Uche Amazigo, an internationally renowned Public Health Specialist and Professor of Medical Parasitology, is among nine personalities, and an institution, honoured this year (2018) by the Hallmarks of Labour Foundation (HLF), which celebrates Nigerians, Africans and people of the Black race who have achieved success through hard work, honesty, integrity and justice in every field of human endeavour.
Like in previous years, the list of honourees to mark the Foundation’s 22nd anniversary this year, literally features “who is who,” in various walks of life, from medicine to diplomacy, legal jurisprudence to public administration, as well as leaders in educational and industrial sectors.
The 2018 awardees include Professor of Preventive and Social Medicine, and Administrator, Allen Bankole Oladunmoye Olukayode Oyediran, Prof. Joy Uche Ogwu, an accomplished scholar, diplomat and administrator, and Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, both former Nigerian Foreign Minister and at different times, Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs.
The others are Honourable Justice Isa Ayo Salami; Chief Onikepo Akande, an economist, Chartered Accountant, Industrialist and Public Administrator; Prof. Emeritus Ayodeji Banjo, an educationist and Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters; another legal icon and Professor of Law, Honourable Justice Adolphus Godwin Karibi-White; and Prof. Shehu Ahmad Said Galadanci, an educational administrator, scholar and diplomat.
Christ the King Catholic College, Odolewu, Ijebu-Ode in Nigeria’s western Ogun State, completes the honour list with the Young Achievers Award, as the Secondary School with the Best Performance in the 2017 West African School Certificate Examinations.
Prof Amazigo, a former Director of the World Health Organisation African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (WHO/APOC), was singled out for ‘The HLF Role Model Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Public Health,” and “one of the few Africans to have led a specialized UN Agency, overseeing a highly successful multilateral, multidisciplinary partnership in global public health.”
In the citation, Prof Amazigo is credited with having “intertwined the Life Sciences and Social Sciences in a life-long struggle to help overcome River Blindness (Onchocerciasis), which has blighted the African Continent for centuries. “Her discovery led to the creation of the WHO-coordinated African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) in 1995. She pioneered the innovative Community-Directed Treatment (CDT) strategy, for the distribution of the drug ivermectin to over 300,000 African communities, resulting in the near elimination of the river blindness disease,” the citation added.
Prof Amazigo, who was accompanied by her Professor husband John Amazigo, has been widely recognized for her work with numerous awards and honours, including the President George W. Bush recognition (2008); Knight of the National Order of Burkina Faso (2011) and Thailand’s prestigious Prince Mahidol Laureate (2012) in Public Health. A Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Science (FAS) and the UK’s Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, for over three decades, partnering with at least 30 governments, 16 major NGOs and thousands of devoted individuals throughout sub-Saharan Africa, she expanded community participation in governance and self-help from a health-delivery perspective.
Since retiring as WHO/APOC Director, Prof Amazigo established and is currently heading an NGO which trains and supports mothers to provide a comprehensive feeding and health programme for their children in rural schools. With over 100 publications and 68 in international peer reviewed journals, Prof Uche Amazigo’s “valuable discovery which led to the expansion of the treatment of river blindness has brought an end to the social stigma and isolation of adolescent Africans, particularly women and girls for centuries, while more than 1.5 million rural Africans have joined in the distribution of the drug to fight river blindness and other neglected tropical diseases,” the Foundation said.
Speaking at the well-attended ceremony in Lagos recently, the Chair of this year’s award, distinguished diplomat, UN Envoy and former Nigerian Foreign Minister, Dr Ibrahim Gambari said the people being honoured “in many ways are honouring us,” having “given a lot to society.”
The Hallmarks of Labour Foundation is the brain child of eminent Nigerians who were troubled by the negative international image of the country in the 1990s and the “increasing decay in our moral fabric, dishonest practices and inefficient management of public affairs by successive governments.”
In his remarks at the Lagos event, the Foundation’s Vice Chair, Dr Christopher Kolade said the “idea is to identify and celebrate the Noble ones among us.”
Previous awardees include Chief Emeka Anayaoku, former Secretary General of the Commonwealth; Nobel Literature Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka, the late Alhaji Babatunde Jose, “Father of modern Journalism in Nigeria; and renowned Community leader Alhaja Abibat Mogaji the Iya Oloja of Lagos and Yeye Oba of Ikirun.