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NIGERIANS WITH INTIMIDATING CREDENTIALS —– CHIEF ELEAZAR CHUKWUEMEKA ANYAOKU, GCVO, CON, CFR FORMER COMMONWEALTH SECRETARY-GENERAL

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ROLE MODELLING: The objective of this column is to create the feelings of empathy in the younger generation, and even the old, in the society who are looking up to successful people as sources of encouragement. Robert K. Merton, a sociologist is credited with coining the phrase. According to Merton, a role model is a person whose behaviour, example, or success is, or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people. Should you read this piece on a great Nigerian, Chief Emeka Anyaoku,   please be encouraged to refer this to your children or younger ones to read so they could also be more challenged to face life with commitment and dedication.

Chief Eleazar Chukwuemeka Anyaoku had a distinguished career in the diplomatic service, rising to the coveted position of Commonwealth Secretary-General.  Chief Anyaoku was born on January, 1933 in Obosi, South-east Nigeria. Anyaoku who holds from Idemili, Anambra State attended Merchants of Light School (MOLS) at Oba, Anambra State where he imbibed the culture of hard work, commitment and resilience. Cambridge School Certificate examination, he took 10 subjects and earned the school’s first-grade pass, the highest level. From here, his first job was that of a teacher at Emmanuel College, Owerri, where he taught Mathematics, Latin and English.  He graduated from the University of Ibadan from where he obtained an honours degree in Classics as a College Scholar.

AS STUDENT ACTIVIST: His views on federalism that he still propounds vigorously till now were sharpened at the University College, Ibadan, where Anyaoku became an activist and was one of the undergraduates that protested against a unitary state, against federalism. They sent petitions and delegations to the three foremost political leaders in the country then, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe in the Eastern region of the country, Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the Western, and Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello in the Northern region.  . (Eye Of Fire” Spectrum Books, Ibadan, 2000, p.197) Anyaoku showed promise early in life, and his peers in his native community nicknamed him ‘lawyer’ on account of his logical arguments and presentation of his position on issues. He was always reading or working on an issue.

CAREER: Emeka Anyaoku’s journey into the field of diplomacy commenced in 1959, when he joined the Commonwealth Development Corporation. In 1963, Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa persuaded Anyaoku to join the Nigerian Foreign Service. Within a month of his entry, he was appointed Personal Assistant to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry for External Affairs. He was deeply involved in the process that led to the establishment of the Organisation for African Unity (OAU) in May 1963; and was later posted to its Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York.

Four years later in 1966, he was recruited by the Commonwealth Secretariat as Assistant Director of International Affairs by Arnold Smith a Canadian diplomat, who served as the first Commonwealth Secretary-General, serving from 1965–1975.. Emeka rose progressively to attain the status of Deputy Secretary-General in 1977, as approved by the Commonwealth Heads of Government. Anyaoku spent 12 years as Deputy Secretary-General and was appointed at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Kuala Lumpur in 1989. He was re-elected at the 1993 CHOGM in Limassol for a second five-year term, beginning on 1 April 1995 and ended in 2000.

 In between in 1983,  Anyaoku was invited by President Shehu Shagari to serve as Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. The tenure lasted about three months following the military coup of December 31, 1983. He returned to the Commonwealth Secretariat as the Deputy Secretary-General with the support of the new government in Nigeria and the endorsement of all Commonwealth government.

 Whoever goes through a publication titled: ‘’THE MISSING HEADLINES’’ will appreciate the depth of the personality to whom the speeches were ascribed. Going through history, one would discover top personalities who crafted many of their speeches themselves. Anyaoku’s speeches for the duration of his first tenure as Commonwealth Secretary-General compiled under the title named above. The promotion of democracy on the African continent has always been his primary focus and an area of concern. He tells the story of part of his diplomatic career in The Missing Headlines:

‘’For my generation of Africans, coming to consciousness in the postwar years, the decisive formative influence was the anti-colonial struggle. We knew precious little about the Commonwealth; it hardly impinged on our lives, except in association with the Empire, and when eventually it began to loom in the media, there was always a whiff of neo-colonialism and Anglo centricity attached to it. The Commonwealth was then said to be knit by ties of kinship and kingship and it was by no means clear that we too were within the fellowship of those bonds. The Commonwealth appeared to many of my generation as just an extrapolation of the Empire which was going nowhere in particular.

The turning point came in 1961 when the Commonwealth, outraged by the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa the previous year, effectively expelled the apartheid regime from its fold. In procedural terms, apartheid South Africa had withdrawn from the Commonwealth. In real political terms, it had been expelled and that was the fetching point in Africa. The expulsion of South Africa from the Commonwealth was for me the first clear intimation that, properly nurtured, the Commonwealth could help to eradicate the inherited inequities blighting the human condition. The Commonwealth could go somewhere after all. The reservations and scepticism of my youth about the association began to expand the opportunities it offers its members for pursuing some of their key national interests. The full potential of the Commonwealth, however, is still to be realised. What I have tried to do in these first five years of my Secretary-Generalship has been to enable it to play an even greater role commensurate with its potential.

Finally a word about the title: A great deal of the work of the Commonwealth is in a sense hidden from the media. And that is as it should be. Commonwealth consultations and activities, especially those that bear on the internal affairs of its members, would be practically impossible if their confidentiality could not be assured at the time of their happening. But there are aspects of the Commonwealth’s work which deserve public recognition, which often go unreported. Indeed, much of the Commonwealth’s work, especially its contribution to the national interests of its member countries, rarely attracts media interest. It is my hope therefore that the publication of this book will reveal some of the “missing headlines” and encourage greater public debate on the work of the Commonwealth’’.

His career as a leader spans over 30 years of Commonwealth initiatives and negotiations. He does not avoid dealing which matters that are controversial. Chief Anyaoku’s strength in leadership can be seen in his active involvement in issues such as the Gibraltar referendum of 1967, the Nigerian civil war of 1967 to 1970, the St Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla constitutional crisis of 1969 to 1970, the problems following Commonwealth Games’ boycotts during the 1980s and the process leading to peace and democracy in Zimbabwe, Namibia and, in particular, South Africa. Chief Anyaoku was also closely involved in the establishment of a joint office in New York for small Commonwealth countries that are thus enabled to be represented at the UN.

ACTIVITIES AT THE COMMONWEALTH SECRETARIAT: Concerning the liberation of South Africa, Chief Anyaoku met the former President of the African National Congress (ANC), Oliver Reginald Tambo in 1963, when he was junior officer in the Nigerian Mission to the United Nations. This meeting was a genesis to a life-long friendship between Chief Anyaoku and the Tambo family, resulting in the then President of the ANC, Tambo, introducing Chief Anyaoku to Tambo’s then Personal Assistant, and current President of the Republic of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, in 1968. Additionally, in view of his closeness to the Tambo family, he was one of the few people (number three to be exact after Trevor Huddleston and President Thabo Mbeki), who were invited to deliver lectures at the Memorial Lecture of Oliver Tambo.

In 1990, on the release of former President Nelson Mandela from Pollsmoor Prison, he hosted Madiba to his second dinner in London. Between 1 November 1991 and 17 November 1993, he visited South Africa 11 times, using his diplomatic skills in order to break deadlocks around the negotiation processes in South Africa. In 1998, the former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, in recognition of Chief Emeka Anyaoku’s antecedents concerning South Africa, and the manner in which he had championed the cause of the progressive movements around the world, afforded him the rare honour of addressing a joint sitting of the South African National Assembly. Lastly, former President Nelson Mandela wrote the foreword to Chief Chukwuemeka Anyaoku’s book, Eye of Fire.

Records of the Institute of Commonwealth Anyaoku served under Canadian diplomat, Arnold Smith believed in the Secretariat helping its member countries to deal with political and diplomatic challenges. So, when in the Anguilla crisis which had resulted from the decision of the leaders of the island of Anguilla to secede from the three island state of St Kitts, Nevis and AnguillaArnold Smith in discussions with Lord Home then British Foreign Secretary, offered the help of a Commonwealth commission in dealing with the crisis and Lord Home accepted. Consequently, Arnold Smith constituted a Commonwealth team to go and deal with the crisis and asked me to be the Secretary of the team. A similar thing happened over Gibraltar. For many years, several Commonwealth countries at the United Nations had, in their opposition to colonialism, voted with Spain in resolutions that sought to invalidate the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713 which ceded Gibraltar to the United Kingdom. Arnold Smith after a discussion with Prime Minister Harold Wilson decided to appoint a Commonwealth team of observers to assist in ascertaining in a referendum what the wishes of the Gibraltarians were.

NEGOTIATIONS AS AN ESSENTIAL INGREDIENT OF DIPLOMACY: One of the important skills a diplomat must possess is that of negotiating. In the publication cited above, Anyaoku disclosed that:  he was determined from the commencement of his tenure to ensure peace and development through negotiations:  I believe that when seeking to persuade leaders, the technique I that used which worked was to start with an appreciation of their problems and challenges. You must appreciate their problems and show that you really understand what they’re struggling with. Generally, it’s coping with opposition parties who in a number of cases were deriving some of their oxygen from outside elements.

DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE UNDER ANYAOKU’S WATCH: He continues: After my election, I spent about six months in retreat before I assumed office on the 1st July, 1990, one of my firm decisions was that the Commonwealth must deal with its internal contradiction because on the one hand, the Commonwealth was rightly championing the cause of non-racism and democracy in South Africa, while on the other hand, the same Commonwealth was tolerating among its membership military dictatorships and one-party states that were clearly non-democratic regimes. Such a situation provided material for some of the right wing newspapers in the UK, in Australia, in Canada and elsewhere to criticise the Commonwealth and cast doubt on the usefulness of the association. I was determined to change that situation. So, when after the Harare Declaration which prescribed a code of conduct for Commonwealth countries, I used that as the basis for persuading the Heads of government who were running either one-party states or military regimes to accept that the Commonwealth principles were meant to be kept and lived by. Yes, because culturally speaking, there is only one thing that you do to your enemy. You eliminate them. If you have no culture of loyal opposition and all the culture you have is that of political enemies, you would naturally want to eliminate them. So, in politics, the idea of winner takes all is much more natural to some societies, whereas, in the Commonwealth, the basic culture is always to seek Commonwealth consensus.

SHUTTLE DIPLOMACY: The Commonwealth consists of 54 countries with Anyaoku leading his team at the Commonwealth Secretariat to implement policies pertaining to development and collaboration. He is recorded as visiting South-Africa 11 times between 1991 and 1993, to facilitate talks about majority rule.  And Anyaoku was later following South Africa’s struggles honoured by that country’s government for his outstanding contributions to the struggle for freedom, justice and democracy in South Africa.  In 1998, Famed President Nelson Mandela gave Anyaoku the rare honour of addressing a joint sitting of the South African National Assembly in recognition of his contributions to democratic development in South Africa and his activities across the world. He was so appreciated that Mandela agreed to write the foreword to  Anyaoku’s book,  Eye of Fire.

Early in 1997, he organised the first African Commonwealth Heads of Government Roundtable to promote democracy and good governance on the continent. However, he still honours his traditional duties, serving as a chief in the midst of his international commitments. Emeka Anyaoku crossed the River Niger to choose his wife, Olubunmi, a princess from Abeokuta.  Anyaoku continues to fulfil the duties of his office as Ichie Adazie of Obosi, a traditional Ndichie chieftaincy title. He is currently President of the World Wide Fund for Nature. He is also a Vice-President of the Royal Commonwealth Society. Chairman, Presidential Advisory Council on Foreign Affairs, Nigeria; Chairman, Orient Petroleum Resources Ltd, Nigeria; Trustee of the British Museum in London.

POST-RETIREMENT LIFE: On his retirement, the University of London established a professional chair at its Institute of Commonwealth studies named after him, the Emeka Anyaoku Professor of Commonwealth Studies. He was also invited to be a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Global Governance, London School of Economics (2000-2002). He was awarded the Freedom of the City of London in 1998 and has received decorations from Nigeria CFR and CON, and the highest national civilian honours of Cameroon, Lesotho, Madagascar, Namibia and Trinidad & Tobago’s Trinity Cross (TC) as well as Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) from her Majesty, The Queen in 2000.

Emeka Anyaoku is a published author and now holds 33 honorary Doctorate degrees from top universities in Britain, Canada, Ghana, Republic of Ireland, Nigeria, South Africa, Switzerland and Zimbabwe. A Professorial Chair has also been established in Chief Anyaoku’s name at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies.

 

 

 

 

 

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