Acting Leader of the pan-Yoruba organisation, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, in this interview by BOLA BADMUS, speaks on the sterling qualities of Chief Emeka Anyaoku who is 90 years old today.
CHIEF Emeka Anyaoku is 90 years old today. What can you say about the revered diplomat?
This is one of the people who have made Nigeria great, and he is really a blessing to this country. In all aspects of life, when we are talking about great men in this country, Anyaoku’s name will be among the first on the list. He is an untainted character; a man of integrity; a man that can say yes to you and you can go to sleep. If we have more of him in this country, we would not have had the mess of this nature. We couldn’t have had the mess of this nature if people like him have been leading the country. I wish him long years in his great service to this country.
I want you speak on your contact with Chief Anyaoku. How did it happen and when?
As a public figure, I have been meeting people like him. But we relate more closely on Awo Foundation matters where he is the Chairman of the Obafemi Awolowo Leadership Prize Selection Committee. You could feel his intelligence, experience; and his contribution is very valuable particularly when it comes to choosing beneficiaries of the Awo Award.
In public life, when you talk about how good government can exist in this country, he is always at the forefront. On the quest to restructure the country back to federalism, he is very uncompromising. He is an Igboman of no tribal colouration. His wife is from Yorubaland, and when you meet Anyaoku, you don’t meet an Igboman; you meet a Nigerian of pride. He displays this not by words of mouth but by action. He is worthy of emulation.
A lot people across the globe refer to him as the diplomat of diplomats. What do you think earned him such a description?
It was his performance as a diplomat that recommended him to be the first African to be elected as the Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations. He was before then in the diplomatic service of Nigeria. But when the Commonwealth wanted to choose somebody from among the member- countries without restrictions, he was so distinguished, distinct and when the appointment was made, there was no word of opposition, and he performed well in that office. He did Nigeria proud and till today, you can talk of Anyaoku as a diplomat of all diplomats.
How would you compare his era with what is happening now to Nigeria’s foreign policy?
No, don’t compare them. Anyaoku belongs to the era of Nigeria’s glory; he is among those who made Nigeria great. If people like him were to be there, what is happening would not be happening now, at least this is clear to those of us who experienced when Nigeria was Nigeria. Today, we have a situation where diplomats are complaining about the challenges of maintaining their offices; when diplomats are just playing up to the government of the day. The era is gone when we used to have men who could compare with the best anywhere in quality and integrity as diplomats.
What are those things the youths can learn from the lifestyle of Chief Anyaoku?
They should study his career, study Emeka Anyaoku’s career. He is a frontline role model for upcoming Nigerians in the diplomatic field. If Nigeria we are hoping to build comes to be, we will love them to go to the books of the diplomat and read about the career of Chief Emeka Anyaoku to see how we want Nigeria to be portrayed to the outside world. When he was there, you talked of Nigeria. He belongs to the class of people who made Nigeria respectable to the outside world because of their character and public performance.
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