Six of the seven members of the Government Team in the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN)/University-based Unions Re-negotiation Committee charged with proffering solutions to the challenges in the nation’s education sector, especially the tertiary education system, have written an emotional tribute, eulogising their Chairman, Professor Emeritus Nimi Dimkpa Briggs, who died on April 10, 2023, at the age of 79.
Late Nimi Dimkpa Briggs was a renowned Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and a consummate university administrator, whose leadership of the Federal Government Team to renegotiate the FGN 2009 Agreements with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) suffered setbacks as a result of government’s summersaults in the course of the assignment.
The tribute was endorsed by the remaining members of the Team – Senator Chris Adighije, Pro-Chancellor, Federal University, Lokoja, Lokoja, Kogi State, Professor Emeritus Funmi Togonu-Bickersteth, Pro-Chancellor, Federal University Birnin Kebbi, Birni Kebbi, Kebbi State and Arc Lawrence-P. Ngbale, FNIA, Pro-Chancellor, Federal University Wukari, Wukari, Taraba State.
Others are Professor Zubairu Iliyasu, Pro-Chancellor, Aliko Dangote, University of Science and Technology, Wudil, Kano State, Matthew Seiyefa, mni, Pro-Chancellor, Niger-Delta University, William Wilberforce Island, Bayelsa State and Professor Olu Obafemi, FNAL, NNOM, Pro-Chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State.
In the tribute, the six Pro-Chancellors extolled Professor Briggs, who they described, among others, as an incurable optimist and “an indomitable patriot and genuine national hero,” for his sterling leadership qualities, for his ‘never say never’ attitude, for his resolute pursuit of the goal of fashioning out a workable solution to the problems bedeviling the education sector of the country and for his “alluring humility.”
They concluded that despite the setbacks experienced in the course of their assignment with Professor as their leader, they still stand firmly in support of his ideal, “that visionary leadership, committed to the triumph of education as a bedrock of human civilization and the imperishability of the regime of merit in national growth, will still emerge and our educational system, nay our beloved country, which Professor Emeritus Nimi Briggs laboured tenaciously and died for, will come to be.”
Full text of the statement reads:
A TRIBUTE TO OUR CHAIRMAN, PROFESSOR EMERITUS NIMI DIMKPA BRIGGS, BY MEMBERS OF THE GOVERNMENT TEAM– FGN/ UNIVERSITIES-BASED UNIONS RE-NEGOTIATION
We, the members of the Renegotiating team of Government under the dynamic, committed, patriotic and visionary leadership of our Chairman, Professor Emeritus Nimi Dimkpa Briggs, pay this short elegiac Tribute to our departed leader. We stand with him, along with the larger body of the Committee of Pro-Chancellors, even in his transcendence to immortality, in his total dedication to and advocacy for the triumph of education–tertiary education in particular–and the rebirth of our dear country from the present doldrums and travails, which he faithfully served to the last drop of his breath.
We jointly say, ‘Adieu’ to the inspiring, selfless and humble leader of our GROUP. We worked by his side, during the tortuous, hazardous months of our renegotiating task, for the rescue of the soul of our universities and the education sector of our nation in general. We found him an enviable leader of men and ideas, a genuine national patriot and alluring hero– in a nation in dearth and dire need of heroes.
Professor Emeritus Nimi Dimkpa Briggs, our Chairman, you live forever in our memory, even as we struggle to live down a regime of denial and disbelief, that you a man of such magnetic presence and prescience could be taken away from our midst so suddenly and with such unpardonable ease. If we got a premonition of your demise, we would have borrowed your lai lai to lai lai dictum–your never- ever sing-song in combating the impossibility of failure, a signal of rejection of the suggestion that evil/people can triumph over good/people. Your passionate belief in human possibilities–the triumph of humanity–that every good thing will happen and that the Negotiated Agreement, based on a proposal of Quality Education in the Nigerian academy as the bedrock of civilization, will see the bright light of the day and its implementation will come to pass — all reveal, distinctly, your persuasion of the indomitability of the human spirit.
Here then is the leader, our leader, of the last Re-Negotiation team, who led us with alluring humility, taught us leadership in humility and who has gone to join his ancestors, unbeaten, unbowed. Here is Nimi Dimkpa Briggs, an indomitable patriot and genuine national hero with a remarkable pedigree who believed and lived in the belief that the Nigerian Project is doable and will be done. He approached the Negotiation with the unions on that principle with unquestionable panache and eloquent integrity. Realizing that a different approach must be adopted to continue the earlier effort of preceding negotiators, and contrary to the lie that we didn’t, he ensured that all the critical agencies of government were carried along in the process. He ensured that government itself was constantly consulted and briefed at every critical stage of the Re-negotiation to get their buy-in. On the basis of the confidence that our team had the ear and approval of government, the Unions, especially the ASUU, worked with us, participated in drawing the final Draft of the Agreement and committed to it appreciably. Not stopping there, they went ahead to prepare their principals, and their Congresses, for the actual signing of the Agreement. With a positive turn-of-mind, that Agreement was realistic and acceptable to government, especially at the Ministerial level, we submitted it.
And even when it was obvious that, contrary to our expectation, the Agreement was not going to receive the blessing of the ultimate authority, Professor Emeritus Nimi Dimkpa Briggs led us on in the conviction that the document will sail through eventually, because, as he drummed it into our willing ears, there was no alternative to accepting the well-wrought document, if the university system will be rescued from its present doldrums, decadence and declining standards. He refused to be daunted or ruffled when the patently distracting legal process was entered into by an agent of government and a court injunction was obtained when the easiest option was to get the two parties to sign the Agreement. The Committee of Pro-Chancellors, following our Chairman’s Report to it, set up a small team to further seek audience with government at the highest level to obtain a minimal consent of government by a slight shift of position to salvage the system. The failure of that effort did not lead to despair or despondency. Until he breathed his last, the apostle of human possibility, a global scientific intellectual and clinician per excellence who, additionally was a man of letters, who believed in the arts as a curative and redemptive instrument, Nimi Dimkpa Briggs held us together, undaunted in his belief in the irresistibility of such a solution-laden document. He was ready for any other opening that will bring resolution to the crisis of education in our country that our Committee was set up to address and which he embarked upon with dogged commitment and genuineness of purpose.
We, on the Re-Negotiating Team left behind, stand firmly behind the Briggs’ ideal, that visionary leadership, committed to the triumph of education as a bedrock of human civilization and the imperishability of the regime of merit in national growth, will still emerge and our educational system, nay our beloved country, which Professor Emeritus Nimi Briggs laboured tenaciously and died for, will come to be.
Adieu then, leader of our Group, champion of thought and ideas, Chairman of the Re-Negotiating Team of the FGN/University-based Unions Committee, Chairman of the Committee of Pro-Chancellors, foremost educationist, inimitable university administrator and immortal national hero.
You live on in our memories.
By the Remaining Members of the Team;
- Senator Chris Adighije,
Pro-Chancellor, Federal University Lokoja, Lokoja, Kogi State.
- Professor Emeritus Funmi Togonu-Bickersteth,
Pro-Chancellor, Federal University Birnin Kebbi, Birni Kebbi, Kebbi State.
- Arc Lawrence-P. Ngbale, FNIA,
Pro-Chancellor, Federal University Wukari, Wukari, Taraba State.
- Professor Zubairu Iliyasu,
Pro-Chancellor, Aliko Dangote, University of Science and Technology, Wudil, Kano State.
- Matthew Seiyefa, mni
Pro-Chancellor, Niger-Delta University, William Wilberforce Island, Bayelsa State.
- Professor Olu Obafemi, FNAL, NNOM.
Pro-Chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State.