her stylish disposition and elegance, always prefers it quiet and simple.
Happy 50th to an Amazon of distinction!