By Rauf Aregbesola
AMBASSADOR \Walter Charles Carrington was the American ambassador to Nigeria between 1993 and 1997. He was born on July 24, 1930. On Friday, he will be 90 years old. On behalf of my wife and our other associates, I congratulate and felicitate with him on reaching this milestone.
This milestone is significant, considering that in the United States, the life expectancy of the African American is 75.4 years. But it has pleased the almighty God to give him long life and he has surpassed this benchmark by more than a decade, still counting and waxing strong.
I listened to him intently last month at the webinar commemorating the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by Chief Moshood Abiola, but wickedly annulled by the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida. His recollections were accurate, his thoughts vivid and poignant. He was calm, cool and measured in his delivery, never losing a chain of thought. This is very unusual for a 90-year-old.
Ambassador Carrington has had an illustrious career that straddled the academia and the diplomatic service; and a lifetime lived in service of humanity, and especially the Black race. He was ambassador to Senegal between 1980 and 1981 but his most engaging post would indisputably be in Nigeria between 1993 and 1997.
Of course, Ambassador Carrington is a Nigerian in spirit and by marriage, having been married to the lovely Lady Arese from Edo State. Before then he had lived in Nigeria at some point in his service at the American Peace Corps. He was ambassador to Nigeria at the most turbulent period in her history.
General Sani Abacha the terrible had seized the government shortly Ambassador Carrington’s arrival in Nigeria and had unleashed the most despotic rule ever witnessed in the annals of the country.
Ambassador Carrington, therefore, went beyond diplomatic limits in the engagement of the Abacha regime and the struggle for military disengagement and enthronement of democratic government.
This alarmingly at diplomatic and personal risks.
He rallied the diplomatic corps against the regime’s abuse of human rights and brutalisation of Nigerians, especially critics and pro-democracy activists. He was unrelenting in his call for the release of Chief Abiola from illegal and unjust detention and enthronement of democracy.
The sanctions imposed against the regime by the United States, the European Union and other countries were already making the junta to crumble under its own weight.
At the death of Abacha in 1998, it became evident that the military could no longer continue to rule the country. This paved the way for the transition to civil rule and the Fourth Republicmidwifed by Abacha’s successor, General Abdulsalam Abubakar, the following year.
Human rights and social justice
Ambassador Carrington projected the United States as our greatest ally in the quest for democracy, human rights and social justice in a way never seen before and after his departure. No doubt, his place in the history of democratic struggles in Nigeria is assured.
My last meeting with Ambassador Carrington and his wife was in 2013 when they played a good host to us while I had a speaking engagement at Harvard University, his base. I cherish every moment I had with them and only pray that I could return the favour.
We have been in contact since then and I was pleasantly surprised when I got the notification of his 90th birthday. How time flies! He is ageless.
Abraham Lincoln is credited to have written that ‘In the end, it is not in the years in your life that counts, but the life in your years’. Ambassador Carrington, by all standards, has had a good and fulfilling life.
He is one of the good role models for African-Americans and an epitome of the limitless possibilities for anyone with self-belief in America, especially people of colour. He stands tall in the pantheons of black people of global significance. He will continue to have our love and admiration.
As he celebrates his 90th birthday, I wish him long life in good health and continued service to humanity.
Ogbeni Aregbesola, Minister of the Interior, wrote from Abuja