Gambari: As I Know Him

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Prof Ibrahim Gambari

By Lekan Fadina

The aim of this piece is to congratulate, share my views on the man we both have mutual respect for each other for our interest in development matters and offer my humble advice to him on his new assignment as the Chief of Staff to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

I have known Prof. Ambassador Ibrahim Agboola Gambari for almost three decades.
Our paths crossed in the early part of 2003 when the advisory board of the Centre for Investment, Sustainable Development, Management and Environment (CISME) – with Prof. Thomas Adeoye Lambo as Chairman and distinguished Nigerians and foreigners as members – decided to invite him as the Guest Speaker at the 3rd CISME Distinguished Guest Lecturer in November 2003. It was responsibility as the Centre’s Executive Director to implement this decision.

I discussed with one of my mentors – late Prof. Gabriel O. Olusanya, who was also the chairman of the Centre’s Academic Committee. He gave me the contact of Prof. Gambari and advised me to discuss with him and explain to him about the template set by Professor O.O Akinkugbe and Jubril Aminu who were previous speakers in the lecture series.

I was able to get him on the phone and he told me that I should get back to him within the week to confirm if he would be able to accept the invitation.
He called me after four days and suggested that, to facilitate our plans, he introduced me to one of his friends who would be contact.

Anytime I felt worried because of the delay that we may not be able to keep to the schedule there was always a soothing comment from Professor Gambari: “don’t worry it will happen.” I got a call from Prof. Gambari few days before the event assuring me that he would be at the event at least half an hour before the event.

He kept to his words; he gave a beautiful, thought provoking lecture on “Nigeria Development Issues” in which he postulated on the challenges, opportunities and the future perspectives.
The CISME 3rd distinguished lecture also witnessed the conferment and presentations of Fellowship to four Distinguished Nigerians: Professor Thomas Adeoye Lambo, Prof. O.O Akinkugbe, Prof. Umaru Shehu, Prof. Gabriel O. Olusanya and A.C. I Mbanefo.

The event opened a new vista in our relationship which has remained till today. We have shared experiences and benefited from each other in advancing sustainable development and knowledge as the heart of development.

I know him to be cool, calculated, humble, respectable, highly cerebral and focused. He is a well-groomed diplomat, teacher, former minister, researcher and international civil servant.
He is widely known, respected within the diplomatic and international community for his outstanding performances. He is an outstanding scholar who has delivered many papers on various topics. He has spoken in different fora about international relations, Nigeria unity, harnessing Nigeria great potentials, diversification of Nigeria economy, cultural diversity, religion and authority.

He believes that every Nigerian has the right as the other person and as such respect for one’s right and maintenance of a disciplined society. He frowned at the abuse of public office and to him service to humanity is the greatest service of man.

He believes that leaders must show by examples and deal with the people with fairness. He believes in conversation, sharing knowledge and intellectual discourse as an instrument of involving participation from the bottom of the pyramid.

He believes that Nigeria must take its proper place in Africa and play a key role in the Africa Continental Free Trade which he sees as the next frontier of development.
To him, Nigeria should move from potential to reality as the leader in all aspect of development. He believes that we must make a paradigm shift in the Nigeria project through knowledge and technology, shaping policies and actions that address specific challenges and gaps impacting investors, enterprises, human capital and society.

Professor Gambari like two Secretary-General of the United Nations – Bouhtrous Ghali and Kofi Annan, both Africans – believes that “there cannot be development without peace and durable peace without sustainable development” (Late Boutrous Ghali) and Late Kofi Annan “There would neither be peace nor development without respect for human rights and democracy”.

On education, he is a disciple of “education for survival and competitiveness in a globalised world where education for peace, for citizenship, entrepreneurship and job creation rather than education for government unemployment alone”. In this regard he believes that there is a need for a new educational curriculum that emphasises technology, science, digitalisation, innovation, peace and nation building. He shares Nelson Mandela’s “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

He holds the view that the private sector has a pivotal role to play in bringing about development, sustainable development, sustainable peace and human security. He believes that “the true business of business is to stay in business while the public sector is expected to enact sound policies and law to support the enduring interest of the business. Business leaders must be actively involved in the processes that promote an environment conducive to development, peace, security and violent-free world.

Professor Gambari has mentored many especially those in the fields of international relations, diplomacy, peace and strategic studies. He takes delight in helping to build confidence and engage in conversation as to their road to professionalism.

He brings into his new assignment an impressive record of service to Nigeria, the United Nations and humanity. He is a valuable resource that can help to advance development knowledge and sustainable livelihood. In short, he should use the resources available to him to advance the course of the society.

He has a wide network of contacts and friends that can be useful to him in his assignment. Professor Gambari is a man of simple disposition and taste that has attained many recognitions and received numerous awards.

I believe that he will bring his vast knowledge and connections to bear on his present assignment to help the President as he continues to lead the country in these difficult times made even more so by COVID-19, low oil prices, insecurity and the like.

I strongly believe that he is well-prepared and can seamlessly navigate the road ahead.
My advice as a brother and friend is that people expect so much from you. My late father advised me “You must excel to the extent that those who oppose you, will turn round and praise you for your efforts”; “when two brothers enter a room and they come out smiling, then they have failed to tell each other the truth”.

You have made your name, have a global reputation and respect which you must protect. The challenge to you and your team is to leave footprints on the sand of time. It can be done.

History and posterity are waiting to record your performances; I pray to God that you will finish well. However, remember that leadership means that you must carry everyone along, let Nigeria buy into the President’s vision of raising the bar and making the society better than you met it.
I congratulate you and once again commit you to the gracious hands of the Almighty and pray that the world will remember you for the lives you touch.

Prince Fadina is Managing Director, Knowledge Hub, Nigeria