Jide Ojo pays tribute to Salihu and Shettima, academics and development workers

Give me my Due

Give me what is my rightful due,

While I still live and breathe and love

For little I have of you

When I am called from up above.

No flowers gay upon my bier

Will I require when I am gone

If when I lived there was no cheer

To boost me when my work was done.

So, keep your violets sedate

I’ll have the Roses whilst its bloom

But should you choose to vacillate

Shed not your tears to ease my doom.

Dr Nnamdi Azikwe, Lincoln University, 18 October 1929.

February 12, 2020 was a red-letter day among Nigeria’s Civil Society and the academia. This is because two of their own reached milestone ages. Amina Salihu, PhD clocked 50 years while Kole Shettima, PhD also attained 60 years. These two kind souls have a lot in common. Aside being birthdate mates having been born on February 12, they are both academics with doctorate degrees in Political Science, development workers, and are colleagues at MacArthur Foundation where Kole is the African Director and Amina is Senior Program Officer. Kole and Amina are both from Northern Nigeria, they are Muslims, mentors, authors, administrators, intellectual juggernauts and very unassuming and selfless individuals.

I met the duo when I was Programme Manager with Electoral Reform Network way back in 2003. Amina was then programme coordinator and head of Abuja Office of Centre for Democracy and Development. My office and hers were adjacent to each other at the Nigerian Office of International Human Rights Law Group now known as Global Rights then at Maitama area of Abuja. Kole and my boss then, Professor Jibrin Ibrahim (Jibo) are close friends and he was a regular visitor to our office.

In the course of time, our path crossed at many conferences, workshops, seminars and social gatherings. Both of them never cease to amaze me by their intellectual depth and humility. These are individuals who have impacted hundreds of lives including mine and yet still stayed humble and unassuming. For those who have benefited from the free copy of my third book, “Nigeria: Corruption and Opacity in Governance” which was presented to the Nigerian public on January 16, 2020, the manuscript of that book was edited by Amina Salihu and Ololade Bamidele while the publication was funded by MacArthur Foundation hence the ability to give out the copies free of charge.

It was no wonder that hundreds of lives these gentleman and lady have positively touched decided to honour them at a well-attended birthday bash at the prestigious Transcorp Hilton in Abuja recently. It was a rainbow coalition of sort with dignitaries from all walks of life led by the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, our dear Amina Mohammed, former Minister for Environment. The august occasion was chaired by highly cerebral and revered academic, Prof. Adele Jinadu. Other important personalities in attendance include Prof. Antonia Taiye Okoosi Simbine and Prof. Okey Ibeanu, both of whom are national commissioner at the Independent National Electoral Commission; there was also the Senior Special Assistant to INEC chairman, Prof. Mohammed Kuna.

I also sighted Prof. Jideofor Adibe, Dr. Husseini Abdu, Country Director of Planned International. Mr. Anwar Musa Rafsanjani, the Executive Director of CISLAC, Dr. Otive Igbuzor, founder of Centre LSD now Chief of Staff to Deputy Senate President; Ms. Idayat Hassan, Executive Director of CDD; Hajia Saudatu Mahdi, MFR who read the citation of Dr Shettima; Mrs. Ene Obi who is the Country Director of ActionAid Nigeria, Olarenwaju Suraj of HEDA. Dr. Chris Kwaja, Dr. Ukiwo Ukoha, Dr. Y.Z Yau of CITAD and Mr. Waziri Adio who is the Executive Secretary of Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative.

At the celebration of Kole Shettima and Amina Salihu were media gurus and ace broadcasters including Ms. Kadaria Ahmed who was a former editor at NEXT newspaper and recently the anchor of The Core on Channels TV; Augustine Okhiria Agbonsuremi formerly of Raypower now ED of PRIMOG and Mr. VinMartin Ilo, formerly of AIT now founder of Signature TV. The icing on the cake for me at the night of glitz and glamour was the meeting of my brother and friend former editor of THISDAY newspaper, and publisher of The Cable online newspaper, Simon Kolawole. What a day! What a meeting! What an experience coming in physical contact with someone you admire and had been in virtual communication with for over a decade. Thanks Waziri Adio for the introduction.

Truth be told, these two Nigerians, Kole Shettima and Amina Salihu are deserving of national honours for their contributions to national development. My prayers to Kole at 60 and Amina at 50 is that may Allah continue to guide you both, crown your noble efforts with resounding success and meet you both at your point of needs.

Jide is the Executive Director of OJA Development Consult, author and Public Affairs Analyst