On Tuesday, August 9, the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the UN in collaboration with the UN Peacebuilding Support Office joined family, friends and former colleagues at Nigeria House, New York for the celebration of life of a renowned diplomat and leader, Amb. Eloho Otobo.
Diplomats both retired and serving were at the memorial event to pay tributes to late Otobo, an upright Nigerian citizen, prominent diplomat, dedicated foreign service officer and a brilliant ambassador.
Otobo, 70, retired with the UN headquarters, having served as a Director and Deputy Head, UN Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) of the Peacebuilding Commission at the UN Headquarters from 2006 to 2013.
Until his death on June 23, he was a Non-Resident Senior Fellow in Peacebuilding and Global Governance Institute in Brussels, Belgium and a prolific writer.
Paying tribute to Otobo, UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, described Otobo as a passionate diplomat and a brilliant scholar, who advocated tirelessly for peace on the Africa continent.
In a written remark read by Mr Bolade Sobola, President of UN Staff Recreation Council (UNSRC) Nigerian Association, Mohammed said Otobo would be greatly remembered for his contributions to the UN and Nigeria.
Similarly, Deputy Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the UN, Amb. George Edokpa described Otobo as a great achiever, who got things done while working at the UN.
“Otobo, who started his career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and served the country in various capacities before working with the UN would be greatly missed.
“Nigeria shares the painful loss of Otobo, his expertise in repairing relations and reforming institutions and taking up challenges responsibilities over the years.
“It is with immense gratitude that we celebrate the life of a great patriot, who left an extraordinary legacy for Nigeria,’’ he said.
In her remarks, Ms Elizabeth Spehar, Assistant Secretary-General for PBSO, described the deceased as a calming and reassuring figure as a Deputy Head of PBSO until his retirement in 2013.
“He was always ready to assist whenever possible as attested to by various people who visited his Office seeking advice. He was a consummate intellectual and an avid reader,’’ she said.
According to her, the late diplomat was a kind, respectable and understanding man; he was always ready to listen to other people’s problems, issues and help.
Paying tribute on behalf of the Consulate General of Nigeria in New York, Amb. Lot Egopija said his hard work and intelligence changed the course of history while working at the UN.
Egopija, the Consul General of Nigeria in New York, said Otobo was an unyielding advocate for peace and created effective global reform policies to ensure peace in conflict-ridden countries.
“His accomplishments will be celebrated for generations. Otobo lived an extraordinary life and his contributions to intellectual discourse will surely be missed,’’ he said.
Otobo’s close friend and co-author, Mr Oseloka Obaze said he was a great gift to his family, the Isoko community, Nigeria and the humanity.
Obaze, a former UN Staff and former Secretary to the Government of Anambra said Otobo was humane, warm, sincere, and inspirational; he was patriot and great conversationalist.
Obaze, who had been a friend to Otobo for 40 years, said he was very cerebral, saying that collaborating and co-authoring works with him was always exhilarating.
“Otobo had an acute analytical mind. He was tenacious about research, writing, editing and the veracity of facts. Above all, he was willing to share knowledge, without reserve and always admitted superior logic.
“The late diplomat inspired enquiry, exploration and dissection of heady questions and co-founding governance issues. When he offered solutions, he made complex issues seem mundane and simple,’’ he said.
Similarly, Ms Catalina De Leon, former Editorial Assistant to Otobo in the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa extolled the legacy of her late boss.
“My best description of you is that you are imperfectly perfect.
“With all our human frailties, you inspire people like me who have known you up close and personal to be better persons using our God-given gifts for the better good in the present moment,” she said.
Also speaking on behalf of the Nigerian retired ambassadors, Amb. Shola Omoregie said Otobo embodied the best in every person, adding ” he was generous in providing advice and counsel.”
Omoregie, a former Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Guinea-Bissau, recalled how he succeeded through the support and advice Otobo gave him.
“Following my appointment, he advised me to leave a legacy behind in Guinea-Bissau. What legacy, I asked? He said I should make my priority to work toward placing Guinea-Bissau on the Agenda of the UN Peacebuilding.
“I took his advice and we worked closely to garner support from the UN Secretariat, including most importantly, the full weight of his former department, the UN PBSO to successfully place Guinea-Bissau of the Agenda on the UN Peacebuilding Commission,”he said.
Also paying tribute to the late leader, Ms Foluke Ojelabi, Vice President of UNSRC said Otobo contributed immensely to the growth of the association.
Ojelabi recalled how much time and attention Otobo gave to the members of UNSRC Nigerian association, especially during the COVID-19 lockdown, advising and supporting the members.
“He was a mentor. He believed in one and united Nigeria,’’ she said.
In his exhortation, Pastor Gabriel Adejimi of Redeemed Christian Church of God, Restoration Pavilion, New York, urged the family members, former colleagues, and friends to take solace in God over the demise of Otobo.
Earlier, the reading of Bible was taken by Otobo’s daughter, Ms Ejiro Otobo from Gospel of Mathew Chapter 25 verses 31 to 40 while the deceased son, Mr Oheri Otobo gave the vote of thanks.
Oheri, who attested to testimonies of the guests about his father, appreciated the organisers and those present at the event, saying, “thank you for the overpouring of love and support we received from everyone here.
In all, what stands out in the tributes and testimonies of Otobo is that he was a man with ‘many feathers in his hat’ whose memories would live long in the hearts of his family, former colleagues, and friends. (NAN)