Chika Onyeani
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 New York.

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 every Friday.

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 facts.