Impugning the Integrity of Prof. Ibrahim Gambari
I am compelled to straighten some facts regarding recent vicious attacks on
the person of Prof. Ibrahim Agboola Gambari, as I seem to have been the
catalyst who caused these criminal attacks to be
made against him. Especially if it
is true that somebody wrote that, ""it was him [Amb. Gambari] and the Military
Attaché to the Nigeria Government who organized the burning down of the home
of foremost pro-democracy activist, Jumoke Ogunkeyede." This is a very very
serious charge, and whoever made such a statement needs to substantiate it, the
person needs to go to the New York Fire Department to make such a charge.
Admittedly, Prof. Gambari is a public figure, but to accuse him of carrying out
a arson where lives of innocent Nigerians are involved (Jumoke Ogunkeyede has
two beautiful daughters), is the height of irresponsibility especially if made
without corrobarative evidence. We all love freedom of expression, we all
love to read whatever we want to read without hindrance, but to encourage
character assassinations without evidence is not the foundation under which
journalistic ethics is built.
Chief Jumoke Ogunkeyede is a friend of mine. In fact, he has served as my
deputy to many organizations we have founded together. After many attempts, I
have just been able to get him on the phone. I asked him about the statement
that he (Gambari organized the burning of his house). He denied the statement,
although he said he still insists on accusing retired Brigadier-General Marwa
(then Military Adviser at the Nigerian Mission).
Prof. Ibrahim Gambari is also a friend of mine. Despite all the accolades of
qualifications he has accumulated under hard work, and despite his royal
pedigree, Prof. Gambari is one of the humblest
individuals I have come across. As
a Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations, Gambari did not
distinguish between being a Permanent Representative and Ambassador of Nigeria
to the U.S., Washington, DC. He attended all events Nigerians invited him,
and joined many parades Africans organized. He attended meetings of Africans,
areas that other Permanent Representatives would have rejected to attend
viewing this as the purview of Ambassadors in
Washington, DC or Consuls-General in
It was under his Pan-Africanist credentials that I, as Chairman of the
Celebrate Africa Foundation, went to Prof.
Gambari about three weeks ago, to invite
him to the screening of the genocidal movie "Hotel Rwanda," which CAF had
partnered with the Medgar Evers College to show
on June 12th, during the College's
35th Anniversary as well as Barnes and Noble which sponsored the event.
Prof. Gambari's answer was "if I am in town I
would certainly come." Apart from
being a member of the Board of Directors of Celebrate Africa Foundation, as
well as some of his Ambassadorial colleagues, I
had also extended the invitation
to Prof. Gambari as Nigeria was a member of the Security Council in 1994
during which the atrocities occurred, and I felt
he was in a position to explain to
the audience the insider views of why the United Nations didn't intervene
decisively during the butchering of Rwandans.
Earlier as well, Prof. Gambari had agreed to be the first guest of my
"FIREWORKS" with Chika Onyeani under our AllAfricaRadio in New York on the WPAT
930-AM Radio. Luckily, Prof. Gambari had some
respite from traveling, and so he
participated on my august broadcast of June 3, 2005 which is broadcast at 9:00
I was therefore surprised when ten days ago, the office of the President of
Medgar Evers College called my Associate and V.P. for Events for the Celebrate
Africa Foundation, informing her that some people had contacted his office,
threatening to protest Ambassador Gambari's invitation. First of all, Prof.
Gambari was not even sure that he would be in
town, so how could the information
have come from the United Nations and I didn't divulge that information to
anybody not because of anything other than than
confirmations had not been made.
However, I assured the College that I was used to people threatening to
protest some of my events only to get there and see the threatener with two
homeless people he had paid to be there with him. The college felt reassured.
Early on Friday, the 10th of June, Prof. Gambari called me and asked whether
I wanted to hear the good news or bad news first. And I said to myself, "oh,
oh, he isn't coming." I was mortified because the Rwandan Permanent
Representative had already been called to the G8
meeting in Britain by his government,
and I felt it would be a washout if the two main Ambassadors were absent.
However, Prof. Gambari proceeded to give me the good news first - his elevated
appointment to the post of Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs at the
United Nations. I was more than elated at this recognition of this versatile
and indefatigable individual who has served not his only country, but as well
as Africa and the world. The appointment confirms the high level of respect
Prof. Gambari is held. I have been in the company of many African Ambassadors
and can vouch to the high standard they hold Gambari.
Well, after all the congratulations, Gambari turned to the event coming up on
June 12th at the Medgar Evers College. He asked if I knew that some people
were going to be protesting at the event, and about an article somebody had
written about him on the internet. I confirmed
the threat of demonstration, but
told him I had not seen the article he referred to. But it was later on I
discovered the article on NigeriaWorld by the young Omoyele Sowere, a young man
with a great pen. He reminds me of my younger years. But I was very surprised
at the allegations he made against Prof. Gambari, especially when he alluded
to, "It has been said that Professor Ibrahim Gambari had access to the
Nigerian treasury; he had lots of money to do whatever he wanted in the name of
protecting the Abacha regime." This is far from the truth.
On June 12th, President Jackson of Medgar Evers College had planned to host a
private reception for the VIPs attending the event. So I got there earlier,
but my Events Coordinator had even gotten there at 2 p.m. As the reception
progressed, I got worried and called Ambassador Gambari on the phone, and he
told me they were almost there. Then I went downstairs to the front of the
College to wait for him. When his daughter drove up, I took him to the two
Nigerians who were in front of the college who I
had earlier met. In fact, I noticed
that Omoyele was not there then, and when I noticed him about a block away, I
shouted at him to come over and meet with Gambari.
When he arrived, I introduced him to Gambari as the youngman who wrote the
article about him. "I appreciate people writing about me," said Gambari, "but
if you are going to be writing about me, wouldn't it be good for you to contact
me and get my own side of the issue. At least, I have been at the United
Nations, anybody can get my number." Gambari
pulled his card and handed it over
to Omoyele, and he (Omoyele) then asked if we could take a photograph
together. I promised that after the event, I
will arrange for the photo-op as time
was running out for the President's reception.
I have written this because I feel responsible for bringing this type of
dishonor to such a honorable person. Had I not invited him such ridiculous
articles, bordering on criminality, would not be
written about him. But at the same
time, I feel rather honored that he saved the day for the whole event. We
owe a load of gratitude to his presence at the event because he thoroughly
enlightened the audience about the tragedy that was Rwanda.
If we are going to impugn somebody's integrity, let it be with the right