Professor Ibrahim Gambari, a foremost political scientist and international relations experts belongs in the generation of Professors Bolaji Akinyemi, Eliezer Eliagwu, Adele Jinadu and other experts that defined social science in the 70s, 80s and early 90s. As a mark of honour to his eminence in his field, his office at the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria was locked and un-allocated to other academics for many years after his exit for international diplomatic engagement.
There are five notable families in Ilorin emirate- Sulu Gambaris, the Oniyangis, the Shagayas, and the Akanbis, and the Belgores. Agboola Gambari descended from the ruling Fulani, his father was one of the longest ruling Emirs of Ilorin, while his nephew, the former justice of the Supreme Court is the current Emir of Ilorin.
As an intellectual , his standing as a foreign policy scholar is assured, as he stands shoulder high among the giants of the social science. He may not be as popular as Ikenna Nzimiro or an Onigu Ottite, his scholarship has shaped social science in the country,and as director general of the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs, he made the agency vibrant and resourceful.
Gambari was born on 24 November 1944 in Ilorin, Kwara State to a Fulani ruling class family that descended from Alimi ruling family.
Gambari attended King’s College, Lagos. He thereafter proceeded to the London School of Economics where he obtained his B. Sc. (Economics) degree (1968) with specialisation in International Relations. He later obtained his M.A. (1970) and Ph. D. (1974) degrees from Columbia University, New York, USA in Political Science /International Relations.
As an academic, Gambari began his teaching career in 1969 at City University of New York before moving to
University of Albany. Later, he taught at Ahmadu Bello University, in Zaria, the second largest university in Africa.
From 1986 to 1989, he was Visiting Professor at three universities in Washington, D.C.: Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Georgetown University and Howard University. He has also been a research fellow at the Brookings Institution also in Washington D.C. and a Resident Scholar at the Bellagio Study and Conference Center, the Rockefeller Foundation-run center in Italy.
He has had a long association with Buhari and Gambari served as his(Buhari’s) Minister for External Affairs between 1984 and 1985 . From 1990 to 1999, he holds the record of being the longest serving Nigerian Ambassador to the United Nations, serving under five Heads of State and Presidents.
Gambari has held several positions in the United Nations. In 1999, he was the President of UNICEF and later became UN Under Secretary-General and the first Special Adviser on Africa to the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan from 1999 to 2005. He was the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations for Political Affairs from 2005 to 2007 under Secretary-General’s Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-Moon. His last appointment in the UN was from January 2010 to July 2012, when he was appointed by Ban Ki-moon and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission as the Joint African Union-United Nations Special Representative for Darfur.