BY EMMA OKOCHA
The US with a lot of care have since independence appointed their best ambassadors to Nigeria. We have in the course of our journey to paradise and hell ran into some of these gentlemen.
Donald Easum was the tennis buff who in many ways created the Nigerian Tennis circuit. A Tennis circuit line that played from Lagos Lord Rumens to Ogbe Hard Courts in Benin to the Kaduna Clay courts. We picked his balls and were picking for him even at his residential home across Gerrald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos.
He was the one who argued that the US had the capacity to replicate the desert and posited that, in view of the African American ample and influential rising population in the US , the US would have no choice but design a veritable US African policy for the mother continent.
There is the cerebral former envoy, John Campbell, the Ambassador in Lagos from 1990 -1998. He follows and understands the Nigerian internal politics to his finger tips. Eventhough, he is retired he continues to take interest in our politics and in a recent article published in the Sun of August 22, 2010, he predicted doom for the country .
He stated that ”Nigeria’s previous elections ratified elite decisions already made. Yet at present, there is no credible voters roll …and the constitution requires that the constituency boundaries be redrawn to reflect the census of 2006. These are formidable tasks in a huge, developing country with poor infrastructure and generally poor institutions that do not command popular confidence. Given these challenges, the likelihood of a free, fair and credible elections is not high.”
We shall never forget the turbulent tenure of the first black US Ambassador to Nigeria. Walter Carringthon threw to the winds the genteel disposition of the diplomatic act, when he rolled his sleeves and invited the military dictator to a bolekaja street fight.
At a very frightening episode somewhere at a very remote address in a Lagos urban ghetto, he beckoned on some trigger happy officers of the Abacha statocracy to shoot him! Ready to take the same bullets was his friend Gani, who incidentally had pulled off his own agbada and was like the combative Walter ready to die for democracy!
There were others until she arrived. Renee Sanders was the first black woman to take over the affairs of the US diplomatic schedules in these parts. We are there when she was given the send off reception in the Armed Forces Mess near the Mayflower, 17th street in Washington DC. In one of the speeches contributed by another of those experts in Nigeria America relations, the new Ambassador to Nigeria was advised to take it very easy, ”be careful for that country Nigeria, could be very rough.”
When she landed the Niger Delta was in flames. Her Excellency was in charge when Obama made good the dreams of her slave forebearers. She was the US ambassador when on a Christmas day, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab the son of a Nigerian mandarin elite packed a bomb inside his underpants and was almost blasting into hell the Detriot airport and the poor passengers. Under her charge, the killings of the innocent happened in Jos.
In all those crisis, and in the good times, the Lady showed her grit, her craft and never lost her head.
As the Ambassador prepares her hand over notes, we on this page cannot fail but say our salute and goodbye to an astute diplomat, an intellectual and a friend who in her representation did not breath down our necks nor did she shake in fear of our rough environment.
After all she was before her coming to Abuja, the Deputy Commander of the US Industrial College of the Armed Forces of War in Washington DC.The greatest and most dominant Armed Forces in the planet.