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Abdullahi Atta: The story of an African Prince

One of the greatest challenges of governance in Nigeria is the inability of most of the leaders and political office holders to document the account of their stewardship to the people, reports Japhet Alakam

BUT one man who has distanced himself from such class of people is an accomplished diplomat, Nigeria’s former ambassador to Cuba, one of the founders of the Nigerian Intelligence Agency and someone who is widely described as a man of character, Ambassador Abdullahi Atta.

This he demonstrated last week with the official launch and public presentation of his autobiography titled, International Diplomacy and Palace Politics: The Memoirs of an African Prince at The Metropolitan Club, Victoria Island, Lagos.

The occasion which was chaired by former Inspector General of Police, Alhaji M.D.Yusuf turned out to be a reunion of sorts as eminent personalities, diplomats, friends and colleagues of the author came to identify with an exemplary leader and one who contributed significantly to the shaping of Nigeria’s foreign policy decisions.

R-L: Ambassador Abdullahi Ibrahim Atta, author of the book, Alhaji M.D. Yusuf, former Inspector General of Police, Chairman of the occasion presenting the Book; Alhaja Aminat Atta, and Chief Ernest Shonekan, former Head of State during the formal launch of the book. Photo: Bunmi Azeez.

In his remarks, the chairman of the occasion, Alhaji M.D Yusuf paid glowing tributes to Ambassador Atta whom he described as a distinguished ambassador and also commended his wife, Aminat for her wonderful contributions to the family. According to him “I am happy to be in this occasion especially for the great people that attended.” To him no other special qualification gave him the honour except the fact that the author is his friend.

In his goodwill message which was read by Mr Bola Kuku, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Odien Ajumogobia, disclosed that he was pleased to be part of the occasion and congratulated the author for his meritorious service to the country and for finding time to write his autobiography.

According to him, “the publication gave us an insight into the background which prepared him for the 35 years he spent in the public service.”  Pointing out that his strong commitment to law and order was one of the qualities that made him to rise and excel in the various fields.”

Going further, he highlighted some of the achievements Atta recorded while in office and concluded by saying that even in retirement Atta remains an invaluable asset to Nigeria.

The book review was done by Prof. G.O. Olusanya, Nigeria’s former ambassador to France and   former Director- General of Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) who reviewed the second half of the book which dealt with Attah’s career as a diplomat while Mr Clem Baiye, Editor -in- chief of Verity Communications reviewed the first part which dealt with his personal life and upbringing in the palace.

Both reviewers acknowledged the benefit of his background by stating how he learnt a lot about politics, the importance of having a sense of responsibility and humility while growing up.

Ambassador Olusanya , with a good sense of his discipline as a professor of History narrated when the author started his career and how he worked in the various offices until he retired. Pointing out that the peculiar triats he exhibited that made him to have a fruitful and fulfilled civil service.

Clem Baiye on his part recounted other values that shaped the young Atta  which included humility and hardwork which he inherited from his father who was a formidable disciplinarian.

In his response Amb. Atta stated that the need to provide answers to some of the questions raised by his children motivated him into writing the book. “I succumbed to pressures arising from many questions raised by my children. The size and administration of the family, especially its management of people from varied backgrounds. How my old man coped with such a large family and the ruler ship of a tough and multiclannish people.

Building infrastructure

“The achievements he made in building infrastructure particularly education, water supply, medical facilities, road network and town planning as far back as the 1920’s when in most other parts of northern Nigeria people resigned themselves to the circumstances.”

He described his father the late Atta as a visionary and a great traveler whose  travels reinforced his vision and consequently tried to put into practice some of the things he saw abroad which he thought would be beneficial to the community that he ruled.

Earlier in her remarks, the publisher, Mrs Habiba Balogun, one of the children of Ambassador Atta stated that it was good that the occasion was held at the hall which had paintings of people that inspired her father. She thanked all especially the people who contributed to the success of the publication of the book.

The well attended event was an indication of acceptability of the celebrant in the society. The roll call include: Chief Ernest Shoneken, former Head of State, AVM A.D.Bello, Ambassadors Olo Adeniyi, Oladapo Fafowora, Olisa Emeka, Justice M. Uwais, former Chief Justice of the Federation, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Representatives of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Odion Ajumogobia, Alhaji M.D.Yusuf, Giando Menico, Italian Consul to Nigeria, Alhaja Aminat Atta, wife of the author,Akintola Williams, diplomats, friends and family members of the author.


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