Nigerians hail former Commonwealth Scribe, as UNIZIK launches Diplomatic Institute in his name
From Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
A former Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations, Chief Emeka Anyaoku was celebrated last week in Anambra State.
It was an occasion that had encomiums pouring in torrents for the diplomat over his life of meritorious service to humanity.
The ceremony was the official launch of the Emeka Anyaoku Institute of International Studies and Diplomacy at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. The University Auditorium, venue of the ceremony, was filled with eminent and distinguished personalities from different parts of the country.
Former Head of State, Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar was the Special Guest of Honour together with immediate past president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan who was represented by former Minister of Power, Prof Chinedu Nebo.
Former Chief of Army Staff and Minister of Defence, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma was Father of the Day while former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gen. Ike Nwachukwu (rtd) was the chairman of the occasion.
Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe and the Traditional Ruler of Obosi Kingdom where Anyaoku hailed from, Igwe Chidubem Iweka 111 were the royal fathers of the day. A host of other traditional rulers were in attendance.
Vice Chancellor of the university, Prof. Joseph Eberendu Ahaneku, in his welcome address, said the Anyaoku Institute of International Studies and Diplomacy was conceived to immortalise Anyaoku’s name while the diplomat is still alive. It was also to inspire the upcoming generation based on his diplomatic contributions in promoting democracy, good governance and world peace, the VC noted.
While welcoming the various dignitaries, Ahaneku said a synopsis of Chief Emeka Anyaoku’s post graduation work life was in diplomatic service, saying it justified the naming of the institute after the diplomat. The VC said the university was very proud of hosting the facility.
“In the light of the sterling diplomatic contributions of Chief Emeka Anyaoku to promoting democracy, good governance and world peace, it is appropriate and heart-warming that a structure/ institution dedicated to the pursuit of this field of human endeavour to which he committed his work life and located in his home country, be named after him, to immortalise him and inspire the upcoming generation,” the Vice Chancellor said.
Gen. Nwachukwu, in an opening remark, opened another floodgate of encomiums for Anyaoku.
Nwachukwu described Anyaoku as a consummate diplomat that one could rely on to handle any difficult situation and come out triumphant.
He recalled his days as Minister of Foreign Affairs during the Babaginda administration and his meeting with Anyaoku. He said he was a member of a nine-man committee sent by the Commonwealth to handle the issue of apartheid regime in South Africa, adding that the members had to canvass for Anyaoku, who was then the Deputy Secretary General, to be elected the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth.
Gen. Nwachukwu said Anyaoku’s 10-year tenure witnessed the growth of most Commonwealth countries. He noted that because of people like Anyaoku, he sincerely believed that 99 per cent of Nigerians were decent people. He called on the citizens to keep maintaining Nigeria’s unity in diversity.
He said there was greater need for diplomacy presently in the country going by the current clamour for restructuring.
Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano described Anyaoku as a great mentor, one that turns anything he touches into gold.
Obiano said his administration had reaped bountifully from Anyaoku’s wise counsels, as the diplomat is the chairman of Anambra State Elders Council. He pledged a donation of N10 million on behalf of the state government towards supporting the institute and assured that his administration would continue to provide security to the people of the state.
Gen. Theophilus Danjuma in a remark thanked the university for naming the Institute after Anyaoku. He also thanked Anyaoku for agreeing to lend his name to the institution for the project.
He enumerated several footprints of Anyaoku in the national and international scene and specifically mentioned his much-cherished contributions in the Presidential Advisory Committee set up by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
General Abdusalami Abubakar read out the testimonial of Queen Elizabeth 11 of the United Kingdom to Anyaoku in Durban, November 1999, noting that he lacked words to describe Anyaoku’s exceptional qualities.
The former Head of State also recalled efforts made by Anyaoku to bring Nigeria back to the Commonwealth when the country was regarded as a pariah state following the political crisis of that period. He called on all Nigerians to embrace peace, saying without peace, there would be no unity in the country.
President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo said he benefitted immensely from Anyaoku’s inexhaustible wisdom and invaluable advice even when he was a serving minister at 31, noting that he had also been benefitting since he started leading the Igbo socio-cultural organisation.
Former Minister of Education, Dr Oby Ezekwesili described Anyaoku as a school that everybody should learn from. She prayed for God’s continued protection on the respected diplomat.
Former President Obasanjo, in a goodwill message to Anyaoku, lauded his contributions to the progress of the country and humanity. He described the honour being given to Anyaoku as well deserved.
Apostle Charles Odunukwe, in his remarks, said Anyaoku’s life was an inspiration and a lesson to the youths that hard work pays. While lauding the initiators of the project for honouring Anyaoku, he said the Institute would be of great help to future diplomats.
Chairman of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Anambra State Chapter, Chief Damian Okeke gave kudos to the university for honouring Anyaoku while he is still alive. He called for one Nigeria anchored on equity, fairness and justice.
Shortly before Anyaoku spoke, a documentary on him entitled, ‘Footprints of an iconic diplomat,’ was shown to the audience amidst cheers and applause.
In his remarks, Chief Anyaoku expressed gratitude to those that attended the event, just as he praised the university for hosting it.
He stressed that Nigeria has all it takes to be a leading country in the world if the citizens could solve the numerous challenges facing the country. He expressed optimism that once the problems were tackled, the country would take her rightful place in the comity of nations.
While commending the university for the honour, Anyaoku hoped that the institute would provide facilities for teaching and learning diplomacy, as well as studies on interdependence among Nigerian tribes to promote unity.
Anyaoku said: “It is an immense pleasure for me to be on the grounds of this university that bears the name of Africa’s most illustrious son, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, and I am truly humbled to be given a lifetime honour by this university.
“I often say that at the age of 84, I have entered the departure lounge. My prayer and the prayer of my family and friends is that the flight should be delayed for as long as possible. As many of you know, and as brought out by that documentary which I’m seeing for the first time, I have devoted about 50 years of my working life to service in international affairs, the core of which is promoting cordial relations between nations and on occasions, helping to resolve political problems both within and between nations. And in addition, of course, tackling such global issues as the climate change and increasing terrorism.
“As you heard, I began with service to my own country Nigeria, but quite early in my career, I went into multilateral service through the Commonwealth of Nations, of which Nigeria is an important member. You’ve been briefed about some of the highlights of my service. I was involved in efforts to resolve political crisis in places like the Caribbean countries, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, that remote country in the South Pacific, and most of all, in the ending of the inhuman system of apartheid in South Africa.
“In the course of my career, I have visited well over 100 countries, experiencing serious moments and sometimes light moments. Some years ago, I was in Trinidad and Tobago and I dialled a taxi man. He said, ‘what is the name,’ and I said Anyaoku. He said, ‘come again,’ and I said Anyaoku. He promptly dropped the phone and said ‘I have no time for jokes, man.’ And that, of course, was because in the West Indies, African names were at that time quite unfamiliar.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it is my hope that this institute will provide a special facility for research and learning both for burgeoning academics and burgeoning practitioners in diplomacy. And given the well established fact that there is a nexus between domestic and foreign policies, I hope also that the work of the institute will in some ways contribute to the study of the factor of interdependence among the various parts of this country and thereby help to strengthen the unity of our nation.
“One of the things I’ve not been able to resolve for a little while now is what to do with my personal papers. As you heard, I was the third Secretary General of the Commonwealth. The first Secretary General was Arnold Smith of Canada and he deposited his personal papers at Carlton University, Ottawa.
The second Secretary General, Shridath Ramphal is from the West Indies, and has deposited his papers at the University of West Indies.
“I am glad and grateful to you Mr. Vice Chancellor that you will help me to resolve that problem because I will now deposit my personal papers, which I wrote while in the service and all the books I’ve written both during and since my retirement from the post of Secretary General, at this Institute.
“I must say that I’ve been a very proud servant and representative of my country abroad, but I’ve also sought to be a proud servant of the Commonwealth, of which Nigeria is an important member.
“I believe that our country Nigeria has all it takes to become a leading country in the world. But that of course is provided that we effectively tackle the number of serious challenges that confront our country today. But speaking for myself, I remain optimistic that we will be able to solve all these problems we face today and will soon be on the way to becoming an important country in the world.”
At the end of the loud ovation that preceded his speech, the delegation proceeded to the site of the proposed Institute where General Abdusalami Abubakar, assisted by Governor Willie Obiano, turned the sod for the building project.
A sculptural work of Anyaoku’s bust produced by Prof Cliff Nwanna of Fine and Applied Arts Department was also unveiled to the admiration of all.
Some of the other eminent personalities at the event include former President General of Ohanaeze, Professor Joe Irukwu; former Nigerian Ambassador to the US, Professor George Obiozor, and former Chief of General Staff, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (retd.);
traditional ruler of Awka, Obi Gibson Nwosu; traditional ruler of Ndikelionwu, Professor Chukwuemeka Ike; former Pro-Chancellor of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu University, Professor Elochukwu Amaucheazi, and traditional ruler of Nnewi, Igwe Kenneth Orizu.
A number of industrialists, including Aliko Dangote, Tony Elumelu and Jim Ovia were represented at the ceremony.