Tribute by Malam Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, at the Funeral Service of Professor Jonathan Andrew Nok; at the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua Hall, Murtala Mohammed Square, Kaduna – Saturday, 2nd December 2017
Professor Jonathan Andrew Nok was immense in character, learning and fame. This accomplished scientist, teacher and administrator was well-known and respected in the scientific community. As we say in these parts, he was a big man, but he was not too big to serve. This international figure provided dedicated service at state level with energy, focus and determination. Prof. Nok was one of the very best persons this country has produced, and he gave Kaduna State one of the best exemplars of public service.
Professor Nok was not just a colleague and pillar of the Kaduna State Government. He was a childhood friend. We played table tennis at the Gobarau Road residence of Late A B Dikko from 1973. We all lovingly called him Jona. He called me Giant. Our friendship is over 44 years old. He remained a dear and close friend all through the years. I will miss him!
He was aware that there were people who sniggered that a professor of his stature accepted to be a a mere state commissioner. He was too accomplished to possess that kind of inferiority complex, and responded by serving the people of Kaduna State with his very best. He graced our government with his presence, his intellect, his capacity for hard work and an outstanding sense of objectivity.
Professor Nok earned deserved fame as a scientist, putting Nigeria on the global map for cutting edge research in genetics. As political leader in our ministries of Health and Education, he set a new bar for public service. He was decisive, and took important decisions undeterred by calumny nor influenced by caprice.
As commissioner, he was firm in his beliefs. For instance, this government was ready to send 30 students on scholarship to study medicine in Cuba. When he had doubts about the integrity of the selection process, he personally re-set the examination, personally invigilated and marked the scripts. Professor Nok insisted that it must be an exercise in meritocracy, not patronage! And so shall it be. Only the six students who passed the test that he set will go to Cuba.
Through the vicissitudes of life, he did not submit to the narrowness of those who put obstacles in his way. Some negative forces thwarted his emergence as Vice Chancellor of ABU, but he emerged from the experience without surrendering his own objectivity and broadmindedness. Prof. Nok was subjected to much vilification for his service to this government. He was never bitter or submitted to excuses of victim-hood. But he took comfort in the selflessness of his mission and was buoyed by the support of people, young and old, who appreciated the quality and impact of his work.
Jonathan Andrew Nok wanted the very best for our people. He pushed with vigour our projects to expand access to healthcare and education, such that the poorest amongst our citizens will have the same opportunities we had growing up in the 1970s. He was a moving spirit for better schools, higher standards and the celebration of merit.
His departure is a big loss to our state and country. We in the Kaduna State Executive Council have lost a colleague, a friend, and a leader who personified the possibilities of this country. We told him often how proud we were of the work he was doing. This one and only citizen of Kaduna State that was holder of the Nigerian National Order of Merit took his responsibilities seriously and delivered with panache. We thank him for his service, and the memories of excellence he has left for us.
Kaduna State will honour Professor Nok. We will name one of our secondary schools and general hospitals in his memory and locate a campus of one of our tertiary institutions in Nok, his hometown. In his public service, Professor Nok tried to create opportunities for the children of the poor. For this reason, the Kaduna State Government will sponsor his own children to Ph.D. level!
Even in this moment of grief, the Nok Family can be justly proud of this great man. He was taken from us when much remains to be done. But in our sadness, we cannot question God. From God we all came, and to Him we shall all return. May God uphold his family and comfort them. May his children and their offspring live to see and enjoy the country Jonathan Andrew Nok strove so hard to help realise. And may his record of service, his discipline and love of humanity inspire those of us that remain to offer nothing but our very best.
I say to Papa Andrew Nok, be proud; you sired and brought up a great man who added honour to your name and put our state and country on the global biotechnology map. To Mrs. Amina Nok, our children Anita, Amanda, and Nathan, I urge you to walk with your heads high because your father was an honest, humble and brilliant man. He served God through his service to humanity till the last day. By His Grace, you will never lack anything good in your lives.
On behalf of the Kaduna State Government and the people of Kaduna State, I say farewell to a selfless man of distinction. May the Almighty God grant his kind and gentle soul peaceful repose. Amen!
Thank you all for being here today to honour and pray for our friend. God Bless.
Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai