By Yinka Odumakin

A FORTNIGHT after celebrating his 90th birthday, former US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Walter Carrrington, peacefully exited this world on August 11, 2020. His Nigerian wife, Arese, said in a family statement:

“It is with a heavy and broken heart but with gratitude to God for his life of selfless humanity that I announce the passing of my beloved husband Walter Carrington, former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria and Senegal. He passed away peacefully, surrounded by loved ones at the age of 90 years old on Tuesday, August 11, 2020. Further announcements will be made shortly.”

Mrs. Carrington described the late diplomat as a loving husband, father, grandfather, cousin, uncle, friend and in-law. “Ralph Waldo Emerson said:… It is not the length of life but the depth of life. Walter was fortunate, his life had both length and depth,” she said in the statement.

About the late diplomat

We celebrated the length of his life at 90 and we celebrated the depth over a decade ago when he came to celebrate his 80th in Nigeria. The pro-democracy community put together a book of tributes titled A Friend In Need which I had the pleasure to co-edit with Bunmi Bakare to appreciate his life of service to Nigeria in the years he was Ambassador here in the mad years of Sani Abacha.

Carrington served as the US Ambassador to Senegal from 1980 to 1981. He was appointed by US President Bill Clinton in 1993 as the US Ambassador to Nigeria, where he remained until 1997. His ties to Nigeria were deep; he had married into a Nigerian family and had lived in three Nigerian cities since the late 1960s. He was a diplomat in Nigeria at one of its most difficult moments in history.

Nigeria organised a presidential election on June 12, 1993 which went peacefully in fairness against expectations. Bashorun MKO Abiola, the candidate of the SDP, was coasting home to clear victory when the General Ibrahim Babangida junta moved to annul the result.

A serious political crisis was occasioned by the political rascality. A low intensity war of five years followed during which a murderous Abacha junta took over, using all means as state craft.

It was this period Nigeria was blessed with Carrington who did not consider keeping silent as the duty of an ambassador in such a moment of crisis. He spoke out loudly and clearly on the side of democracy and his activist posture pushed America in the right direction and subsequently in other challenged African and developing countries later.

ALSO READ: Walter Carrington: The African child returns home

The pro-democracy community was appreciative of his service and decided to have a befitting farewell for him. The Abacha regime chose to roll tanks at the then Surulere home of Chief Ayo Adebanjo, venue of the reception. Walter had already become one of us in combat against tyranny. He walked on foot into the compound where he was hosted to a warm farewell.

Abacha died a miserable death at about 54 years old, while Carrrington lived to be 90; but Nigeria did not get out of its misery in his lifetime.The contradictions of Nigeria are too deep for it to survive.

Carrington graduated from the Harvard Law School (AB 1952; JD 1955). Upon graduation from Harvard, he enlisted in the US Army, where one of his assignments was as an enlisted man with the Judge Advocate General Corps (Germany, 1955–57).

Upon separation from the military, he went into private law practice in Boston, Massachusetts; during that time, he also served as Commissioner of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, the youngest person to serve until that date.

He held various positions in the Peace Corps from 1961 to 1971, serving as Country Director in Sierra Leone, Senegal and Tunisia, and then as Regional Director for Africa (1969–71). From 1971 to 1980, he was Executive Vice President of the African-American Institute.

Carrington served as the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Senegal from 1980 to 1981. In 1981, he was named Director of the Department of International Affairs of Howard University. He published several articles on Africa. He served as US Ambassador to Nigeria from 1993 to 1997. On September 1, 2004, Carrington was named the Warburg Professor of International Relations at Simmons College in Boston.

Carrington was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. In 1997, he received an honorary doctorate (Doctor of Humane Letters) from Livingstone College, North Carolina.

In 1991, Carrington published Africa in the Minds and Deeds of Black American Leaders (with Edwin Dorn). In 2010, he published A Duty to Speak: Refusing to Remain Silent in a Time of Tyranny, a compilation of his speeches supporting democracy and human rights in Nigeria during the Sani Abacha military dictatorship. He also wrote many Africa-related articles for national magazines.

He lives on in the hearts and minds of Nigerians he touched in special ways while he served. We have a register of Nigerians who missed death under Abacha for the way God used him. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo recently made an open confession that the diplomat warned him Abacha was coming for him.

He has finished his beautiful journey on earth and all we can continue to share of him are the great memories of the great American who became so nice to us when “fellow Nigerians” turned their backs against us.

FEEDBACK

Re: El-Rufai, NBA and Southern Kaduna

Dear Yinka,

I COMMEND you on this piece and salute your courage in revealing the intimate details of your encounters with the subject of your piece. You have professionally dealt with the issue, stating what you have learnt on this matter without the usually Nigerian system of abuse and derogatory remarks, something which I don’t believe the subject of this piece will spare you if he proffers a remark.

Finally, I wish all our elites, some whom you have mentioned in this piece and others who know the subject and his antecedents will speak up now to save innocent Nigerians and Nigeria itself in future from doom and bloodshed..God bless you.

-Iniobong James.

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