Renowned Public Health Doctor Goes Home


Mary Nnah

Friday, July 27, 2018, will remain indelible in the minds of the wife and children of Dr. Gabisiu Ayodele Williams, a day that the renowned doctor passed to the great beyond.

Williams, whose memory will be cherished forever by his family members for the great legacy he left behind, died peacefully in the afternoon of Friday 27 after a short illness.

He is survived by his devoted wife of 54 years, Dr (Mrs) Abisola Williams; his children, Olatoun Williams, Mopelola Bailey and her husband Michael Bailey, Olajide Williams and his wife Bukola Williams, Tunde Williams and his wife Lola Williams, and six grandchildren, Lolade Williams, Damilare Williams-Shires, Tobi Williams, Jonny Bailey, Jimisola Bailey, and Lami Williams.

Late Williams had on September 11, 2017, briefly and memorably attended the occasion of his 80th birthday celebrations, during which, the Gabi Williams Alzheimer’s Foundation (GWAF) was inaugurated by his family in his honour at the Metropolitan Club, Lagos.

This clear and great thinker, a man well-known for his excellent memory and physical health was unexpectedly afflicted with a tragic illness.

In 2008, at Columbia University Medical Centre, Dr Gabi Williams was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is a degenerative condition of the brain which leads to gradual loss of memory, loss of thinking skills and gradual loss of movement.

Final rites for late Williams will commence on Wednesday, August 8, with Service of Songs starting from 5pm at Air Force Officers Mess, Kofo Abayomi Street, Victoria Island, Lagos. On Thursday August 9, there will be Christian Wake Keep at 5pm at Anglican Church of Resurrection, 1004 Flats, Victoria lsland, Lagos.

The funeral service will hold on Friday August 10, at Pavallion Parish of RCCG, Jide Oki Street, Victoria Island while the reception for guests will hold immediately after interment at Air Force Officers Mess, Kofo Abayomi, Victoria Island.

Williams, was born in Lagos on September 11, 1937 to Oseni Williams and Alhaja Wusamot Shobayo. He was educated first at Ansarudeen Primary School, Alakoro, Lagos and later at Methodist Boys’ High School, Lagos.

At both schools, he was known as cheerful, and for being good at maths and sport – table tennis being his preference. He later proceeded to England to take his A levels in one year at Sir John Carrs in London and went on to study medicine at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School, London where he was known and admired for his warm sociability and his infectious laughter.

He was recognised as having strong academic capabilities and graduated in 1963. He earned a post-graduate public health degree at the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore, MD, USA.

Williams held a number of important public appointments, including, among others, Medical Officer of Health, Lagos; Chief Health Officer, Lagos City Council; Director, Disease Control and International Health at the Federal Ministry of Health, a representative of Nigeria on the Executive Boards of WHO and UNICEF, Chairman of UNDP/WORLD BANK/WHO Special Programme of Research and Training on Tropical Diseases, and Chairman of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria.

He also taught public health at the Universities of Lagos and Ibadan and was a Fellow of the Economic Development Institute of the World Bank. He retired voluntarily from the public service in October 1993.

His legacies are many: at the City Council as M.O.H, Williams spearheaded the war against cholera that was decimating lives in Lagos, by means of two major initiatives that were adopted first as Public Health policies in Lagos State and then throughout the states of the Nigerian federation persisting up to today.

At the federal level, Williams established the Environmental and Operational Health Division at the Ministry of Health, Yaba, joining forces futuristically with environmental activists across the globe to ensure the health of industry workers against pollution and the effects of rapid urbanisation.

At the same time as he was at the City Council, he also enjoyed popularity as a radio doctor (public health information), and as a writer, contributing a regular health column to the Daily Times.

He is the author of the highly successful health information book for lay persons “House Doctor” (Health and Medical Problems Explained) and “The Health of the Executive” (Executives’ Health Problems Explained).

During his tenure as Federal Director of Disease Control, he introduced the innovative and popular health of the executive programme, which eventually gave birth, decades later, to his bestselling book, “The Health of the Executive”.

The annual programme, which held for almost seven years, saw leading lights of Nigeria’s industrial, public service and intellectual establishment convening at a retreat held at ASCON, Badagry.

The retreat comprised five days of health check-ups and health counselling, as well as sports and games. He was an active member of the Metropolitan Club where he enjoyed the famous ‘Tuesday Lunch’ and Ikoyi Club 1938 where he enjoyed a good game of golf.