Life And Times Of Antonio Oladeinde Fernandez
AMBASSADOR Anthonio Oladeinde Fernandez was described in various terms by various people the world over as an international wheeler-dealer; a diplomat extraordinary with the financial status of a billionaire; an industrialist at large; a pragmatic international negotiator and peace maker, among other descriptions.
He was born into the Fernandez family in Lagos in 1936. Although his parents, Mr. Canut Akinwale Fernandez and Mrs. Julia Fernandez were of sufficient means by the standards of those days, Deinde was determined early in life to grow beyond the shadows of his parents.
Deinde’s formal education began at the Holy Cross School, Lagos. Thereafter, he attended CMS Grammar School and St. Gregory’s College, both in Lagos. He, later, proceeded to the United Kingdom and at a tender age in 1954. He was employed as a document officer with the United Nations (UN) in New York.
He was at the Brooklyn College and St. John’s University before rounding it up at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business, where he graduated in 1972. He also qualified as a stock-broker in England.
Indeed, Fernandez’s exploits in international business and diplomacy are legendary. He was the man with the Midas touch and everything he touched in the past five decades have literally turned to gold. His diplomatic principle of seeing all sovereign nations basically as members of the international community with brotherly inter-relationship has also worked like magic. And that explains why he could marry his active interest in the leftist countries like Angola and Mozambique with that of capitalist nations like the U.K. and the United States. He firmly believed in the universal brotherhood of man and nations.
Some of his astonishing accomplishments in international politics include linking the former American Defence Secretary, Kelvin Laird and Mozambique’ Foreign Minister, Joaquim Chissano in 1982 to renew a broken down dialogue between the countries.
This was at a time when Angola wanted a compromise with South Africa, which was then attacking it. Fernandez later became Ambassador of Mozambique to the United Nations, after his negotiation skills led to the Nkomatio Accord — the treaty of non-aggression between Maputo and Pretoria in 1984. Angola also struck a deal, which led to the withdrawal of 25,000 Cuban troops in return for cordial relations with the United States. He mediated in the 1645 North war and ended the 30-year old war by the 1648 treaty of Westphalia. He also imposed upon Spain the 1659 treaty of the Pyrenees and arbitrated in the 1660 – 61 North Peace.
The most prominent factor, which guided his business and diplomatic adventurism was patriotism to his fatherland, Nigeria. He saw himself first as a representative of Nigeria, and a firm believer in the bright future that awaits Africa, the black race and the world.
Fernandez became a millionaire at the age of 35, almost 54 years ago. Indeed, way back in the 1960s, he was mentioned in the Time Magazine as one of the wealthiest blacks in America. With six state-of-the-art private jets, a yacht and a private Island of a home in New York among many homes around the world, it is no exaggeration to describe Fernandez, as perhaps one of the wealthiest Nigerians. And he has always been proud of the fact that the seed of his enormous wealth was actually planted here at home in 1956 when he used to purchase Columbite Ore and Gelena Lead Ore from the then Prince Oyewunmi Ajagungbade, the present Soun of Ogbomoso.
Fernandez was lionised by different countries, particularly for his ability to make friends out of enemies and turn poverty to wealth. He was honoured in different countries including Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Togo, gabon and Morocco.
Adieu Ambassador (Chief) Anthonio Oladeinde Fernandez, the Apesin Ola of Egbaland; The Bayin of Lagos, Bobagunwa of Oyo, Adieu Garsan Fulanin Kano, Baron of Dudley (England
• Prof. Oyeweso writes from Osun State University, Osogbo, Nigeria.