By Akinboye Akinsola.
Many call you Mama Diaspora, some describe you as a Political Amazon, while some others call you a Wonder Woman, but you are much more than these. I fondly call you “Mummy”, because that is who you truly are.
You have held with grace and awe your role as the Chairman/CEO of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), and for the years that I have worked under you, all I see in you every day is your passion for humanity, makes things happen, to wipe tears off people’s faces, to build others up even when they think there is nothing left for them.
How do I describe your love for people, both known and unknown? How do I describe you going all out to resolve issues that sometimes seem to defy all solutions? Your manner of dissecting complicated matters never ceases to amaze me. I sometimes ask myself what type of person you are. You wouldn’t sleep if there was an issue that needed to be attended to, you work round the clock as if you were some superhuman. Maybe you are!
When people say angels live among us, you are an example of that statement. You embody selflessness, clothed in humility, adorned with courage. Mummy, you are not an ordinary leader.
As a young boy, I keenly watched you dish out the daily news on TV, with your graceful and soothing voice. From that distance, I did admire your personality, never knew I would work under you someday, never knew that the heavens would make our paths cross.
Mama Diaspora with passion and energy, your ability to remember things and pay attention to details should be studied as a course. You are the busiest, yet you are the first to celebrate every member of your staff on their birthday or other important life occasions. You carry staff members along, entrusting them with important tasks while guiding them through at the same time. I don’t know how many bosses do that.
Even when you are on vacation, your passion and commitment to the job at hand make you still attend to some duties, all because you want us to succeed. No wonder you have in your closet over 1,000 local and international awards. I can’t list all of them here, for one would need pages upon pages to achieve the job.
But permit me to list some of them here:
• Educate Africa Institute (EAI) Merit Award, 2021
• Centre for Ethics and Self Value Orientation Award as Integrity Icon of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Gold Medalist in Public Administration, 2021
• FOI Award of Excellence, 2021
• Ansar-ud-deen Youth Association (ADYAN) Northern States Council Congress Merit Award, 2021
• Global Excellence Award by Afroglobal television, Toronto, Canada
• The 2021 NEWS DIRECT Award of Excellence for Exemplary leadership by News Direct Newspaper
• The Most Outstanding Female-led Head of a Government Federal Agency, a Guardian Award as part of the Guardian’s Women’s Day Summit, 2021
• Royal Award by the Ayangburen of Ikorodu Kingdom, His Royal Majesty, Oba Kabir Adewale Shotobi
• Award of Excellence by His Excellency, Dr. Benson Alfred Bana, the Tanzania Ambassador to Nigeria, 2021
• Induction into the Center For Black and African Arts and Civilisation’s (CBAAC) Black and African Hall of Fame, 2021
• The Guardian’s Award for the ‘Most Outstanding Female-led Federal Commission, 2021
• The Frontline Defender Award for Human Rights and Sustainable Development by Drum Major of Social Justice and Awards, 2021
• ThisDay Style Magazine’s list of ’50 Women We Admire: Titans of Our Time’ (Mother’s Day Edition 2021)
• Donald M Payne (US House of Reps) Award and Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition
• Most Productive Female Representative of the Year 2010 by Igbogbo Community in Ikorodu
• African Parliamentary Award, Committee Chairman of the Decade, 2010
• Catholic Youths Organisation of Nigeria (CYON), Garki Deanery Award, 2010, and
• First National Waves Gold Award for Achievers as the Best House of Rep Member of the Year, 2008.
Working as the NIDCOM Chairman/CEO, I have seen you execute tasks with your resources with Zero budget, yet you wouldn’t complain. You even used your private car in your first year in office, yet you got on with the job. You have worked at giving Nigeria a credible image through absolute openness and transparency. Your relentless advocacy for justice and fairness for Nigerians abroad have been noted here and across the globe.
Amidst several national and international engagements, you are always quick to respond to humanitarian issues, which I believe is why under you, NIDCOM has, with assistance from other agencies, successfully carried out the evacuations of stranded Nigerians, especially our girls, from countries like Libya, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt, South Africa,Turkey, etc.
Through the way you have impactful engagement and administration, some Nigerians on death row have been rescued and those in trouble have been given succour. NIDCOM has suddenly become an office Nigerians are proud of today.
When issues happen, they quickly tag you and the commission on social media, and despite your busy schedule, you always find time to respond to them. This is a prime example of people having confidence in you and the commission.
Since the beginning of the administration of our dear President Muhammadu Buhari, you have on numerous occasions intervened in the rescue and justice-seeking for Nigerians affected by xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
In 2019, I remember how tirelessly you worked to rescue two students of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), Abia Alexandro Uchenna and Eboh Kenneth Chinedu, from a refugee camp in Bosnia when the duo traveled for an international table tennis competition in Croatia. Before this incident, your intervention in the attacks on Nigerian traders in Ghana was also publicly noticed.
In 2020, I also remember the role you played to rescue two Nigerians, Adams John, and Victor Obialu, who were stranded in Kenya as a result of irregular migration and visa overstay. In the same year, your interventions led to the rescue of singers Omah Lay and Tems when they were arrested in Uganda.
Most recently, your leadership at NIDCOM, coupled with partnerships with other local and international agencies, led to the evacuation of hundreds of Nigerians living and studying in Ukraine, when the country was invaded by Russia, we stayed out in the midnight waiting for their arrival, you are an Amazon that never gets tired of waiting to rescue Nigerians in distress.
Mummy, Hon (Dr) Abike Dabiri-Erewa (OON), today is a great day. First, your conferment of the Order of the Niger (OON) by the President and second, your diamond birthday. As you celebrate these two milestones today, 11 October 2022, may God keep you happy and healthy always – for your family and friends, all of us at NIDCOM, our great party the All Progressives Congress (APC), and our great country, Nigeria!
Akinsola Akinboye writes from Abuja.