Judith Attah, Baba Iyam: Where are they now?

The whereabouts of these former public servants is not certain, but while in office, they left records worth remembering; Writes IDACHABA SUNNY. 

Judith Attah

Ambassador Judith Sefiya Attah, a princess from Okene in Kogi state, was the minister of women affairs under former President Ibrahim Babangida. She had also served as ambassador and occupied several positions before she retired from public office some years ago. According to records, she is the first Ebira woman to obtain a university degree. After her studies abroad, she returned to the country in 1958 and took up a teaching appointment at the Queen’s College Ilorin from where she was posted to the Provincial Girls School, Yola, in 1960, as headmistress.

In 1962, she was posted to Government Girls Secondary School, Kano, as principal. As teacher, headmistress and principal, she encouraged and motivated many northern girls including the former first lady, Hajia Maryam Abacha, to seek education as a means of empowering women to participate effectively in the socio-economic and political development of the nation.

In 1964, she was promoted as the first chief woman education officer in northern Nigeria and posted to Kaduna from Kano. Given her impeccable educational background and strong will to succeed, she was posted to the Federal Ministry of Education in 1968 as adviser on teacher education. She later became director of higher education in 1976. She served in this post up to 1982, when she was appointed Nigeria’s first female education ambassador to Paris as Nigeria’s permanent delegate to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), a UN agency established in 1946 to advance mutual knowledge and understanding of people. She remained on the UNESCO job up to 1986, when she was recalled and appointed the first female permanent secretary in the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology.

In 1987, she became the first female ambassador/permanent secretary (and later director-general) position up till 1991, when she was again posted as the first female ambassador to Italy with concurrent accreditation to Greece and Cyprus. Ambassador Attah was recalled in January 1995 to serve as the first Honorable minister of the newly- created Federal Ministry Of Women Affairs and Social Welfare and member of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) Atta has served on numerous boards, councils, committees and other bodies including the Governing Council of the University Of Ibadan (1966-82), the Federal Joint Consultative Committee on Education (1974-82), the National Advisory Council for the Blind (1969-76), the West African Examinations Council (1965-82), the Conference and the Implementation Committee on the new National Policy on Education (1974-77), participated in the seminar on the establishment of universities of technology in Nigeria, among others. To that extent, she influenced the establishment of federal colleges of education throughout Nigeria, including the one in Okene. Ambassador Attah served on many panels on aspects of universities, polytechnics, teachers, special and women education. She has also participated in many Commonwealth education conferences held in Nairobi, Colombo, Lesotho, Lagos, and New Delhi, and also at the OAU conference held in Mauritius in 1978 on education, science and technology, culture, and information.

Attah, together with former first lady, Hajia Maryam Abacha, attended the 4th United Nations World Conference on Women held in Beijing, China in August, 1995. Because of her distinctive contributions to the development of Nigeria, her sterling qualities, long and meritorious service to the country, she was awarded the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) in1983. However, long after she exited office as minister, it’s not certain where this woman of substance could be at the moment.

Frank Olize

Anyone born in the late ‘80s would not be familiar with the name Frank Olize. This is because this Delta state-born former newscaster with the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) left full broadcasting in the early ‘90s after tantalising his viewers with his style of news presentation. He was one of the voices on NTA who anchored the Sunday night news and current affairs programme, Newsline.

In another way of saying it, he made that programme popular by what it is in the country today. After his usual phrase of, ‘It’s nine o’clock. Do you know where your children are?’ It’s time for the one-hour programme with him. Olize, now in his late ‘70s, left the NTA, to many, unannounced. Not until a few years later, many thought he simply took the back seat while operating silently, but he retired quietly and left the shores of Nigeria for the US. In those days, the older and younger Nigerians looked forward to 9:15pm every Sunday in order to hear the latest weird, funny and sometimes serious stories of the week anchored by this icon.

Writing about this man, a lecturer in Mass Communications at the Chukwu Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University in Anambra state, Chinenye Nwabueze, said, “Frank Olize is unarguably a legendary broadcaster who was a dominant brand at the NTA in the ‘80s and ‘90s. He was very popular as an anchor of Newsline, a programme aired every Sunday from 9-10pm. Not just that the programme was very interesting, Olize’s unique style of presentation kept viewers captivated and glued to their television set while he was on air. He took television presentations to another level through that programme. He had a way of captivating his viewer’s emotion while the viewer watches the programme to the extent that he lets tears drop down from the eyes when the story gets so emotional. He made that programme a Sunday-Sunday tonic for many Nigerians.”

Long after his exit from the tube, rumours went wild that he was dead until he was spotted in Dubai in a French suit during the wedding of his daughter a few years back. Analysts are of the opinion that he simply wants to keep himself away from the happenings in Nigeria; hence, he kept everything about himself in top secret.

Baba Adamu Iyam

Group Capt. Baba Adamu Iyam (retd.) was a trained pilot in the Nigeria Air Force. During the military regime of late Gen. Sani Abacha, he was appointed as military administrator (MILAD) of both Edo and Kwara states at different times. He was first in Edo between 1994 and ’96 and was moved to Kwara between 1996 and ’98 before Abacha died in office that year. These were his last known public service jobs.

As administrator in Edo state, for instance, he was always at loggerheads with labour, especially the academic community for which he unilaterally sacked 8, 000 workers from the state civil service. In his bid to cow the academic community, he stopped the grants to the Ambrose Ali University (AAU) saying that universities are meant to be self-sufficient because, in his opinion, they should be able to generate their own funds internally through research. To sustain his plan, he went ahead and appointed a sole administrator for the university against popular will. This step did not go down well with everyone as it sparked a state-wide protest involving lecturers, students and staff of the university.

Reacting then, the local chapter chairman of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Dr. S. O. Ighalo, said, “Our concern to respond is further strengthened by the need to ensure that the reading public is properly enlightened on the notorious idea of self-sustenance policy, especially as it relates to AAU, Ekpoma. The university is a critical pillar of human development as it provides high-level skills for every labour market by providing training essential for teachers, doctors, nurses, civil servants, engineers, humanists, entrepreneurs, scientists, social scientists and a myriad of personnel.

“In fact, it is the trained personnel who develop the economy, direct the development of the socio-political and cultural spheres of the entire society. We believe that Ambrose Alli University Ekpoma is established by the state in recognition of the critical role of universities to national development. It is important to note that for the university to perform its expected role in the advancement of human society, certain conditions or requirements should or ought not to be compromised.

“There must be adequate provision of essential teaching and research facilities. Adequate academic and non-academic manpower is required to man the system. The physical environment (infrastructure, good network of roads, constant power supply, ICT facilities) must be such that would give the necessary boost to learning, teaching and research. The welfare of both staff and students must not be compromised.”

Following the return of democratic rule in the country in 1999, Iyam was among those forced into retirement.

Since then, nothing has been heard about him again