For his role in entrenching peace in Nigeria and globally, the Nnamdi Azikwe University on Thursday initiated a project for an Institute of International Studies and Diplomacy in honour of former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Emeka Anyaoku.
Delivering his welcome address, the Vice Chancellor of the university said the idea to establish the institute was born out of the need to preserve the legacies Mr. Anyaoku achieved during his lifetime while he still lived and to pass it on to generations to come.
“Today’s auspicious event marks a quantum leap forward in the discharge of the University’s core mandate of teaching, research and public service. All of Chief Emeka Anyaoku’s post-graduation life, all of which was diplomatic service, justifies the naming of this institute after him and our pride in hosting it,” he said.
Speaking at the event, a former foreign minister, Ike Nwachukwu, who chaired the event, said though Emeka Anyaoku never asked for the position of representing Nigeria at the Commonwealth, he nonetheless “did marvellously well to the pride of Nigeria.’’
“You talk of someone who you can rely upon, here he is seated. You talk of a man who knows how to deal when things are wrong and going haywire among nations and bring us back to focus, here he is seated. You talk of a man who is a consulate diplomat, here he is seated. You talk of a great man, a great ambassador of Nigeria, here he is seated. Most people won’t know you didn’t ask for this job.
‘‘As a foreign minister, it was when we heard of an opening that we came to his then boss to inform him that I had come to discuss matters regarding the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa where we told his boss that we were not going to support him for the fourth time and that we are putting up Emeka Anyaoku as the Secretary-General. He then asked if Emeka Anyaoku knows about it and I said, no, I am just coming from his office and I didn’t tell him, the message is for you from President Babangida. The Heads of State voted overwhelmingly for him and he came out tops. Under him, the Commonwealth became such a wonderful place,” the general said.
He was also full of accolades for Mr. Anyaoku over his role in promoting unity in Nigeria. He said he believed in one united Nigeria.
“Now, what about the people here from all over Nigeria? This is the country we want to build, a country united where our diversity can only be our strength to make our country stronger and better. Yes indeed, we need a country that all Nigerians will feel happy to live in, to feel happy to defend, a country based on equity, fairness and justice. So, all the clamour really is about equity, fairness and justice. And today represented here are great Nigerians who have put in so much to further the nation,’’ he said.
He spoke on the timeliness of the institute project.
“If there is any time in our history that we require an institute of international studies and diplomacy, it is now. No little wonder it’s being named after our very best diplomat. Nigeria requires diplomacy, Nigeria requires international recognitions, and Nigeria requires young men and women that will drive this, bind us together, take us all to the committee of nations and tell the world that we are not all 419er’s, we are not all thieves in this country.’’
At the event, the Governor of Anambra State, Willie Obiano also extolled the virtues of Mr. Anyaoku.
“I want to especially thank his Excellency Chief Emeka Anyaoku for what he has helped this administration to do. He is one fellow that is not afraid to advise you and he is also one fellow that is a no-nonsense fellow, you can’t push him around. If he believes in something, he tells you he believes in it and if he doesn’t he tells you. I thank you for guiding this administration,’’ he said.
In his submission, T.Y. Danjuma, a former Chief of Army Staff added his voice to calls for unity and peace in Nigeria. He also called for a restructuring in Nigeria.
“One thing Ike (Nwachukwu) said was that he pleaded with young people not to break the country was a wonderful thing. What about the elders? Where are the elders? Where are the elders? Nigeria is a wonderful country; we have had one civil war but now threatening to have another one. Restructuring, yes! But no! to violence. Yesterday, I had a visitor in my office who overheard me speaking to somebody else on my cell phone and he heard me say that I was coming to Awka for a ceremony today. So, when I finished talking, he said, General, I hope you have your passport and visa? I said, what do you mean and he said, you will need that to get there. May God forbid that I will need a visa to get there,” Mr. Danjuma said.
He, however, expressed his disappointment at former President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision set up a Presidential Advisory Council and not use the political recommendations the council made.
“Emeka (Anyaoku) was my right-hand man in the Presidential Advisory Council that was established by President Jonathan which I consider was one of the wisest things that he did, although he (Jonathan) did virtually nothing with all the recommendations that we wrote. I simply mention, if you need a diplomat and you have Emeka in your team, look no further. If you need a team with a builder and you have Emeka among the advisers, look no further. I congratulate you and I congratulate the university,” he said.
Other speakers at the event included former military head of state, Abdulsalami Abubakar, who said he had nothing much to say but appreciated ‘‘the great works of Emeka Anyaoku’’ and emphasised the need for peace in the country.
A former minister of education, Oby Ezekwesili, described Mr. Anyoaku as the “paragon of all diplomats”.
“What matters in life is not the great possession but the great impact you can make driven by the fundamental value of humanness. I will leverage my global contacts to ensure that this institution is ultimately known about by the whole world. Nigeria is a great country, there is nothing that’s going to make Nigeria stop being political, I think that the key issue is our capacity to manage our diversity and for some of you that are here today, you have tried to do that in one form or another. It is yet another opportunity for us to consider that we are greater together than apart,” the former minister said.
Mr. Anayaoku in his remarks thanked the university for the honour done to him.
“I have devoted over 50 years of my working life to service in international life the core of which is promoting a cordial relationship between nations and on occasions helping to resolve political problems, both within and between nations and in addition, of course, tackling such global issues as the climate change and increasingly terrorism. As you heard, I began of course with service to my own country Nigeria. In the course of my career, I have visited well over 100 countries experiencing serious moments and light moments,” he said.
He spoke about a particular experience that shook his perception of Nigeria.
“In 1994, I had given a lecture under the auspices of the Bangladesh Institute for International Affairs. At the end of my lecture, we came to questions and comments and one very unconventionally dressed gentleman raised his hand and I noticed that the chairman, being the minister of foreign affairs was a little uncomfortable to allow him to ask his question but he did allow him and this gentleman said: ‘tell me, I am baffled that a country that produced people like Chinua Achebe from the books I have read, Wole Soyinka, Nobel Laureate, and you the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Nations has just spoken to us, I am baffled that your country is in such a mess. The foreign minister chairman whispered to me, ‘this is an eccentric professor in the university.’ I looked him straight in the face and said, ‘I too I am baffled,” he said.
He spoke about his expectations for the institute when built.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it is my hope that this new institute will provide a special facility for research and learning, both for burgeoning academics and practitioners in diplomacy. And given the well-established fact that there is a nexus between foreign and local policies, I hope also, that the work of the institute will in some ways contribute to the study of the factor of inter-dependence among the various parts of this country and thereby help to strengthen the unity of our nation.”
He then pledged to donate copies of all of his work and personal papers while he was in service and all the books he had written to the institute.
After a documentary about Mr. Anyaoku was displayed, the budgetary breakdown of the project was presented, then dignitaries were invited to launch the project.
The project is expected to gulp approximately N1.5 billion with preliminary costs pegged at N46 million.
The total donations made at the event was N64 million with Nigerian businessman, Aliko Dangote of Dangote Groups donating the sum of N25 million.
The event attracted other dignitaries from all over the country including former Minister of Power, Chinedu Nebo, who represented ex-President Goodluck Jonathan; a traditional ruler, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe, businessman Jim Ovia and mega-entrepreneur, Tony Elumelu and many others.
Born January 18, 1933, Mr. Anyaoku was the third Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, he presided over the affairs of Commonwealth from 1990 to 2000. It is said that while he was in office, his expertise in diplomacy gained him trust, admiration and honour from global leaders. The Queen of England apparently impressed with him would later bestow him with an honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order.