Anyaoku…A Toast To Diplomat’s Diplomat
IF one were to draw up a list of distinguished Nigerians, who have exhibited high level of competence and integrity in their service to country and humanity in general, then Chief Eleazar Chukwuemeka Anyaoku (CFR, CON, GCVO) will be top on that list. All through his active days as a diplomat till date, Anyaoku remains a shinning light. A totally detribalized great son of Africa, he’s loved and highly respected by people from different tribes, race and religion.
Ichie Adazie of Obosi, a chieftaincy titled conferred on him by his Obosi Community, he was among the crop of young men recruited into the Nigeria diplomatic service at independence, who went on to become the third Commonwealth Secretary-General. He was elected by Heads of Government at their meeting in Kuala Lumpur in 1989, assumed office in July 1990 and served, after re-election, for two terms of five years each up to 2000.
Though he came on board at a time when the organisation was undergoing fundamental changes, Chief Anyaoku’s exceptional leadership qualities were all it took to properly institutionalize the organisation for greater achievements. Today, he’s dubbed ‘a diplomat’s diplomat’ for his long involvement in diplomatic and international service, including some 35 years of Commonwealth initiatives and negotiations across the 54 countries of the Commonwealth body. Not only is he a chief through lineage, but also through his exceptional leadership skills
Born on January 18, 1933, in Obosi, Anambra State, Chief Emeka Anyaoku was educated at University College, Ibadan, where he studied classics as a college scholar, graduating with a London University honours degree in 1959. He got married in 1962 to Ebunola Olubunmi Solanke and the union was blessed with a daughter and three sons.
His career in leadership spans decades and institutions, both in his native country and internationally. However, all through his service years, promotion of democracy on the African continent has always been his heart desire and an area of great concern. His precociousness in leadership clearly showed when he joined the Commonwealth Development Corporation at the tender age of 26, in 1959. Shortly after the Nigerian independence, the new Government invited him to join the country’s diplomatic service. By 1963, he was posted to Nigeria’s Permanent Mission at the United Nations (UN) in New York.
After the establishment of the Commonwealth Secretariat, Chief Anyaoku became assistant director of international affairs and was later seconded to the organisation by the first Secretary, General Arnold Smith of Canada and later became a director. By 1975, Chief Anyaoku had become Assistant Secretary General of the international organisation.
The 1977 election of the Commonwealth government saw his emergence as the Deputy Secretary General, with responsibility for international affairs and the Secretariat’s administration. Though on a foreign mission, his commitment to Africa remained with him and in 1983, Chief Anyaoku returned to Nigeria to serve as the country’s foreign minister, where he displayed some exemplary leadership.
Following the overthrow of the government by the military, Anyaoku returned to familiar turf, retaining his Commonwealth position as Deputy Secretary General. In 1989, he was elected the third Commonwealth Secretary General. In his first tenure, he proved an indispensable leader in matters of national, continental and international political leadership, which earned him re-election at the 1993 Limassol Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting for a second five-year term.
IN the line of duty, Anyaoku does not avoid dealing with matters that are controversial. His 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.
It is worthy of note that, for his exceptional contribution to the struggle for freedom, justice and democracy in South Africa and on the African continent and for persistent efforts to promote the attainment of democracy and good governance on the African continent, the people and government of South Africa specially honoured him.
Anyaoku’s commitment to the liberation of South Africa saw him met with the former President of the African National Congress (ANC), Oliver Reginald Tambo in 1963, when he was junior officer in the Nigerian Embassy to the United Nations. This meeting was a genesis to a life-long friendship between their two families, resulting in Tambo, introducing Chief Anyaoku to Tambo’s then Personal Assistant, and later President of the Republic of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, in 1968.
Additionally, in view of his closeness to the Tambo family, Anyaoku 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.
On the release of former President Nelson Mandela from Pollsmoor Prison in 1990, Anyaoku hosted Madiba to his second dinner in London. Between November 1, 1991 and November 17, 1993, he visited South Africa 11 times, using his diplomatic skills in order to break deadlocks around the negotiation processes in the country.
In 1998, the former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, in recognition of Chief Emeka Anyaoku’s antecedent 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. That relationship informed the choice of Late Madiba to write the foreword to Chief Anyaoku’s book, Eye of Fire.
An astute leader, who is committed to the development of the society, it was Anyaoku, who in early 1997 organised the first African Commonwealth Heads of Government Roundtable to promote democracy and good governance on the continent. He 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.
Chief Emeka Anyaoku has had extensive international exposure and service. He was among many things, Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Global Governance, London School of Economics (2000-2002); President of the Royal Commonwealth Society with headquarters in London 2000-2006; President of the Royal Africa Society with headquarters in London 2000-2007; International President of the World Wide Fund for Nature,with headquarters in Switzerland and operations in over 100 countries 2001-2009 and Chairman, United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Panel on International Support for NEPAD.
Even in retirement, the seasoned diplomat never seizes to offer himself to service of mankind, especially in the area peace and development of democratic tenets. Currently, he is Chairman, Presidential Advisory Council on International Relations in Nigeria; Trustee of the British Museum and Patron of Nigerian Museum; Chairman, Orient Petroleum Resources Plc in Nigeria and others.
As the country heads to the 2015 polls billed for February 14, Anayoku is in the forefront of ensuring a peaceful election in Nigeria, devoid of rancor and bitterness.
Particularly, in his presentation titled Before It Is Too Late, at a special workshop on peaceful election in Nigeria held recently in Abuja, which aims to provide all the major contestants with an opportunity for a constructive exchange of views on how to ensure peaceful and violence-free elections, Chief Anyaoku noted that election is at the heart of any genuine democracy because it is through free, fair and credible elections that the citizens are enabled to choose the people to govern them, but never minced words in stating categorically that the country has a history of violence occurring before, during, and after elections.
Anyaoku, who chaired the session that had all the presidential candidates and former United Nations Secretary General of United Nationa Koffi Anaan, tasked the contestants on genuine love for country, which requires all the candidates and citizens, to rally round in support of peace both during and after the elections.
In recognition of his outstanding achievements, Chief Anyaoku has received decorations from Nigeria (CON, CFR and one of the 50 special awards to mark Nigeria’s 50th Independence Anniversary), and the highest national civilian honours of Cameroon, Lesotho, Madagascar, Namibia, Republic of South Africa 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 of the United Kingdom in 2000. The Freedom of the City of London was also bestowed on him in 1998.
In 2003, the University of London established a professorial chair in his name, the Emeka Anyaoku Professor of Commonwealth Studies at its Institute of Commonwealth Studies. He is a holder of 32 Honorary Doctorate degrees from Universities in Britain, Canada, Ghana, Nigeria, The Republic of Ireland, Switzerland, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
His publications include The Missing Headlines (by Liverpool University Press in 1997); his Memoirs, The Inside Story of the Modern Commonwealth (by Evan Brothers Limited in 2004) and The Racial Factor in International Politics (by The Nigerian Institute for International Affairs in 1977). A biography of Emeka Anyaoku, The Eye of Fire, written by the Canadian author, Phyllis Johnson, was published by Africa World Press Inc and reprinted in Nigeria by Spectrum Books Limited in 2000.
Despite his local and international exposure, Anyaoku remains a true son of Ndi Igbo and Obosi community in particular, participating fully in the promotion of its culture and tradition.
As he marks his birthday today, this would be a perfect time to toast the octogenarian, who devoted a greater part of his life to the service of humanity.