Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has expressed shock and sadness over the death of the Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and former Minister of Health, Professor Babatunde Osotimehin.
This is even as the Minster of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, has described the death of Osotimehin as one that will remain indelible in the minds of many Nigerian as well as in the health sector.
A statement issued by Dr. Babajide Osotimehin, on behalf of the family, on Monday, said the former Director General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), died on Sunday at the age of 68.
Though the cause of his death was not disclosed, a family member of the late professor of medicine, however, said he died in his New York home while watching television.
Lamenting the passage of the late Osotimehin, the Presidency quoted Osinbajo as saying that, “On behalf of the people and Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Prof. Osinbajo extends heartfelt condolences to his wife, children and entire family over the passage of their beloved father, grandfather and also an illustrious Nigerian”.
The acting president also condoled with the officials of the UNFPA and the entire UN system on the demise of a very remarkable international public servant, who served passionately, diligently and worked tirelessly at the global and national stages to reduce maternal mortality and promote universal access to reproductive health.
Reacting, Prof. Isaac Adewole, Minister of Health, said Osotimehin’s immense intelligence no doubt contributed to the growth of the health sector as well as in the reduction of maternal mortality in the country.
Adewole said: “We mourn the passage of a complete gentleman, committed physician, astute administrator and lover of women and girls. He promoted reproductive health and rights to the last minute.”
Dr. Chinonyerem Onyema of Federal Medical Centre, Keffi, also described his death as a shock to the medical community.
His words: “He is one of a person that gave his best to the medical world. He left a lot of legacies on ground that many are benefiting from today. He will be remembered by House officers, resident doctors, consultants as well as other medical personnel for his accessibility and pioneering better salary for medical and para-medical personnel.”
The Daily Times recalls that the late Osotimehin was Nigeria’s minister of health from December 2008 to March 2010.
Prior to his appointment as Health minister, Osotimehin was chairman, National Action Committee on AIDS (NACA).
As chairman of the National Action Committee on AIDS (NACA), he oversaw the development of systems that, today, manage more than US$1billion. During his tenure as Project Manager for the World-Bank assisted HIV/AIDS Programme Development Project from 2002–2008, he achieved great success.
Until his death, the 68-year-old was also the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
According to sources at the UNFPA, his death was announced at the Nigerian office of the UN body on Monday morning.
“With gratitude to the Almighty God for a life well-spent in service to Humanity, the Babatunde Osotimehin Family of Ijebu-Igbo, Ogun State of Nigeria, hereby announces the transition of our Father and Grandfather, Professor Babatunde Osotimehin (OON), the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on Sunday, 4th June, 2017 at the age of 68 years. “Funeral Arrangements will be announced by the family”, his family said via a statement on Monday.
During his lifetime, Osotimehin was dedicated to gender, youth and maternal health issues. His last personal tweet alive was for “protecting the health and rights of women and their babies”, which he said “is vital to protecting our shared future”.
Prior to his appointment as the minister, Osotimehin was the Director-General, Nigerian National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), and project manager for the World-Bank assisted HIV/AIDS programme development project.
He intended before his death to start a Husbands’ school in Nigeria, after the model seen in Niger Republic.
Osotimehin, who hailed from Ijebu Igbo, Ogun state, was born on February 6, 1949. He attended Igbobi College in Lagos in the late 1960s, before moving on to the United Kingdom, where he had his university education.
He was appointed on November 19, 2010, as the Executive Director of UNFPA for a four-year term and assumed the position on January 1, 2011.
He was reappointed to this position on August 21, 2014, to become the organisation’s fourth executive director.
He holds the rank of Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Osotimehin’s interests included youth and gender, within the context of reproductive health and rights. When he was appointed, he said young people would be his special focus at UNFPA.
Osotimehin held various positions prior to the UNFPA appointment, including: African Spokesperson, Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Minister of Health, Nigeria, December 2008 – March 2010.
After his appointment as UNFPA Executive Director, effective 2011, he spearheaded efforts by the international community to advance the milestone consensus of the International Conference on Population and Development, held in Cairo in 1994.
In his second term in office in 2015, the vibrant Osotimehin introduced various new reforms that increased the effectiveness and efficiency of UNFPA and outlined a more robust vision for improving the lives of women, adolescents and youth around the world. His leadership and advocacy with governments and other key stakeholders continued to focus on youth and voluntary family planning. He also, until his death, steered UNFPA’s humanitarian action and efforts around eliminating gender-based violence and other harmful practices.
Osotimehin bagged the Nigerian national honour, Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON), in December 2005. He is survived by a wife, five children and three grandchildren.