In the course of time, our paths have crossed at many conferences, workshops, seminars and social gatherings. Both of them never cease to amaze me by their intellectual depth and humility. These are individuals who have impacted hundreds of lives, including mine, and yet still stay humble and unassuming.


Give me my Due
Give me what is my rightful due,
While I still live and breathe and love
For little I have of you
When I am called from up above.

No flowers gay upon my bier
Will I require when I am gone
If when I lived there was no cheer
To boost me when my work was done.

So, keep your violets sedate
I’ll have the Roses whilst its bloom
But should you choose to vacillate
Shed not your tears to ease my doom.

– Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, Lincoln University, October 18, 1929.

Last Wednesday, February 12 was a red-letter day within the Nigeria’s civil society and academia. This is because two of their own reached milestone ages. Amina Salihu (PhD) clocked 50 years of age, while Kole Shettima (PhD) also attained 60 years of age. These two kind souls have a lot in common. Aside being birthdate mates, having been born on February 12, they are both academics with doctorate degrees in Political Science, development workers, and are colleagues at MacArthur Foundation, where Kole is the African director and Amina, a senior programme officer. Kole and Amina are both from Northern Nigeria, they are Muslims, mentors, authors, administrators, intellectual juggernauts and very unassuming and selfless individuals.

I met the duo when I was programme manager with Electoral Reform Network way back in 2003. Amina was then programme coordinator and head of Abuja Office of Centre for Democracy and Development. My office and hers were adjacent each other within the Nigerian Office of International Human Rights Law Group, now known as Global Rights, then in the Maitama area of Abuja. Kole and my boss then, Professor Jibrin Ibrahim (Jibo), are close friends and he was a regular visitor to our office.

In the course of time, our paths have crossed at many conferences, workshops, seminars and social gatherings. Both of them never cease to amaze me by their intellectual depth and humility. These are individuals who have impacted hundreds of lives, including mine, and yet still stay humble and unassuming. For those who have benefited from the free copy of my third book, Nigeria: Corruption and Opacity in Governance, which was presented to the Nigerian public on January 16, 2020, the manuscript of this book was edited by Amina Salihu and Ololade Bamidele, while the funding for the publication was from MacArthur Foundation, hence the ability to give out the copies free of charge.

It was no wonder that the hundreds of lives these gentleman and lady have positively touched decided to honour them at a well-attended birthday bash at the prestigious Transcorp Hilton in Abuja last Wednesday. It was a rainbow coalition of sort with dignitaries from all walks of life led by the deputy secretary general of the United Nations, our dear Amina Mohammed, a former minister for Environment of the Federal Republic. The august occasion was chaired by highly cerebral and revered academic, Professor Adele Jinadu. Other very important personalities in attendance include Professors Antonia Taiye Okoosi Simbine and Okey Ibeanu, both of who are national commissioners at the Independent National Electoral Commission. Also present was \the senior special assistant to the INEC chairman, Professor Mohammed Kuna.

I equally sighted, at the event, Professor Jideofor Adibe; Dr. Husseini Abdu, the country director of Planned International; Mr. Anwar Musa Rafsanjani, the executive director of CISLAC; Dr. Otive Igbuzor, founder of Centre LSD, and now chief of staff to the deputy Senate president; Ms. Idayat Hassan, executive director of CDD; Hajia Saudatu Mahdi (MFR), who read the citation of Dr Shettima; Mrs. Ene Obi, the country director of ActionAid Nigeria; Olaranrewaju Suraj of HEDA; Dr. Chris Kwaja; Dr. Ukiwo Ukoha; Dr. Y.Z Yau of CITAD and Mr. Waziri Adio, who is the executive secretary of the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI).

At the celebration of Kole Shettima and Amina Salihu last Wednesday were many media gurus and ace broadcasters, including Ms. Kadaria Ahmed, who was formerly editor at the NEXT newspaper and recently the anchor of The Core on Channels TV; Augustine Okhiria Agbonsuremi, formerly of Raypower, and now executive director of PRIMOG and Mr. VinMartin Ilo formerly of AIT, now founder of Signature TV. The icing on the cake for me at the night of glitz and glamour in honour of Drs. Kole Shettima and Amina Salihu was the meeting of my brother and friend, former editor of THISDAY newspaper, subsisting columnist with THISDAY on Sunday and now publisher of The Cable online newspaper, Simon Kolawole. What a day! What a meeting! What an experience coming in physical contact with someone you admire and have been in virtual communication with for over a decade. Many thanks to Waziri Adio for the introduction.

My prayers to Kole at 60 and Amina at 50 is that may Allah continue to guide you both, crown your noble efforts with resounding success and meet you both at your point of needs. Cheers!

Jide Ojo, the executive director of OJA Development Consult, is an author and public affairs analyst.