By Eric Teniola
Of all the books written by or on Kofi Atta Annan (1938-2018), none is more controversial than the 442-page book, The Best Intentions by Mr. James Traub, a New York Times magazine journalist, who enjoyed unprecedented access to Annan and his top aides for three years from 2003-2007. In the book, Traub described the Oil-for-Food scandal, the deep divide between those who wished to accommodate American critics and those who wish to confront them, and the failed attempt to act decisively against ethnic cleansing in Sudan. And he accounts Annan’s attempt to respond to criticism of the United Nations with sweeping reform.
The Best Intentions is both a fascinating, fly-on-the-wall account of Kofi Annan’s controversial two terms as Secretary-General of the United Nations and an important critical study of the institution that has carried the best hopes of the world since 1945.
The other books, We The Peoples: A UN for the 21st Century; Confronting Anti-semitism; Basic Facts; Interventions and others were written by Annan himself.
In all the books, the conclusion I arrived at is that Annan was an intellectual who operated in the world of the academics. His books matched his outstanding efforts at the UN which he served meritoriously as Secretary-General from January 1997 to December 2006. His appointment to that body as the 7th Secretary-General on January 1, 1997 is the best thing that has happened to Africa’s diplomats and his leaving the body on December 1, 2006 with his integrity intact is a success for the true African. By any analysis this Kumasi-born Ghanaian diplomat was a great man.
He joined the UN in 1962 and rose through the ranks to the nadir of his calling. A lot has been said about this man and a lot will still be said about him. I need not repeat nor add or remove what has been said. He represented Africa. And he behaved well not minding the fact that he was our in-law at a time. He was lucky to have got the job as the Chief Scribe of the UN. He was first among equals.
In Nigeria, we have outstanding diplomats too, who performed creditably and who laboured for peace throughout their careers. For peace is the goal of every diplomat. Another colleague of his in Nigeria is Chief Eleazar Chukwuemeka Anyaoku, from Obosi in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State, the third Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations. Married to Ebunola Olubunmi Solanke, Anyaoku, who is the first African to hold such a post, enlisted in the Foreign Service in 1962 following the assistance of the first Prime Minister of Nigeria, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.
He was offered an appointment in the Foreign Service in April 1962. Within a month of his entry, he was appointed Personal Assistant to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry for External Affairs. There he was closely involved in the process that led to the establishment of the Organisation for African Unity in May 1963. He was later posted to its Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York.
Like Annan, Anyaoku wrote books and books were written on him. They include The Inside of the Modern Commonwealth, Managing Diversity in our Contemporary world, Zimbabwe-Reflections of the Lancaster House, The Missing Headlines and others.
Chief Peter Onu was another Nigerian diplomat. He served as the acting Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity between 1983 and 1985. He succeeded Edem Kodjo in the OAU. He was educated at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Chief Simeon Olaosebikan Adebo, the Okanlomo of Egbaland, once served as the UN Under-Secretary General. He was also the chairman of a sub-committee that reached a compromise on the intractable and explosive Sharia debates of the 1977 Constituent Assembly in Nigeria.
To their credit, some diplomats in Nigeria rose to the post of foreign ministers. They include Major General Joseph Narven Garba who served between 1975 and 1978; Anyaoku (1983); Dr Ibrahim Gambari (1984-1985); Chief Matthew Mbu (1993); Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe (1993-1995); Chief Ignatius Olisemeka (1998-199); Chief Oluyemi Adeniji (2003-2006) and Mr. Olugbenga Ashiru (2011-2013).
Prof Adebayo Adedeji was appointed the Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Africa and Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations (1975). He resigned as the ECA Executive Secretary and as Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations in 1991.
Ambassador Judith Sefi Attah began her career in the field of diplomacy as Permanent Delegate of Nigeria to UNESCO (1982-1986). She later served as Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (1986-1987); Permanent Secretary/Director-General; Ministry of External Affairs (1987-1991); and Ambassador to Italy with concurrent accreditation to Greece and Cyprus (1991-1995). She was appointed Minister, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development (1995-1997).
We have also had Ambassadors Aderemi Olagoke Esan, Joy Ogwu, Oladapo Fafowora, Isaac Aluko Olokun, Olu Otunla, and George Achulike Obiozor from Awo-Omamma in Oru East Local Government Area of Imo State.
Other ambassadors are Ignatius Julius Dawer Durlong, Arthur Christopher Izuegbunam Mbanefo, Olusola Shanu, Godknows Igali, Martine Gereng S., Nkem Wadibia Anyanwu, Elizabeth Bolere Ketebu, Florentina Ukonga and the late J. J. Ayorinde.
Ambassador Hamzat Ahmadu was appointed Ambassador in 1975 and was posted to the USSR. Between 1978 and 1981, he was the Nigerian Ambassador to The Netherlands, and Cameroon (1982-1984). He was appointed Permanent Secretary Ministry of External Affairs (1986-1987); and was again appointed Nigerian Ambassador to USA in 1987.
Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji (1934-2017) began his working career as Administrative Officer, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1960; and served in various capacities in Nigerian Missions overseas including Washington DC (1960-1963); Freetown (1964-1965); Accra (1966-1997); New York (PM), 1970-1973; and Khartoum. Adeniji was appointed Nigeria’s Ambassador to Austria between 1976 and 1977; Switzerland, 1977 and 1981; and France, 1988-1991. He was appointed Director-General, Ministry of External Affairs 1991-1994; and Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General to Central Africa Republic between 1998 and 1999. Adeniji has served as member and chairman of the International Jury of the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education, 1990-1995; member, the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board of Trustees of the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (1984-1991); and was the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General to the Republic of Sierra Leone.
The efforts of these diplomats mentioned here and many not mentioned, are hereby commended.
May the soul of Chief Kofi Attah Annan continue to rest in peace. And may the souls of other diplomats who have gone to the world beyond, continue to rest in peace too.
Teniola is a former Director in the Presidency based in Lagos