By Felicia Imohimi/Cecilia Ologunagba
Abuja, July 14, 2017 (NAN) The Dean of Diplomatic Corps, Mr Salaheddine Ibrahima, (Cameroon High Commission) has described the late Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin as an indefatigable voice of Africa in championing maternal and child health in the continent.
Ibrahim said this at the memorial service organised for the deceased by UN system in Nigeria on Friday in Abuja.
Osotimehin, who until his death was the Executive Director of UN Population Fund (UNFPA), died on June 4 in Harrison, New York at 68.
Ibrahima, represented by Prof. Al-Hassan Conteh, Ambassador of Liberia to Nigeria, said the late Osotimehin was also one of the towering figures that stood in troubled waters of global health.
He said that the deceased was a rear gem to humanity, a physician and an advocate of reproductive health rights as well as champion for youths and gender issues.
The diplomat, who made reference to Osotimehin’s efforts in the fight against HIV and AIDS, said the world would miss his advocacy work against AIDS pandemic.
Ibrahima said that the late icon was a true national and international public servant.
“ Prof. Osotimehin made remarkable contributions when he served as the Minister of Health between 2008 and 2010.
“He was able to unite the 36 states of federation to build a national health plan, focusing on primary healthcare when he was a minister.
“Through his work and priorities at the UNFPA, we now have a better and clearer understanding of the demographic dividend. He pushed for demographic dividend through investment in young people,’’ he said.
Ibrahima further said the late Osotimehin lived his life for others by always advocating for the well being of every segment of the society, especially the vulnerable.
“He was a great soul, he had written his name in the golden book of history and left lasting impression on the lives of people from diverse social and economic persuasions.’’
Also, Dr Noma Owens-Ibe, President, UN Staff Association in Nigeria (FUNSAN) said Osotimehin was a teacher to the members of the association in spite of the height he had attained.
Owens-Ibe said that Osotimehin taught the members the rudiments, the complex issues in programming, life, complex issues of managing persons, professional matters they used to undergo on a daily basis.
“I remember many times on his Pathfinder Car he had to stop to talk to ordinary people.
“ I remember him seating in New York, keeping tab on personal development of people all over the world, especially in Nigeria.
“He was a big man but for us he was a father, big brother, an uncle and a mentor,’’ he said.
Similarly, the UNFPA Representative in Nigeria, Ms Diena Keita, also described the deceased as a friend to the staff and was determined to see a world where no woman died giving life.
Keita said the deceased was also committed to the development of the youth and the best way they could harness their potential.
The UNFPA representative in Nigeria said that while mourning Osotimehin, the organisation found solace in the fact that he left good legacies.
“He lives on in memories and our commitment is not to give up the good fight for every woman, adolescent and youth who need our support to live right.
“It gives us hope that the cause he lived and died for will forever remain alive.
‘’This is even as each and every one of us resolve to see a world where no woman dies giving life and all young people fulfil their potential.
“At every point of his life, he left us with no doubt that members of staff of the organisation were very special and he was committed to ensure that no woman dies,’’ she said.
Keita said that the late icon took the risk and ran the extra miles in championing the cause of advocacy for the persons living with HIV and AIDS.
“He resolved to rise above every challenge even in the face of dwindling resources.
“He worked so hard not only to mobilise resources of the organisation but also to ensure that no one lost his job.
`In one way or the other, he touched the lives of every one of us and always advised those he worked and served with, at the lowest level,’’ she said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Osotimehin was once Nigerian Minister of Health, Director-General National Agency for the Control of AIDS.
He was awarded the Nigerian National Order, Officer of the Niger for his meritorious service to humanity.
The Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, his health counterpart, Prof. Adewole Isaac, diplomats and other stakeholders said Osotimehin made Nigeria proud in his life time.
“We are here not to mourn but to celebrate a great Nigerian life. A former Minister of Health, who dedicated his life not only to our father land but also to humanity,” he said.
It was not surprising that international community appointed him as Executive Director of United Nations Population Fund.
“I want to place it on record, our immense gratitude to the international community for giving him the opportunity to serve the world in the capacity as Executive Director and Under Secretary of UN.
“He ensured that medical institutions in Nigeria treat gun shots and accident victims before any other thing. ”He was an advocate of reproductive health and rights,” Onyeama said.
The health Minister said: “Osotimehin was a mentor and a boss. As we grief with the family, we will also take solace in the legacy the man left behind.
The Wife of the President, Mrs Aisha Buhari, in a message, said that the late Osotimehin was a pillar and mentor to the emergence of her pet project, “Future Assured Programme”.
She said that the project was impacting positively on the lives of women, children and the less privileged.
Other dignitaries at the ceremony include the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr Kayode Fayemi, Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, Minister of State for Health and members of staff of UN.
Edited by Ify Omowole/Dada Ahmed