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An Ode to Joy (1)

By Obadiah Mailafia

WE are gathered here today to celebrate a distinguished patriot. Her Excellency Ambassador Joy Ogwu OFR is not only a woman of substance; she is a public servant of distinction; a woman of virtue; a devoted mother and wife; and an accomplished academic – one of those rare breed of scholar-diplomats that are, sadly, becoming extinct these days.

Ambassador Joy Ogwu OFR

An anecdote has been recounted about one of our pioneer career diplomats, Leslie Harriman, when he was appointed Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in 1975. During his maiden address, Harriman jolted his colleagues by reporting that when his posting came up, the Nigerian press  angrily demanded to know why a zoology graduate from Ibadan should be made envoy to such an august international body.

The late envoy added that, having observed his colleagues in the General Assembly since his arrival he was left in no doubt that he had the best training for the job!

When Joy Uche Angela Ogwu was sent to New York in August 2006, there was, happily, no grumbling whatsoever from our media. She came to the job – the first woman to be so appointed – like fish in water. Before then, she had been Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, and subsequently, foreign minister. She came to the job with enormous intellectual capital – with an arsenal of publications in foreign policy and international affairs, disarmament and security.

She brought to the job not only high ability but also leadership, passion, commitment and patriotism. One of the most difficult moments must have been when she had to leave her beloved husband – a renowned surgeon – in his dying hospital bed whilst she was attending to urgent matters of state.

It was no doubt a humongous success for Nigerian diplomacy that she presided over the UN Security Council for four consecutive times — a most unusual feat for a non-permanent member of that exclusive club.

The theme of my Keynote Address will centre on Africa, Nigeria and World Order. My point of departure is that Nigeria’s manifest world-historic destiny is to be the leader of Africa and of the black race – the cupbearer of the Standard of Civilisation in our continent.

Some of you may have come across former American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s book, World Order: Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History (Penguin 2014). I once attended a lecture by Kissinger when I was a doctoral student in England. I found him to be a man of genius.

But he also reminded me of a famous quote from Sir Winston Churchill when he was asked about God and mortality: “I am prepared to meet my maker. Whether my maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.”

Henry Alfred Kissinger made his fame as a great Harvard scholar of European classical diplomacy; and easily one of the greatest philosophers of war and peace of the twentieth century. He defines world order as: “the concept held by a region or civilisation about the nature of just arrangements and the distribution of power thought to be applicable to the entire world…the practical application of these concepts to a substantial part of the globe—large enough to affect the global balance of power.”

Kissinger significantly observes that no real “global order” has ever existed as such. Rather, “what passes for order in our time was devised in Western Europe n early four centuries ago, at a peace conference in the German region of Westphalia, conducted without the involvement or even the awareness of most other continents or civilisations”.

Kissinger, despite his weighty learning, apparently suffers from profound prejudices. Our former Foreign minister Joseph Nanven Garba once angrily accosted him to explain his Africa policy. Kissinger reportedly gave Garba a blank look. In his latest tour de force, he makes a wide-ranging sweep at America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Africa is virtually ignored. In Kissinger’s world, then as now — and sad to say — Africa does not exist!

Scientists, archaeologists and evolutionary biologists have established, quite incontrovertibly, that our glorious continent of Africa is the cradle of Humanity. The ancient civilisation of Egypt and the Nile Valley remains unsurpassed in the history of the human race. The ancient Egyptians, who were black people, were the first teachers of the human race, from whom the Persians, Greeks and Romans borrowed whatever has made them famous up to our age. The great Cushitic Christian kingdoms of Nubia and Kush have left their imprints on the annals of human culture, as have the ancient kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, Songhai, Kanem-Borno, Bini, Ankole, Toro and Buganda.

While Europe and North America are regressing in terms of population, the emerging countries are experiencing a population explosion. The world’s population has recently reached the 7 billion mark. It is projected to reach 8.3 billion by 2030. Africa’s population currently stands at 1.22 billion, and is expected to exceed both China and India by the year 2030. Our continent has the world’s youngest population. The world’s middle class is projected to grow from 3.2 billion in 2020 to 4.9 billion in 2030. A recent report from the United States predicts that by 2050 Nigeria’s population will be about 440 million, way ahead of that of the United States.

With a landmass of 29.8 million square km, our continent is the second largest after continental Eurasia. The Almighty Creator has endowed us with over 50 percent of the world’s strategic minerals. Indeed some of the strategic minerals, known as rare earths, are found in our continent alone. Ours is a land of rich forests, fertile valleys and eternal fountain springs and rivers.

Africa is currently experiencing the most rapid growth of the middle class as a percentage of the population. With a thriving middle class comes a mass consumer economy. This will provide opportunities for business, industry, agribusiness, banking and finance, infrastructures hotels, tourism and services to grow and flourish.

Through the pernicious order of Global Apartheid, our continent has been consigned to a low and servile status in the hierarchy of nations. Global Apartheid is perpetrated through such vehicles as the international media, Hollywood, mass consumer culture, the global financial industry to impose a system that the Italian Marxist political philosopher Antonio Gramsci characterised as “hegemony”.  It was not a slip of tongue that President Donald Trump spat on the face of our continent as a “shithole”.

It is up to us Africans to articulate a vision of who we are based on our cosmology, gnosis, historical experiences and clearly defined interests. And we must do so with conviction and moral force. No one else will do it for us.

Joy Ogwu has set an example with her stellar impact in the realm of ideas as well as practice. She is passing the baton to a new generation of scholar-diplomats to emulate her excellence.

(Being Text of a Keynote Lecture on the Occasion of Books Presentation by H. E. Ambassador Joy Ogwu OFR, Held at the National Defence College, Abuja, on Thursday 11 January, 2018).


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