By Abdur-Rahman Balogun
The name Hon. Kafayat Oloruntoyin Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) is a household name in Nigeria and in the Diaspora. It is a name that means many things to many people. In the course of her sojourn on the surface of the earth since Oct. 11, 1962, it has been a harvest of sobriquet of names occasioned by her diligence, competence, intelligence, eloquence, substance and submissiveness to the will of her Creator, Allah.
This ambivalence God- given nature of Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, whom I named ADE, made me to be at a loss on what else can one write on this amazing woman at 58. But, two recent striking events informed my choice of thought on what to write about her.
First of which is her participation in five diaspora webinars on Saturday Oct. 3, 2020, especially the one hosted by the Nigeria Council of Muslims Organisations UK/Ireland as the special guest of honour on the concept of leadership in Islam. This was a programme put together by thousands of Muslims, who were Nigerians in the Diaspora in UK/Ireland to mark 60th anniversary of Nigeria. In the advertised poster, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa was robed in an Islamic wear adorning hijab and this became a subject of debate on a platform I belong whether she still identified herself with Islam, as a Muslim, or not? I decided not to respond therein despite the fact that four members of the platform drew my attention to it. I just smiled at their ignorance and prayed that there would be an opportunity in future to speak about it. Allah says in Chapter 2 verse 263 thus:
“Kind words & forgiving of faults are better than Sadaqah (charity) followed by injury. And Allah is Rich (Free of all needs) & He is Most-Forbearing” .
Even though, Hijab is part and parcel of Islam as attested to in many verses of the Quran, it doesn’t qualify one for hell fire in as much as one upholds the five pristine pillars of Islam which is believing in oneness of Allah and His Prophets, observing Solat (Prayers), payment of zakat, fasting in the month of Ramadan and performing Hajj in one’s lifetime. All these, I can vouchsafe for Hon. Kafayat Abike Dabiri-Erewa that she is not deficient in living up to expectations. Allah says again in Qur’an 49 verse 13 thus :…
verily, the most honourable in the sight of Allah, is he who fears Him”*. It is only Allah who knows those who worship Him secretly and in the open.
My second inspiration came from a list of topics I chose for myself to pick from and when I subjected it to internal opinion poll with my colleagues in my unit, 95 per cent of them advised me to pick Abike @ 58: the other side of an Amazon.
The question begging for an answer is who then is an Amazon and why will ADE qualify as the Amazon of our time?
An Amazon, according to dictionary meaning, “is a big, strong, warrior-like woman, someone who reminds you of the mythical Greek women-warriors, the Amazons”.
Going through Hon. ADE, lifetime, her birth and family background, parentage, education, choice of Journalism and political career, through her family life and now a global phenomenon in the Diaspora, it is very apt to describe her as an Amazon indeed.
Three instances will suffice here that qualifies this ageless grandma as an Amazon of our time.
While at NTA, as a Corrrespondent specialising in investigative journalism, she spent eight good years of her 15 years in NTA then to investigate Mary, the miracle baby, which was claimed by three different mothers and ensured the resolution of the matter by reuniting the baby with her original and biological mother. She didn’t stop at that, she also ensured that the girl was enlisted among the 300 children on her scholarship scheme up to university level. Mary is now a graduate and has completed the mandatory one year youth service programme of the NYSC.
Similarly, out of the 12 years of three terms she spent in the parliament, House of Representatives representing Ikorodu Federal Constituency from 2003 to 2015, she led the sponsorship of Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission Bill then, with other stakeholders among other bills, for over eight years from 2007 to 2015 until the bill was finally assented to by Mr President in June 2017.
The last one here is the warrior and magic-like style with which she is directing the affairs of the newly established Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) within a year of its establishment as if it has been in existence for over a decade. Inspite of the paucity of funds, lack of office accommodation and challenges occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, a list of over 46 achievements, and still counting, were recorded.
Apart from over 350 national and global awards to her credit, she received many tributes and accolades recently by her admirers on her wonderful and amazing performance at the young Commission which earned her this applause from a defence analyst and an International Relations expert, Omooba Rasheed Adesokan on reading the long list of achivements within a year:
“Absolutely true, and this has nothing to do with blowing one’s trumpet, but merely informing we Nigerians about an unusual successful story of a member of the MDAs quietly making waves in a terrain where such is rare.
What stunned the nay sayers (initially including this writer) was that besides, good command of English language, nice dress sense and physical attractiveness, where is her degree in International Relations, Diplomacy or Strategic Studies, without which we so wrong assume she certainly could not fly in that office?
But her exceptional performance has made us all ate our humble pie and we have since become her admirers.
With admirable tact (beautifully deployed when her office was entered), first class interpersonal relationship and implicit support and confidence of Mr President, she has not only met but even exceeded the expectations of most Nigerians. The space, and not the sky is the limit though. She Infact reminded us all of late Major-General Joseph Garba, the Diplomatic Soldier, who performed so well as Nigeria’s External Affairs Minister, without an academic degree in related fields. We pray she scores more successes, while not allowing distraction from unrefined small-minded people becloud her goals and vision for this great Country, Nigeria”.
It is Napoleon who said,
The world suffers a lot. not because of the violence of bad people, but because of the silence of good people!
Abike has been speaking up for the voiceless, has been fighting for the powerless and has been helping the helpless in the society. She is truly “mother Theresa of our time “.
Above quote wraps up the personality called Abike whom my corps-member colleague, Rosemary Moribirin, describes as:
All these accolades suit her as she adds another year on the surface of the earth on October 11. Happy Birthday Madam. May Allah (Subanahu Wah Taala) continue to elevate you and grant you your heart desires. Aameen.
Abdur-Rahman Balogun is the Head, Media and Public Relations Unit, NIDCOM Abuja.
Oct. 10, 2020.