By Eric Elezuo
The curtain fell at a time when his family members, friends, colleagues and as many whose lives he selflessly and meticulously touched were hoping his life has just started. The many humanitarian efforts he made to better the lives of people speak volumes and have endeared him to many, leading to the uncontrolled outburst of emotions as he was laid to rest. His name was Prof. (Sir) Lovett Latevi Lawson, popularly known as Lovito.
The main auditorium of the Wesley Chapel, Lekki, was filled with social distancing strictly observed, when a commendation/funeral service was held in honour of the accomplished Knight of John Wesley (KWJ), who died on July 13, 2020 at the age of 71.
Kick starting the emotion filled service was the rendition of ‘Hark Hark My soul…’ as a processional hymn which ushered in the clergy and the remains of the deceased, and followed closely by short inspirational speech of welcome by the Officiating Minister with the title purpose of our gathering.
Here, the congregation was reminded that Christians have sure ground for hope, confidence and joy in the face of death as Christ was raised again triumphantly and lives forevermore.
The brief welcome address was punctuated with a prayer, and followed by the alternate reading of the Bible in Psalm 90 before the book of 2 Corinthians 5: 1-10 was presented.
As the reading of the scripture was concluded, it was a well attentive congregation that sat still to listen to the great achievements of Prof. Lawson as captured in his biography as follows:
“Silently, a seed becomes a seedling; and a plant becomes a tree
Ever thunderous it sounds; when a tree falls to the ground
For its loss is not only felt by all those who sought comfort from its shade
But also seen the beauty of its presence” – Daniel Otobo 2020
“Professor Lovett ‘Lovito’ Latevi Lawson, went home to be with the Lord on Monday, July 31, 2020 aged 71 years.
Born 15th of November, 1948 in Lagos, Prof. Lawson was the first of five children of Mr. and Mrs. Luther Tychus-Lawson. He had his secondary school education at the Baptist Academy and Igbobi College, Yaba. He obtained his Medical Degree from the University of Lagos in 1975, a Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (DTM&H), Masters in Tropical Medicine and a PhD in Tropical Medicine from Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. He was a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh.
“He was the Founder and Chairman of Zankli Medical Centre (ZMC), a private hospital in Abuja, Nigeria, one of the leading private hospitals in the capital city, and was until recently, a Professor of Clinical Tropical Medicine in the Dept. of Community Medicine and Primary Healthcare at the Bingham University, Nasarawa State.
He was Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences in the same University. At the University, besides teaching, he supervised Masters and PhD thesis, and secured research grants for Zankli Research Laboratories at ZMC and Bingham University.
Prof. Lovett Lawson strived for excellence in healthcare through honest patient care, diligent medical research and educating the next generation of Nigerian medical personnel.
“Prof. Lawson, through ZMC, was party to setting up the DOTS TB programme in Abuja in 2003 and thereafter maintained a close relationship with the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP), using his laboratory and Bingham University to provide free microscopy and culture services to some of the hospitals in the FCT and neighbouring States. He was involved with both local and international research organizations including, ABU Zaria, Bayero University, NTBLCP and WHO, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Institut d’ investigacio German Trias i pujol, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain and many others. Such research activities produced new diagnostic methods with over sixty papers published in peer review journals.
Prof. Lawson was a member of several advisory and technical committees including the Green Light Committee, African Region, responsible for regulating the use of second line drugs for Drug resistant TB, the National Technical Group on health sector response on HIV and AIDS, National TB/HIV working group, Technical Committee TB Prevalence Study (Nigerian WHO office) among others. He was a member of the Board of Trustees of Nutrition International and the Nigerian Infectious Disease Society (NIDS).
Prof Lawson recently stepped down as the Chairman of the Stop TB Partnership, Nigeria and was conferred as the Life Patron of the same organization. He was in 2019 recognised for his outstanding contribution to the Partnership with an award presented by Her Excellency, Dr Mrs Aisha Muhammad Buhari.
“He was a member of several professional bodies. These include the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) of which he was a former Chairman of the Abuja Chapter, Association of Private and Medical Practitioners of Nigeria (AGPMPN), Guild of Medical Directors (GMD), World Association of Family Physicians (WONCA), American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD). He was a Fellow of the Association of General Practice (FAGP) and Fellow of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. He was awarded the Distinguished Medical Practitioner (DMP) award by his peers for the growth of private medical practice and recognised on the honour roll of the NMA for his selfless service and contribution to the Association.
“Prof. Lawson was a Knight of John Wesley (KJW) of the Methodist Church, Nigeria and a Patron of the Association of Methodist Brigades. He is credited as being one of those responsible for starting the 8.00am service at the Methodist Cathedral Church of Unity, Wuse, Abuja.
He was a recipient of several other awards beyond his professional and church life. These among others include:
Outstanding Alumni Award 2020: College of Medicine, University of Lagos
Merit Award 2011: For achievement in Entrepreneurship (MEDICINE). Igbobi College Old Boys Association.
Icon of Health, Certificate of Excellence (2011): Laudable performance, hardwork and contribution to National Service: West Africa Students Parliament.
Icon of Excellent Leadership (2010): Immense contribution to education and youth development in Nigeria: National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS).
Appreciation of Perennial Support to crime fighting effort of the division 2010: The Nigeria Police Force (FCT)
Excellence Award 2010: University of Abuja Medical Students (UAMSA).
“An all-round sportsman, he played golf frequently and was a member of IBB Golf club, Abuja. In his earlier life, he played a lot of football and subsequently polo and was captain of the Jos Polo Team. In later years, he became an Arsenal FC sympathiser and enjoyed swimming. He was a member of Yoruba Tennis Club, Past Chairman Igbobi College Old Boys Association (ICOBA) Abuja branch and Vice Chairman of the Zankli Fund Group, a family association of diaspora and local members of the Zankli-Lawson royal house of Aneho, Togo.
Prof. Lovett Lawson is survived by his loving wife – Dr Juliana Olufunke Lawson, their three sons Olurotimi, Oluwafemi and Oluwatope, their spouses Omotoyosi, Aderinsola and Olujoke, four grandchildren, three siblings and their spouses and a large extended family. Of family, he said there is NOTHING more important.
“Professor Lovett Lawson was a God-fearing, kind-hearted, loving family man, an administrator, a researcher, scholar and a teacher, a humanitarian and an outstanding entrepreneur in the field of medicine. He lived a purpose-filled life.”
In the preceding sermon, the Minister-in-charge eulogised the life and times of the departed, saying that he lived a purposeful life worthy of emulation while urging all present to borrow a leaf in the way Prof. Lawson lived his life.
He also prayed God to comfort his immediate and extended family members at the loss.
Following the sermon was special presentations from the group, Holy City, which rendered wholesome songs to the delight of the congregation just before special prayers were said for the family of the deceased.
The obsequies came to a glorious end with the interment of Prof Lawson, carried by pallbearers dressed in kente wrapper tied across one shoulder, amid elaborate graveside ceremonies at the prestigious Ebony Vaults.
In his tribute, among an avalanche of tributes sent on his behalf by family and well wishers, Femi Lawson, who describes himself as his favourite son, made it simple, reflecting the thoughts of all who knew the deceased saying, “I miss you big guy…You are and will forever be my hero”.