Dr Newton Jibunoh at 86: Time to heed his warnings

In the next few days, 1st Jan, 2024 I will reach 86 on this planet earth and for 6 years, I have written this weekly column in the Sun News- paper. In that six years, I have acknowledged and invited readers and writers of similar minds to write for my birthdays. One of such regular readers and contributors to my column writing from London is Akin Olukiran. Here goes another of one of Akin’s writing in my column.

DR. Newton C. Jibunoh, OON, DSc is a man of many parts. He is an explorer, engineer, a connoisseur and patron of African Art, a philanthropist extraordinaire, environmentalist and most importantly, a columnist. In the last six years, he has used his weekly column in this newspaper to fearlessly and ardently offer his penny’s worth of advice and policy options to Nigerians and successive governments. A Yoruba aphorism says what an older man (a wise and widely travelled octogenarian for that matter) sees sitting on the floor, a younger man perching on the top of an iroko tree cannot see it. That, in just 4 days’ time on 1st January 2024, Dr Jibunoh would be celebrating his 86th birthday presents me with two contrasting emotions: One of effervescent joy that cannot be suppressed to see this great Nigerian whom I hold as my hero, who’s been my mentor for decades and who in his humble nature refers to me as his friend, continues to positively impact our lives even as he looks like a seventy-year old. On the other hand, it pains me because despite his many admonitions and wise counsel, we do not seem to be heeding his advice and warnings. So I ask myself, how long would he go on for?

Dr Jibunoh is an explorer and foremost Nigerian environmental campaigner, who is popularly known as the Desert Warrior. To bring to global attention, the devastating effect of desertification with respect to the Sahara Desert, he crossed the Sahara Desert three times by road, two of which were solo expeditions at ages 29 and 62, driving from Lagos to London with full international media cover-
age, including the CNN. Retiring in 2006 as the Chairman/CEO of Costain (West Africa plc) after 44 years of working as an engineer, at a time when most of his contemporaries just play golf and enjoy their retirement, he reignited his 44-year,

campaign by founding FADE (Fight Against Desert Encroachment) Africa in May 2000, an international NGO dedicated to fighting environmental degradation in its many forms.


Concerned with sustainability, he started the Desert Warriors Reality Show to get young people interested in the campaign. In addition, he started the Annual School Tree Planting Competition in Northern Nigeria, getting a full buy-in from various state governments, particularly, Kano State. He also started a new environmental craze here in Nigeria when he decided to mark his 75th birthday with the planting of 75 trees by eminent personalities in Lagos – including the then Governor of Lagos State. Today, many people set up Parks and plant trees in their names to mark their birthdays. He also founded the Nelson Mandela Garden of 95 Trees in Asaba, Delta State.

A passionate lover of Arts, he founded the first private museum in Nigeria called DIDI Museum, named after his only sister (deceased at the young age of 13), to promote Nigeria’s indigenous Arts. He also sees DIDI museum as a catalyst for social change, environmental education and African cultural renaissance. The museum continues to serve as the launching platform for many of Nigeria’s ac- claimed artists. Through his private Foundation, Dr Jibunoh’s philanthropic interests and support range from scholarships to those from disadvantaged backgrounds to supporting those with visual impairment and physical disabilities.


Through his weekly column, Dr Jibunoh has written over 250 articles touching on various subjects that have to do with our national development. This is particularly interesting because, here is man who is writing and freely sharing his experience, knowledge and prophetic revelations without expecting anything in return. He gives freely of his time and doesn’t seek any government position or even recognition. He’s never been a political office holder and just cares about the country he loves so much and feels compelled to pen his thoughts on a weekly basis. I just fear for Nigeria that none of us is going to be here for ever. To anyone who’s ever been a columnist like myself in the past, you know how onerous it can be to task the brain and be disciplined to meet strict deadlines and rigours of research materials on a weekly basis. It is therefore painful when one sees the country suffering the consequences of some government actions or inactions that Dr Jibunoh had writ- ten to warn us about. Dr Jibunoh foresaw and warned against the social and economic fallouts of desertification some twenty years ago when he advocated for the planting of trees along the northern belt of Nigeria to stem the encroachment of the Sahara desert. He did warn us of the danger of not acting and allowing the southward encroachment of the Sahara desert to wreak havoc and that this could lead to herders moving southwards, look- ing for grazing fields for their cattle. He quite prophetically posited that this economic displacement would lead to ethnic and communal conflicts. The chicken has unfortunately, come home to roost and his predictions have come to pass.

As we prepare once again to join the beautiful family of Dr Jibunoh to celebrate him and mark, yet another landmark birthday, I pray our highly revered Desert Warrior continues to wax stronger and the government and people of Nigeria take his warnings seriously. I would like to use this opportunity to call on the government of Delta State, his home state, to put his name for- ward for a higher national honors award. He deserves to be celebrated and honored, for he is a worthy role model and a national hero. As in previous years and for years to come, I want you all to join me in wishing our hero, the Desert Warrior, Happy 86th Birthday and to wish him good health and a sound mind. May the good Lord continue to renew his youth like the eagle’s even as we continue to read his articles and share in his wisdom.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *