✕ CLOSE Online Special City News Entrepreneurship Environment Factcheck Everything Woman Home Front Islamic Forum Life Xtra Property Travel & Leisure Viewpoint Vox Pop Women In Business Art and Ideas Bookshelf Labour Law Letters

My Big Brother Gambari Turns 78

This year will be the last year in which Professor Ibrahim Gambari, CFR, will celebrate his birthday while serving as the Chief of Staff to…

This year will be the last year in which Professor Ibrahim Gambari, CFR, will celebrate his birthday while serving as the Chief of Staff to Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, unless the next President retains him. So it is with a great sense of nostalgia for what will be missed after his tenure that I gratefully submit this offering of a tribute to the good professor.

I met Professor Gambari sometime in the 1990s while he was serving as Nigeria’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York. He had invited me to his office after he read an article I wrote about him in one of the newspapers in the US. Prior to our meeting, I had followed his career in international affairs. I once served as a Ralphe Bunche Fellow with Amnesty International and three of my intellectual/public servant models were Ibrahim Gambari, George Obiozor and Emeka Anyaoku. I followed Gambari’s tenure as Director General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs in Lagos, and his appointment as the Minister for Foreign Affairs during the first coming of President Muhammadu Buhari. Our first meeting in his expansive office in New York marked the beginning of a mentor/mentee relationship that has lasted until this day.

Chinua Achebe (May his soul rest in peace) told us that one characteristic of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised. In the important virtues of patriotism, service to humanity in general, and excellence in service to Nigeria in particular, Professor Gambari has an unblemished record of refusal to be compromised. Today, November 24, 2021, this grand international statesman and great son of our beloved land turns 78 years old.

In the Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare told us that “some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” In the President’s Chief of Staff, Professor Gambari, we find the rare combination of being born great, achieving remarkable greatness, and occasionally having greatness thrust upon him by events in history.

Born into the Gambari royal family in Kwara State of Nigeria, greatness was and has been part of his DNA. That privileged background would undoubtable avail him of opportunities, but that fact has not been as significant as the fact that through share dints of hard work, intellect and a principled life, Professor Gambari has made great use of those opportunities to accomplish greatness for his nation, the international community, and himself. He is a man who has had a celebrated record of excellence in virtually everything he has touched: Teaching, scholarship, international relations, diplomacy, public administration, philanthropy, nation building, fatherhood, and marriage to the love of his life. However, what has garnered him a global network of younger admirers is the generosity of his time in mentoring professionals and scholars and his very approachable and unassuming style.

Celebrating his 78th birthday today is a man who has minded the affairs of the Nigerian presidency with the kind of finesse and diversity-conscious praxis that has removed the often drama at Nigeria’s center of power and replaced it with the assuring presence of a steady and experienced hand. We have witnessed the thawing of the ice of what was an almost pariah nation, paving the way for Nigeria’s great talents, such as Okonjo Iweala of the World Trade Organization and Akinwumi Adesina of the African Development Bank (to mention only two) get merit-based chances to lead world organizations in ways that make all of us proud.

I relocated to Nigeria in 2020 at the asking of Professor Gambari. “No better time to come home and serve than now,” he told me. After the launching of my book of poems in Owerri in 2020, which Professor Gambari chaired, His Excellency Governor Hope Uzodimma, for whom I had campaigned as a candidate for the Imo State governorship in 2019, asked me not to leave Owerri. The governor’s generous offer to serve in his shared prosperity government is now in its third year.

Happy Birthday to a Senior Homeboy who has led an inspired and an inspiring life. Here is wishing you many more years of contributing to a more perfect union of Nigerian ethnic nationalities, and a more equitable, more just, and more progressive nation for our children and our children’s children!

As-Salaam-Alaikum Big Brother!

The writer, Dr. Ugorji Okechukwu Ugorji, is serving currently as the Imo State Commissioner for Homeland Security and Vigilante Affairs.