By Emeka Obasi
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, must be briefing the President on Nigeria’s role in the funeral of former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan. He was not just Ghanaian and world figure, the man was one of us.
Annan died in Switzerland on August 18, and his burial is billed for September 18, in his home country. Onyeama has something with the Swiss. His father, Justice Charles Dadi Onyeama, was a Judge of the International Court of Justice at the Hague from 1967 to 1976. We note that the top diplomat died in the country where our minister spent part of his salad days.
Annan’s first wife is, Titi Alakija, who gave him two children, Kojo and Ama. Their marriage in 1965 lasted until 1983, but that did not severe his links with Nigeria. Ama is married to Adepoju Adedeji. Kojo’s middle name is Adeyemo.
Titi is the daughter Chief Adeyemo Alakija, a great Nigerian who had links all over the world from Brazil to the United Kingdom and beyond. He was a co-founder of the Daily Times of Nigeria, founding member of the Nigeria Football Association in 1933[not 1945] and founding member of the Island club, Lagos.
Chief Alakija was the Lisa of Egbaland, Woje Ileri of Ile-Ife and had ancestral links with Oyo. His father was one of the freed men who returned from Brazil to begin a new life in Lagos. Alakija’s brother set up legal practice in Bahia, Brazil.
Kojo Annan shares the same birth date, 25th, with his grandfather after whom he was named. Chief Alakija was born in September 1884, his grandson, July, 1973. The Ghanaian is a regular face in his mother’s Lagos home.
Onyeama should know quite a lot about Annan’s father in–law, who was also a lawyer. Chief Alakija’s niece was married to Justice Olumuyiwa Jibowu, the first Nigerian High Court judge and also the first indigenous Justice of the Supreme Court.
The first indigenous Chief Justice of Nigeria, Sir Adetokunbo Ademola, was Chief Alakija’s nephew and son of Oba Samuel Ademola, Alake of Abeokuta. This paints a large picture of Nigeria’s relationship with Annan.
I expect President Muhammadu Buhari to lead a powerful delegation to Osu Castle to support the Annans. Mr. President could go with Nigerian members of the UN family. These include Mrs Amina Mohammed, Dr. Ibrahim Gambari, Gen. Isaac Obiakor and Mrs Joy Ogwu.
Part of that delegation should be Chief Emeka Anyaoku, first African Secretary General of the Commonwealth. For those who do not remember, Annan and Anyaoku, played crucial roles in Buhari’s peaceful emergence as President in 2015.
The powerful duo, accompanied by Gen. Abdusalam Abubakar, doused political tension by urging Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to ensure a bloodless election. Their wise counsel propelled the immediate past president to accept the result of the Presidential poll.
Annan’s love for Nigeria would earn him a Presidential medal from Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe when they meet in the Land of the Dead. Zik was a Pan African and did so much to cement cordial ties between Nigeria and Ghana.
Zik of Africa showed this when he took, Flora Ogbenyeanu Ogoegbunam, to the altar on April 4, 1936. Venue was Wesley Church, Jamestown, Accra. One of the guests was, Adolphus Kofi[A.K.] Blankson, who later followed Azikiwe to Nigeria and at a time served as General Manager of African Continental Bank[ACB].
The greatest gift Zik gave to Ghana was Kwame Nkrumah who eventually became the First President of that country. The Nigerian, after studies at the Lincoln University, Pennsylvania decided to settle in the Gold Coast as Editor of the African Morning Post.
Zik’s fiery pen and tongue bought Nkrumah over. The latter also proceeded to Lincoln University. And like Azikiwe, he turned lecturer there after earning his certificate.
As Editor, Azikiwe’s office was on Pagan Road, Accra. He was once charged with libel and was on his way to jail before the highest court of the land set him free. What a coincidence that one of his two sureties was, V.B. Annan, a Ghanaian who retired to Accra after serving in Nigeria.
In Accra, Zik and Flora stayed at Trocadero Hotel. It sounds funny that today, one of the top hotels in that town, La Palm Royal Beach, is said to have been built with Nigerian money courtesy of a retired General who gifted a former Ghanaian leader with our oil money.
In 2001 and again in 2002, I spent time at the hotel and was told by a Ghanaian that La Palm Royal Beach, was owned by the wife of an ex-Ghanaian president. It was Nigerian money talking. The woman in question was said to have sold it off later.
La Palm Royal Beach is in the Labadi area of Accra. Not far away is the Teshie Military Academy which produced three Nigerian leaders: Generals Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Mohammed and Olusegun Obasanjo.
The first Nigerian military Head of State, Gen. Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, started job as a Second World War Private in Accra. Dim Emeka Ojukwu taught Murtala Tactics at Teshie. Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu was there in 1957.
It was therefore little surprise that the only time Ojukwu and Gowon held hands during the crisis was at Peduase Lodge, Aburi. Ghanaian leader, Gen. Arthur Roy Ankrah, thought he could stem War. Biafrans stood on Aburi. Nigeria changed the goal post.
Back to Kofi Annan. He died on August 18, a day that Ankrah would have turned 103 years. That probably was another way of reminding Nigerians of the man that took them to Aburi, for peace, in January 1967.
Zik influenced Nkrumah. He brought Ghana closer to Nigeria. Zik dropped Benjamin. Nkrumah dropped Francis. He was originally Kofi, a name which Annan bore.
The Owelle and Osagyefo were toppled in 1966. The military officers who played prominent roles in their sack were Emmanuel. Operation Damissa had Emma Ifeajuna. Emmanuel Kotoka led Operation Cold Chop.
That was just one year after Koffi Annan married Titi Alakija.