*His attributes of commitment, self-discipline, humility and hard work worthy of emulation by new generation of Nigerians’
By Mike Ebonugwo
Ambassador Jibrin Chinade is a former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He also served at different times as Nigerian Ambassador to the Hague, Netherlands; the former Soviet Union(Russian Federation) with Concurrent Accreditation to the Commonwealth Independent States Countries as well as Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde.
In this interview, the second in the series, in honour of Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, who marks his 90th birthday tomorrow, Ambassador Chinade posits that Chief Anyaoku deserves to be well celebrated given the fact that he has devoted his entire life in service of humanity. He also enjoined the present generation of Nigerians to learn from Chief Anyaoku’s special attributes of self-discipline, humility and hard work, not only to ensure the country’s continued existence, but to also move it forward. Excerpts:
Chief Emeka Anyaoku will be 90 years tomorrow. With the benefit of your close relationship and knowledge of him, how will you describe him?
I can describe him first and foremost as an excellent diplomat, very well polished, knowledgeable, highly educated and sophisticated, and very polite; extremely humble and somebody with a lot of self-discipline.
Chief was our chairman in the Presidential Advisory Council for 15 years (the Council was established by then President Olusegun Obasanjo to provide an advisory platform on diplomacy and international affairs and what Nigeria’s place should be).
And he has always been there, at every meeting; he has never missed a meeting. He will always be the first one to arrive, to chair the meeting, even though he is over 80 years. He’s so polite, so gentle, so cultured, so educated and very highly regarded in his dealings of leading people to a very successful outcome for any negotiation on any issue.
I can speak on Chief for hours if you want to. But briefly that is the picture of Chief Emeka Anyaoku.
In what way has his stature as a diplomat impacted on Nigeria and Nigerians?
Yes, it has great impact on our foreign policy and our standings in the international community. Chief was appointed by the late Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa in 1966 to go to the new office of the Commonwealth Secretariat in London.
It was in London in 1966 that I first met him and knew him very well. He rose there for 34 years to the top office of the Secretary General of the Commonwealth. He was elected by the 54 member states of the Commonwealth two times, for a period of five-year term.
He defeated the then Prime Minister of Australia for that job. He’s a personal friend of Her Majesty the Queen. He was at one time the president of the Worldwide Fund for Environment(Nature); he took over from the Duke of Edinburgh.
Chief was very instrumental in helping Southern African states to liberate themselves from racist colonial war; he was very active, extremely active on the Trans-African struggle for liberation. Eventually South Africa became a free and independent state; the same thing with Zimbabwe and so many other states in the Southern region of Africa.
Chief took active, diplomatic work with Margaret Thatcher, with President Nelson Mandela, with so many other leaders of the Southern African region for independence and freedom, and democracy for their people. Chief’s contributions to diplomacy is not only confined to Africa but generally all over the world.
Given all you have just said about Chief Anyaoku, his vast achievements as an internationally acclaimed diplomat and statesman, how should Nigerians celebrate him as he marks his 90th birthday?
I think he’s a national icon for Nigeria. He has given his whole 90 years of life for dignity of humanity, not only for African humanity but for humanity as a whole.
He has contributed immensely to the solution of political problems of post-colonial issues in Southern Africa. He’s still very active on youth employment (and empowerment) in Nigeria. He’s still very much a detribalised nationalist for the unity, progress and economic development of this country.
Chief is still very active, even at the age of 90; and I’m sure he will continue to give his best to this country.
What are those unique attributes that stand him out and may also be the secret of his many successes and achievements?
Very good question, I must say. The first thing is self-discipline. For a Nigerian to be at the Commonwealth Secretariat for 34 years and for the British authorities, members of the Commonwealth and his other colleagues never to have found in him any shortcomings either in his behaviour or in relation to his work.
That’s says something about the man.
He’s always punctual, he’s also hardworking – a very hardworking person; very disciplined. And I hope and pray that the new generation of youths in Nigeria will really dedicate themselves to the progress, development and democracy for this country. Chief has been preaching this all his life.
He’s a committed democrat; he’s a committed nationalist; he’s a committed Nigerian. And I hope and pray that the new generation will emulate, will learn something from his strong character of self-discipline and humility. He’s a very humble person.
At this time of his life, what role(s) do you still expect him to play in Nigeria, especially against the backdrop of the prevailing political and economic challenges in the country?
I think the Nigerian government and people, indeed all of us, can learn a lot from his self-discipline, from his commitment to whatever assignment given to him, to his sense of humility. He’s a very humble person; he’s never arrogant. But he’s very hardworking, he reads very well. He’s an erudite scholar. And whenever he chaired a meeting something will come out of that gathering.
So, I think what the new generation could learn from the Chief is self-discipline, humility and hard work. It’s the combination of all these that can take us to that Nigerian state we all desire.
Sir, what personally will you say to him as he marks his 90th birthday?
What I will say to him? First of all, I will say, Chief congratulations on your 90th birthday!
Congratulations to your beautiful and devoted wife and family who have assisted you throughout these years, and congratulations to the new generation of Nigerians who have a lot to learn from your writings, books and from your lectures.