Osotimehin: Exit of a Development Worker


Late Prof. Osotimehin

Mohammed Kuta Yahaya

Life is one clear paradox that is both colourless and colourful with equal intensity. The spectrum of life radiates differently for every individual, forming a rainbow of colours, supper imposed before the setting sun. For Professor Babatunde Osotimehin, the sun has set leaving us with memories of his wonderful multiple colours in the journey of life. His rainbow, post human existence will be more colourful as his track records will continue to resonate in the corners of the globe testifying to his service to humanity.

For me, the transition of Professor Osotimehin has exposed me to seeing beyond physical comprehension that life presents colourlessness once an individual fails to recognise a path set to traverse by nature to achieve. Osotemehin indeed followed the right path and achieved beautiful reflections of service. It is therefore instructive that to attain the best in life, you must understand that the path is often faint, uncertain, sometime daunting. Refusal to identify and follow it presents the individual with the colourlessness of life in the wilderness – heralding a lifetime of gloom projected towards doom. It is always a wonder, mystery and attestation of God’s unequalled power when death gently puts out the candles, shuts down the rainbow spectrum, leaving a canvas of a sunset, heralding the end of a life that is on proven account so resourceful and impactful to humanity.

It is indeed incomprehensible, the shock that builds a critical mass in the mind on account of the inevitability of our mortality, a reality instructive in shaping our sensibility about the vanity of this world. However, some people live to die while some die to live in memories, a clear narrative of human generational transcending. Thus a pleasant journey that life ought to be may turn to a journey in tribulations! The colour of life is a brilliant and sparkling image that glitters in the face of the individual whose tiny eyes could pick that beautiful path of life among many confusing alternatives, with doggedness and conviction that choice could be modified, with perseverance the individual berths on the habour of success and happiness.

I stand tall to affirm that words cannot comprehensively express the mercurial journey of this great icon of intelligence, sophistry and selflessness. This iconic figure spent greater part of his career in search of freedom for the oppressed and sometimes hapless and helpless to ensure they are not hopeless – his beneficiaries include women and young people. No doubt the shock wave that came with the sad news of the demise of Professor Osotimehin who passed on to eternal glory on Sunday June 4, 2017 in New York is still vibrating among those of us who were fortunate to encounter this great Nigerian. He was a workaholic and gifted advocate for the advancement of women and young people and indeed humanity as a whole.

Prof Osotimehin’s episodic sojourn on mother earth and the quality of life he lived immortalises him as a great leader who impacted on many. His footprints of service to the world remain indelible! He possessed a distinctive life force that directed his will power for practical fulfillment of his social activities and life ambitions. In fact, his rise to power was gradual and this was propelled by the zeal to serve humanity beyond doubts. He will be particularly remembered for his brilliance, loyalty to his family and friends, exceptional command of ethos, empathy, especially for women and young people. He would also be remembered for his ever-flowing sense of courtesy, advocacy skill and penchant for societal development. Little wonder then that he earned such an epithet as ‘advocacy colossus’.

I recall his mentorship along with Prof. Janice Olawoye in my FLD years as a MacArthur Grantee in my journey into Reproductive Health Education mission in Niger State. He was very supportive and on September 16, 1999, he joined Prof. Janice Olawoye and Dr. Kole Shettima, the Country Director, Mac Arthur Foundation on my advocacy visit to the then Governor of Niger State, Late Engr. A. A. Kure represented by the then Deputy Governor, Dr. Shem Zagbayi Nuhu along with Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr. Idris Mohammed.

He will live on in our memories truly as a great honourable development worker and true leader.

Prof. Yahaya is of the Department of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development, University of Ibadan