The Rotary world is saddened by the passing on of an iconic Nigerian, African and international figure, Jonathan Babatunde Majiyagbe on May 27, a few weeks short of his 89th birthday.
Graduating in law from the University of London, he was called to the English and Wales Bar in 1964, attended the Nigerian Law School in 1965 and was admitted to the Nigerian Bar in 1966.
A trailblazer, he was the first African to become RI President in its more than a century of existence in 2003 and made all African Rotarians very proud of him. As a true humanist and a lover of all people, irrespective of their tribe, religion, caste or creed, he was always willing to Lend a Hand, and that naturally, was the theme of his year as RI president in 2003.
One of his enduring legacies as RI president is putting the family at the core of Rotary activities with his Family of Rotary programme; Rotary’s focus on family continues strong even today. He will, amongst other trailblazing activities, be also remembered for moving the motion to admit women into Rotary at the CoL in 1989.
If Rotary International played a huge role in making Africa free of the disease of polio, President Majiyagbe led the polio eradication efforts in Africa from inception and was the pioneer chair of the Africa Regional PolioPlus Committee. During his tenure as RI president, he, like his predecessors and successors, gave our PolioPlus programme the emphasis and resources required to ensure we keep our promise to the children of the world; a world without polio.
Thereafter, he served for many years on the international PolioPlus committee. He remained involved with our polio eradication efforts as adviser to the Nigeria National PolioPlus Committee and saw to the end of polio in Nigeria and the certification of Africa as a polio-free region in 2015. He remained involved with the African PolioPlus Committee until his last days.
Majiyagbe has left an indelible legacy for us in Rotary. He joined the first Rotary club in Nigeria, RC Kano in 1967, six years after its charter in 1961. By his exemplary service he rose to be appointed to the RI board of directors in 1988.
He will be remembered for moving the motion to admit women into Rotary at the CoL in 1989, and putting the family at the core of all Rotary activities.
As a past director, he was assigned to represent the Rotary president at a district conference in India. RC Bhuj in Kutch, RID 3050, sponsored a primary school there named after his spouse Ade Majiyagbe.
He was nominated RI president in 2001 for 2003–04. Unfortunately, his wife Ade took seriously ill and despite her treatment in London, passed away in May, 2003.
He was the principal partner of JB Majiyagbe & Co; a law firm he established in 1971. Despite his brilliance as a solicitor and advocate, he is well known for advising the path of arbitration long before it became fashionable, even though it would have been more profitable for his law firm to pursue litigation. He was conferred with the prestigious rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 1980, the first practising legal professional in Northern Nigeria to be so elevated.
In recognition of his numerous contributions to legal advocacy and humanity, Majiyagbe was conferred with the national honour — Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (OFR). A truly de-tribalised Nigerian, he spoke the Hausa and Igbo language fluently apart from his native Yoruba. A devout Christian, he sponsored many Muslims to Mecca for the holy pilgrimage.
He is survived by his wife Ayo Majiyagbe and son Folorunsho Majiyagbe.
The Rotary world would mourn his loss, as we all pray for his soul to rest in peace.
(Written with support from PDG Tunji Funsho
Chair, Rotary Nigeria
National PolioPlus Committee)
The writer is a past RI president