By Paul I. Adujie
Friday, 22 December 2006
Glowing, Befitting & Well Deserved Tributes for President Obasanjo!
By Paul I. Adujie
New York , United States
President Bush, President Clinton, President Carter, Congressman Rangel, Congressman Payne, both of the Congressional Black Caucus in the US Congress, Ambassador Young, Ambassador Jeter, Mr. & Mrs. Masters of the Leon Sullivan Foundation, who sponsored the event, in conjunction with Goodworks International and Chevron Oil, along with other invited Americans guests, too numerous to mention, were among the large assemblage of persons who came and paid befitting and glowing tributes in person and through messages, to President Obasanjo of Nigeria, a great son of Africa, at the world famous and historic Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, on Tuesday December 19, 2006
This event was well attended by a cross section of the American society, in attendance in plentiful numbers, were our African American cousins in the Americas, and our other cousins of African descent in the Caribbean; such as Jamaicans, Trinidadians, Guyanese, Haitians etc and of course, Africans from the continent, among them, Ghananians, Cameroonians and Ethiopians, to name a few, and of course some Nigerians from Nigeria and the Diaspora.
The son of the late Dr. Martin Luther King and, Prime Minister P.J. Patterson of Jamaica
was there to grace the occasion. Mr. Patterson was one of the guest speakers, and he did a wonderful job of recounting, the very worthy life of public service by President Obasanjo which has been of immeasurable and immense benefit to Nigeria, to Africa and the world at large.
Ambassador Young, Prime Minister Patterson, Mrs. Masters and Congressman Payne described President Obasanjo’s worthy and admirable achievements, which encompassed and has spanned a long time period, including his service in peace keeping mission in the Congo as young Nigerian Army officer, and his role in the Nigerian civil war, and his leadership of Nigeria, soon after the assassination of General Murtala Mohammed.
Ambassador Young announced that there will be a drive for the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obasanjo, due him, for his numerous accomplishments and achievements on the behalf of Nigeria,
the African continent and the world at large. Ambassador Young reminded us of the bold and courageous actions undertaken by President Obasanjo regarding Apartheid, his voluntary hand over of power to civilians as a military head of government, which was unprecedented and unparalleled. He reminded us of President Obasanjo’s quiet dignity, his quietly powerful manners, and his silent strength, all through his public service life.
Ambassador Young compared President Obasanjo to his peers in public service who received the Nobel Peace Prize and pronounced our president head and shoulder as qualified to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and even added, that our president is surpassing in qualities, attributes, words and action, compared with previous recipients. Speaker after speaker eloquently recalled the details of President Obasanjo slews of masterstroke diplomacy around the world. They recounted his uncommon selflessness in his voluntary hand over of power to the civilian administration of President Shagari, by which President set a precedent in Africa and elsewhere in 1979.
This very moving tribute, went on for hours, at the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel on the highly heeled and gilded Park Avenue in New York, it included pictures and documents spanning President Obasanjo's career which were used in decking the hall-ways of the hotel, and as if, a precursor to a presidential library and center for peace, planned for President Obasanjo in Nigeria. This man with luminous view of Nigeria and Africa.
There was also a video tribute which included prominent world leaders and of course some Nigerians. I was personally very pleased that this event happened in this great man's life time and not after he joins his ancestors or when he is no more with us. I was immensely pleased as well, that Ambassador Young, Prime Minister Patterson and Mrs. Masters stated and restated, President Obasanjo's momentous and monumental efforts, in forever steering Nigeria onto the right path.
President Obasanjo, they reminded the world, and all those of us in attendance at the sumptuous event, has, in words, actions and works, steered Nigeria and Africa to our national and continental rightful place on the world stage. And in effect, President Obasanjo has done so much to nurture Nigeria and Africa into our national and continental pride of place in the world's global affairs.
Also present were the doyens and the juggernauts of Nigerian diplomatic corps in the United States and at the United Nations, including, Ambassador George Obizor, Alhaji Aminu Wali and the UN Assistant Under Secretary for political affairs Professor Ibrahim Gambari., Ambassador Aminu Wali and the Nigeria Consul General in-charge of the Consulate of Nigeria in New York, Ambassador Ibrahim Awalu who was by the way, the first NIDO information officer at the Consulate. Then there were also Nigerian politicians and political appointees from near and far, the Governor Jolly Nyame of Taraba State, Governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State and Governor of Osun State Olagunsoye Oyinlola and the Minister for Foreign Affairs Professor Joy Ogwu, formerly of Nigerian Institute for International Affairs, and Commerce Minister, Aliyu Modibbo and Minister of State for Transport, Mohammed Aliyu, were in the presidential entourage.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, also graced the occasion! Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, the erstwhile Finance Minister, who was also a Minister for Foreign Affairs, even if briefly. She was, as is usual of her, adorned and bedecked in her famous African attires, she looked wondrously gorgeous and radiant with her usual elegant simplicity!
President Obasanjo was equally resplendent in his African attires during his meeting with leaders of the United Nations, as well as, when he met with us. And he wore African attires to the reception/dinner tribute to him. Each time, he appeared in a different design set and colors. He is a true ambassador to everything Nigerian and African. His mere appearance announces African pride everywhere, whether meeting President Bush, the UN leaders or even the Pope.
