The death of the former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, is shocking and unbelievable. Mailafia reportedly died of COVID-19 at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, Abuja, on Sunday, September 19, 2021. He was 64.
Born on December 24, 1956 in Randa village, Sanga Local Government Area of Kaduna State, Mailafia had his elementary education at Musha Sudan United Mission School between 1964 and 1969. Between 1970 and 1974, he had his secondary school at Mada Hills Secondary School, Akwanga. He won the Commissioner for Education’s Award as the most outstanding pupil of his graduating class. He later attended the School of Basic Studies at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria for his ‘A’ levels between 1974 and 1975. He was to emerge top of his class in 1978 with a B.Sc Honours in Social Sciences (Politics, Economics and Sociology) at ABU. He also had an M.Sc from ABU, a Certificate in French Language and Civilisation from the University of Clermont-Ferrand, Diplôme or M.Phil in International Economics from the Institut International d’Administration Public of France. In 1995, he earned a D.Phil from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.
His working career spanned through teaching to banking and public office. After his compulsory national youth service between 1978 and 1979, he became a graduate assistant at ABU between 1980 and 1982. He was a Fellow of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies from 1982 to 1989. At various times between 1990 and 2000, he taught at Plater College Oxford, New England College, Richmond Business School, the American International University in London and Regents Business School.
The African Development Bank Group recruited him as a chief economist in the Strategic Planning and Budgeting Department in 2001. From 2005 to 2007, Mailafia was the Deputy Governor of the CBN. He played a pivotal role in the banking consolidation exercise of 2005 to 2006. He also managed the monetary and economic policies and was responsible for research and statistics as well as liaison with international bodies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He was Chief of Staff to the Brussels-based African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States between 2010 and 2015.
Mailafia was as controversial in death as he was in life. Some groups and individuals suspected foul play in his death. The Middle Belt Forum (MBF), for instance, alleged that the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital mismanaged his case and called for investigations. It called for a transparent and full investigation into the cause of the death.
Authorities of the teaching hospital denied the allegations, insisting that they managed Mailafia’s case to the best of their abilities. The Chief Medical Director of the hospital, Professor Bissallah Ekele, said Mailafia had been managed at two other hospitals before being referred to UATH after his case had degenerated. He described all the allegations against the hospital as false.
Mailafia, a former presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) in the 2019 general election, had, in August 2020, caused a stir in the country when he alleged on Nigeria Info Abuja 95.1FM radio programme that certain people in government were behind the Boko Haram insurgency, among other weighty allegations.
The Department of State Services (DSS) interrogated him thrice over these allegations. He stood his ground and appealed to Nigerians to pray for him. In May this year, he led a group of Middle Belt scholars to profusely apologise to the Igbo for the ignoble role the Middle Belt played shortly before and during the Nigerian-Biafran Civil War. This is why his passing was a rude shock to Ohanaeze Ndigbo which described him as “a generous spirit whose active conscience has helped in many ways to sustain the hope of his people and the corporate existence of Nigeria.”
The death of the development economist is a sad reminder of the devastating effect of COVID-19. The deceased was said to have contracted the disease which was worsened by other underlying health conditions. He was first treated of malaria but only reportedly started receiving serious treatment for COVID-19 when the condition deteriorated. Experts warn that late testing and treatment of the dreaded disease could be disastrous. Nigerians should always be conscious of their health and go for early testing if they notice any signs similar to COVID-19. There are chances of survival if the disease is diagnosed early.
We commiserate with his family, the government and people of Kaduna State, as well as all Nigerians who cherish freedom and justice. May his soul rest in peace.