Initial reports say Falobi was apparently shot to death during robbery while returning home from speaking to youth about social responsibility
Nigerian journalist and AIDS activist Omololu Falobi, 35, was shot to death in Lagos, Nigeria, on Oct. 5. Details of Falobi’s death are still unclear, according to a statement released Wednesday by the Black AIDS Institute.
What is known, according to the statement, is that Falobi was returning home when he was caught in a shoot-out involving armed robbers.
He had just addressed a group of young entrepreneurs about the importance of social responsibility in their careers.
Falobi was a Black AIDS Institute board member and had been “a model of social responsibility throughout his life,” said the institute’s executive director, Phill Wilson.
“Omololu was instrumental in helping to lay the early strategic foundation for the Black AIDS Institute,” Wilson said. “He was a quiet but clear voice on our board.”
Falobi, who finished high school at 14, had a masters degree by age 26 and at 29 was named features editor of Nigeria’s leading weekly paper, The Sunday Punch. In 2000, Falobi left that position to become executive director of the Nigerian group Journalists Against AIDS, which coordinates the efforts of African journalists to disseminate information about the epidemic.
Falobi served as the African NGO representative to UNAIDS for 2004 and 2005. He helped convene the African Civil Society Coalition on HIV and AIDS, which coordinates the advocacy efforts of African NGOs, and co-founded the Nigeria HIV Vaccine and Microbicides Advocacy Group.
He won numerous awards, including a 2001 Ashoka Fellowship, making him part of an elite group of 200 social entrepreneurs recognized for developing innovative approaches to building a better world.
Journalists Against AIDS was the first recipient of the Institute’s Frontliners Award, which honors developing world organizations and individuals who pioneer cutting-edge strategies.
Penny Duckham of the Kaiser Family Foundation remembered Falobi as “an inspired and really dedicated leader in the world of journalism, who took a stance early on to mobilize the media in Nigeria to play its part forcefully in confronting HIV/AIDS.”
American journalist Mark Schoofs, who wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning series on AIDS in Africa, recalls that Falobi introduced him in 1999 to key Nigerian sources and sat with him in a Lagos hospital when the American was stricken with drug-resistant malaria.
“The story from Nigeria was the best from that series,” said Schoofs, “and I simply couldn’t have got that story without Omololu’s help.”
Falobi first joined the Black AIDS Institute’s team during the 2000 global AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa, bringing with him “boundless energy and bold ambition to not only our organization’s work but our individual lives as well,” said a statement released by the Institute. “At any formal event, he was always the best dressed person in the room, resplendent in his traditional Nigerian robe and hat. His radiant smile, warm spirit and infectious optimism reminded all who encountered him of life’s joy. We will sorely miss our beloved brother.”
Wilson added, “I’m still in shock. The global AIDS community has lost an amazing advocate. But I think the greatest tragedy is that Omololu’s children have lost a remarkable father. Our prayers go out to his wife and his children.”
Falobi is survived by his wife and two young children in Nigeria.
The Black AIDS Institute is establishing a fund to help support his family.
Contributions can be sent to: The Omololu Falobi Fund, c/o The Black AIDS Institute, Attn: Maxim Thorne, 1833 West 8th Street, Suite 200, Los Angeles, Calif. 90057.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, October 13, 2006.