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January 19, 2024

Tribute to an amazing auntie, by Donu Kogbara

Tribute to an amazing auntie, by Donu Kogbara

Tomorrow, Ambassador Judith Sefi Atta will receive an award in Abuja from the Association of Retired Career Ambassadors of Nigeria, ARCAN. It is an honour she richly deserves.  

I first met her when, in a blaze of Catholic enthusiasm, I got married in Rome in 1993. I was based in London in those days and she was the Nigerian Ambassador to Italy; and I’ll always remember the warm welcome my mother and I received from her.    

Sadly, my relationship with Auntie has lasted much longer than my relationship with my long gone husband; and now that we both live in Abuja, I am able to enjoy the privilege of seeing her quite often.  

I often think that praise that comes from professional peers who have worked with you and know you well is the most valuable praise and here are excerpts from a tribute that her fellow former ambassador, Godknows Boladei Igali, wrote when she turned 90.  

“Born a princess of Ebirraland [in today’s Kogi State], she was a pioneer female graduate from what was once Nigeria’s Northern Province and a teacher, educationist, diplomat, and administrator.  

“Her paramount monarch father, Atta Ibrahim Onoruioza, had a cosmopolitan outlook and left behind many great offspring, including the first indigenous Head of Service and Secretary to the Federal Government, Abdulazeez Atta, first Nigerian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom with concurrent accreditation to much of Europe, Amb. Abdulmalik Atta, second medical doctor from Northern Nigeria, Dr. Abdulmumini Atta, first Governor of Kwara State, Adamu Atta, first Nigerian Ambassador to Cuba, Amb. Abdullahi Atta (now 95 years old) who also headed the external intelligence arm for years, former Inspector-General of Police, Aliyu Atta, the current sovereign (Ohinoyi) of the Ebirra people, Alhaji (Dr) Ado Ibrahim, now 97-year old, Mrs. Rekiya Scott, the first qualified Nurse from the north and Alhaji Mahmud Atta, a onetime Chairman of First Bank Plc, as well as Mrs Saratu Majekodunmi, wife of the owner of the famous St Nicholas Hospital in Lagos.  

“Just from one man!  

“With so many illustrious siblings surrounding her, Amb. Judith Atta had to work hard to shine; and her light has never dimmed.  

Following a string of academic triumphs at home and abroad, “she became the first Nigerian Ambassador to UNESCO in Paris, first female Permanent Secretary of both the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology and Ministry of External Affairs (now Foreign) Affairs, first female ambassador to Italy and first Minister of Women Affairs, among MANY other accomplishments.       

“Although Amb. Atta’s public service could be regarded as spectacular, her life had not always been easy.   Her marriage to one of Nigeria’s most impressive poets, Christopher Okigbo (1932-1967) was cut short by the Nigerian Civil War.   He was only 35 years old.  

“In a touching tribute, his elder brother, Dr. Pius Okigbo, one of Nigeria’s most outstanding economists, wrote thus: ‘Sefi was perhaps the only girl he knew who understood his quixotic personality and in return, he showered her with the most passionate and enduring love’.  Spending time with her is a delight. She is self-effacing, amusing and just generally amazing; and I will be proudly sitting in the audience at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs tomorrow with her eldest girl, Obi Okigbo, when the ARCAN award is bestowed on her.

Tribute to a revered citizen of the world

This tribute, to Uncle Emeka Anyaoku@91, was written by no less than  Professor Kingsley Moghalu Ph.D. OON FCIB FAIA, my favourite economist and a former deputy governor of CBN:  

I warmly congratulate my revered mentor, Elder Statesman and Africa’s foremost living career diplomatist, H.E. Chief Chukwuemeka Anyaoku GCFR, Former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations, as he turns 91 today. I also congratulate Chief Anyaoku, the Ichie Adazie of Obosi Kingdom, Anambra State on the inauguration today of his inspirational legacy project, the Emeka and Bunmi Anyaoku Library built by the Emeka and Bunmi Anyaoku Foundation. As his personal guest at Adazie’s country home in Obosi two years ago, it was my honour to have been given a personal tour of this elegant, values-laden project by Chief Anyaoku as it neared completion, on the eve of the occasion of the 2021 edition of the Emeka Anyaoku Annual Lecture, hosted that year by the then Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano and hosted in rotation annually by the State Governors of Nigeria’s 36 States. I was privileged to have served as the Guest Lecturer of the 2021 Emeka Anyaoku Lecture in Awka, the Anambra State Capital. The Elder Statesman shared with me how much this legacy contribution to his community meant to him and how, even in his retirement and advanced age, much of his savings had gone into building the library. 

What a statement of the values that matter to him – and should matter to us all – that a man of this pedigree should make this kind of personal sacrifice for the education of the present and coming generations of young minds. It is therefore double congratulations to one of Africa’s most distinguished personages of the 20th and 21st centuries, who has played key leadership and behind-the-scenes roles in resolving conflicts, promoting democracy, and advancing economic and social development in the 56 countries of the Commonwealth in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, North America, Australia, and New Zealand, as he marks these two profound milestones. Congratulations as well to his dear wife, Chief Mrs. Bunmi Anyaoku, Ugoma Idemmili, who has been Adazie’s pillar of support. 

Chief Anyaoku represents the best of a tragically vanishing breed in our country – a gentleman of honour, a man of strong character and values, a man whose impact in the world and at home was and remains an inspiration to millions, including my humble self. I am fortunate to have benefited, frequently, from his wise counsel and encouragement, in my own endeavours internationally and at home in Nigeria. Happy Birthday Sir, Adazie Obosi. Ninety-one cheers to many years of service to community, country, and the world.    

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