by Ima Ekanem
Former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, yesterday, expressed disappointment in Nigeria’s deterioration, and regretted the alarming number of poor people in the country. Anyaoku made the comments yesterday in Lagos during his 90th birthday celebration.
However, the diplomat said he was optimistic that the forthcoming general election will produce leaders that would help reset the country. He also thanked God that he was born in Nigeria, saying, “Very few countries are as blessed as Nigeria.”
Anyaoku said the worsening state of insecurity in Nigeria, which he noted had made travelling by road dangerous, should be a source of concern to everyone in the country. He also stated that the country’s green passport was being despised at many international airports.
The octogenarian said, “An undeniable truth at the moment is that our country has declined, insecurity has made traveling by road dangerous.
“The green passport is disdained in many international airports. Our economy is such that most of our young people and increasingly a great number of our professionals are going abroad for greener pastures. Nigeria now has one of the greatest concentrations of people living below the poverty line.
“There is hope that this year’s national elections will be the beginning of a change for the better.”
Reflecting on his age, the elder statesman pointed out that “90 is an age of reflection,” just as he acknowledged the grace and goodness of God in his life.
He paid tribute to his late parents, adding that the highlight of his life was his wife, whom he described as “a great blessing that I was fortunate to marry”.
Anyaoku also thanked his children for coming down from the United States and the United Kingdom to attend his birthday ceremony.
He thanked God for his career and achievements, saying God has been gracious in preserving him through his travels to more than 100 countries.
President Muhammadu Buhari congratulated Anyaoku on his birthday celebration and wished him good health. Buhari, whose goodwill message was read by his Chief of Staff, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, acknowledged Anyaoku’s contributions to the country’s development, starting as a young foreign official and reaching the pinnacle of his career as Commonwealth Secretary General.
Buhari had on Tuesday felicitated Anyaoku on his 90th birthday.
In a letter he personally signed, the president stated, “It gives me great joy and delight to warmly rejoice with a seasoned diplomat and administrator, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, on his 90th birthday, January 18, 2023.
“I acknowledge the worthy contributions you have made to the development of the country, starting out as a young Foreign Service Officer, and reaching the pinnacle of your career as Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, through vision and diligence, and consistently projecting Nigeria as a great nation.
“Thank you for your statesmanship, and for using your extensive network of international friends to support the country’s efforts in deepening good governance, democracy and sustainable development.
“As you hit the milestone of 90, we give glory to God for the grace of longevity, in good health and sound mind, and rejoice with you, your family and loved ones.”
In his remarks at the birthday celebration, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said he got close to Anyaoku when he was at the Commonwealth, describing him as, “An ambassador of ambassadors.”
Obasanjo stated that Anyaoku contributed to the end of apartheid.
In his toast at the ceremony, a renowned administrator and economist, Dr. Gabriel Soyoye, noted that Anyaoku had rendered service internationally, nationally, at state and community levels. He said the octogenarian also received the highest national honours of South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, and Cameroon.
Soyoye said of Anyaoku, “He gave teeth to the Commonwealth making it an active agent in promoting democracy in member countries, promoted peace and played a seminal role in the transition of apartheid South Africa to democracy. In 1983, he returned to Nigeria to serve as Foreign Minister but returned to his position as Deputy Secretary General after the Shagari government was toppled.
“Since he retired he’s been Chairman, PAC on Foreign Affairs for 14 years. A conscience of the nation.”
Other dignitaries that attended the ceremony included the Editor-in-Chief/Founder, THISDAY and Arise News Channel, Prince Nduka Obaigbena; Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Dr Onyekachukwu Ibezim; wife of Ogun State governor, Mrs. Bamidele Abiodun; former Chief of Army Staff, Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma and his wife; Chief Ayo Adebanjo; Chief Subomi Balogun; Professor Anya O. Anya; Chief Olusegun Osoba; Mr. Sam Amuka; Atedo Peterside; Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Achebe; Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi and his wife; Prince Adesuyi Adeluyi; and Oba Otudeko.