“All of us have to choose to respond to the challenges of our own times. For me the challenge is HIV/AIDS.” — Omololu Falobi
Nigerian journalist/activist Omololu Falobi was a one of a kind. In 1998, as a response to the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in his country, he formed a coalition of journalists in Nigeria into an advocacy and communications NGO called Journalists Against AIDS in Nigeria (JAAIDS).
Before starting JAAIDS, Omololu had been the features editor of Nigeria’s largest-selling weekly, the Sunday Punch. As JAAIDS began to grow in size and scope, Omololu left the newsroom to work full time on HIV/AIDS prevention.
The most visible aspect of JAAIDS, the daily Nigeria AIDS e-forum, quickly became a leading communications tool on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria and across Africa. Health and development professionals around the world use the daily list-serve to share information, news, contacts, and debates on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.
“Omolulu’s leadership, his longtime commitment to pushing for Africa’s own community leadership over its epidemic, his example of how journalists can be stronger social activists, his vision and championing of the Nigeria e-forum, and his ability to draw other activists together for positive change have inspired and motivated people from around the globe into action – including me,” said Ron MacInnis, Internews Director of Health Journalism. “His legacy speaks for itself, but his departure from us leaves a great void.”
At the 15th International AIDS Conference, Omololu won the International AIDS Society’s Young Investigator Award. He was later named the winner of the Highway Africa Award for Innovative Use of New Media, an award that recognizes outstanding and innovative use of the Internet in African journalism.
Through his own focused networking and passion, Omololu became a leading global advocate for HIV/AIDS treatment, care, and prevention. At HIV/AIDS planning and advocacy meetings around the world, Omololu often asked the difficult and challenging questions – with a key emphasis on getting Africans to step up their own leadership on HIV/AIDS.
In 2001, he was appointed an Ashoka Fellow, joining an elite group of only 2000 social entrepreneurs worldwide recognized for their outstanding and innovative approaches to “re-engineering society.” In 2004 and 2005, he was selected as the African NGO representative on the board of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
In Nigeria, and across Africa where copycat “Journalists Against AIDS”
coalitions are starting up, Omololu’s vision continues to expand. He felt strongly that everyone, especially African journalists, have a role in advocating for Africa’s health and development.
Omololu died Friday, October 6, 2006, from wounds sustained from a gunshot during an armed robbery in Lagos, Nigeria. He was on his way home from a speaking engagement where he addressed young entrepreneurs on the importance of social responsibility. This fearless colleague in the fight against AIDS was victim to another epidemic in Nigeria – senseless crime.
Omololu is survived by his wife, two small children, and many respectful colleagues around the world.