“He was generous to a fault” — Nigeria’s TB Community remembers the late Prof. Lovett Lawson
Editor’s Note: On Monday, July 13, 2020, Nigeria’s health community was saddened by the news of the passing of Professor Lovett Lawson, Chairman, Board of Directors, Zankli Medical Centre, Abuja. Lawson, a professor of infectious diseases and a passionate advocate for Nigeria’s Tuberculosis community, was 72, and was the Patron of the Stop TB Partnership Nigeria. He passed away at the National Hospital Abuja, where he was a COVID-19 patient. Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership Nigeria, Mayowa Joel, penned this tribute for Lawson, as colleagues from Nigeria’s health and TB community remembered the jovial, passionate, and generous professor. Nigeria Health Watch commiserates with the family and friends of Prof. Lawson at this difficult time.
Knowing and working with Prof. Lovett Lawson was a life-changing experience for me both on a personal and professional level. Though we were from different generations and backgrounds, it was a great privilege to know and work with this larger-than-life personality.
Until his passing away on the 13th July 2020, he was the Patron, Stop TB Partnership Nigeria and Board Chair from 2015 to 2019. His emergence as the Board Chair was a game-changer for the then moribund Partnership. He injected passion, energy and resources and made Stop TB Partnership Nigeria a functional entity to the delight of stakeholders at the national and international level. He took the Partnership to an unprecedented height, reaching the corridors of power. He brought the high and mighty to witness the beauty of an effective national TB partnership, and even hosted the National Secretariat free-of-charge.
Professor Lawson personally led the planning for various high-level TB events held in Nigeria, especially during his tenure as the Board Chair. These included the National TB Conference in 2016 and 2019; the launching of Nigeria Parliamentary TB Caucus; the Gala Night to honour TB Champions and Survivors hosted by the First Lady of Nigeria, Her Excellency Aisha Buhari; the Resource Mobilisation Forum for TB with the Corporate Sector and Lagos State Government; and the Public-Private Partnership Summit held in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO), Nigeria, amongst many others. He also gave personal awards to outstanding individuals including State TB Programme Managers who had contributed immensely to ending TB in Nigeria. I was privileged to get one these awards from Professor Lawson too.
After the successful National TB Conference in 2019, Professor Lawson insisted that he was stepping down as the Board Chair. He resisted all entreaties to persuade him otherwise. The Board decided to appoint him as the Patron of the organisation because we couldn’t afford to let him go. Even till his death, a new Board Chair is yet to be appointed. The Acting Board Chair, Dr. Ayodele Awe, would always insist that he is still reporting to Prof. Lawson.
Professor Lawson was generous to a fault. I often had to restrain him as he was always ready to spend his personal resources on activities, even those for which we had funding. He just wanted things to move without complaints or hindrances. He was a go-getter.
Most importantly, despite his age, academic and professional achievements, social and economic status, he was a very humble and jovial person. We joked, laughed, planned and worked together to end TB in Nigeria. I learnt a lot from his humility. He will often introduce himself simply as “Lovett Lawson” without any title. People would often ask him if he was the same Lovett Lawson of so and so. He would just smile.
He always looked smart and sophisticated and was known as the “Galloping Doctor” — a nickname he told me he earned from playing polo when he was younger.
He would often introduce me to others as his “Oga” (Boss), which always made me blush. I liked it when he called me “Omo boy” (Boy child). We shared the same birth month and often joked about our similar characteristics.
He was my friend, mentor, boss and father figure. It was a great privilege for me to know, work and learn from such a great personality. His memories will remain a cherished treasure.
Prof. Lovett Lawson — You came, you saw, and you conquered. You were a good man!
Author’s Bio: Mayowa Joel is the Executive Secretary of Stop TB Partnership Nigeria. He is a Development Specialist with over 26 years of experience in advocating and providing technical support for sustainable programs in health, education, agricultural, environment and economic sectors. He is passionate about ending poverty-related diseases including Tuberculosis.
The tribute site for late Prof Lawson is live. You can post your tribute on www.lovettlawson.com