There was an African American Choir with old time traditional gospel songs they moved everyone with their rendition of “O Happy Day!; and other gospel songs. Additionally, there was another African American Dance Troupe, I think it was from Philadelphia,
they danced fire-dance! They danced vigorous African dances! They had the African dance steps completely down-packed, they danced like the Zulus, they danced like Ikpokiti dancers, they danced Igbo dances, Yoruba, Hausa and Calabar dances and every other Nigerian ethnic dance steps could be seen and boy!, did they have energy and vigor? The indelible African imprint or imprimatur is most discernible in dances, when performed by people of African descent. At this President Obasanjo tribute event, the dancer’s African-ness showed! They wowed everyone present. Every, of their dance steps were reminiscent of our African dances, they actually outdid African dancers! Their choreography was cinematic and picturesquely spectacular!
Clearly, President Obasanjo is having the best time of his life! It was also on Tuesday, that he met with the incoming Secretary General to the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon who thanked President Obasanjo and offered our president well-deserved thunderous applauses for President Obasanjo’s laudable roles in the world and Africa in particular. The UN’s Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon emphasized the invaluable roles played by Nigeria through the Obasanjo’s administration in the Congo , Liberia , Sierra Leone , Sao Tome , Togo , Guinea Bisau, Ivory Coast , Darfur Sudan etc.
The list is endless. Nigeria spent billions of dollars in putting our soldiers, men and materials into peace keeping efforts in various parts of the world, and it was refreshing to witness the leader of the UN acknowledge Nigeria’s tireless efforts in global affairs and in particular, regional and continental affairs.
President Obasanjo is a statesman, a super patriot, a master strategist and master tactician! But all too frequently, he is under estimated under rated and under appreciated by Nigerian people! Therefore, it was gratifying, very gratifying, to see on Tuesday in New York, United States, that this same man that Nigerians disrespect and too often use vile adjectives to describe; This same man was being applauded and appreciated and thanked and paid glowing, befitting and well deserved tributes by non-Nigerians!
Sundry comments by the UN Secretary General Mr. Moon, demonstrated his keen understanding of numerous positive roles that President Obasanjo have led Nigeria to play in the world arena. The new leader of the UN therefore emphasized his desire to continue to see Nigeria play such prominent roles on the world stage. Mr. Moon promised President Obasanjo that Nigeria
will not be sidelined, just because the former UN Secretary General Mr. Kofi Annan has left the UN in retirement.
Mr. Moon repeatedly emphasized the importance of the meeting with President Obasanjo, even as the incoming Secretary General of the UN, declared and proclaimed publicly, that Nigeria is an important and strategic country in Africa and with a welter of natural and human resources. Nigeria has played meaningful and positive roles in the past, and Nigeria continues to make major efforts and contributions in the affairs of the African continent. Nigeria , he said, has enhanced the roles and functions of the United Nations. For this, Mr. Moon stated that Nigeria deserved and still deserves commendations, for Nigeria ’s leadership roles in Africa and on the world scene.
Mr. Moon is, according to press reports, a keen watcher of global events and he is said to have acknowledged “ Nigeria 's strides in international politics, he acknowledged Nigeria ’s efforts at promoting regional cooperation and integration and also Nigeria ’s contributions to peacekeeping missions in troubled zones.” He is said to have also intimated that "I have deep respect for Obasanjo and his tireless efforts to resolve regional conflicts in Africa and to also ensure regional, continental and global peace and security," he reportedly emphasized. Mr. Moon promised President Obasanjo his immediate action on the internecine Darfur crisis in the Sudan .
Mr. Moon promised to continue to emphasize Nigeria place in world affairs and laudable roles that Nigeria assiduously and adroitly played during the President Obasanjo administrations. He stated and restated, in so many words, his commitment to accentuating Nigeria ’s leadership in global affairs.
In President Obasanjo’s vote of thanks, which was generously infused with his usual humor and genial demeanor, our president told of how he is from a humble beginning, he emphasized the real name for that euphemism, humble, he said, mean that he was born to parents who were of little means, they were poor! And no one expected that his name would be heard in the next village. But here we are in New York today, he concluded. He told of lessons he has learnt through his life and carreer in public service. In the Nigerian Army, in the Civil War, and before that, his peace keeping mission in the Congo in the 1960 and of course, in the leadership of Nigeria, as a military head of government and now, as the democratically elected President of our dear republic. He spoke of challenges and the power of God over all things.
His vote of thanks were interlaced and interspersed with so much self-deprecatory humor. President Obasanjo’s intelligence and wealth of knowledge and his world-wise, world-smart, world-aware information, shined all through his speech, this is a man who is clearly an under appreciated by Nigerians. Prophets gets no respect at home? His vote of thanks was very impressive! It made you wonder about the other President Obasanjo that is often derided, vilified and denigrated by Nigerians!
Philip Adekunle of the Nigerian Village Square was also in the audience and he subsequently commented publicly, thus; the former Prime Minister PJ Patterson of Jamaica “gave a FANTASTIC speech, which should have been the highlight of the evening. Next year, his country will celebrate 200 years of the end of slavery.” This summation was my exact feelings, listening to PJ Patterson speak on Tuesday night. He really moved the audience with his full grasp of history, particularly, world history as it has impacted Africans on the continent and peoples of African descent worldwide. All guest speakers were know their subject and they obviously prepared, which shone through their presentations.
President Obasanjo, Ambassador Young and PJ Patterson are in sync as friends… this was clear from the stories they told, indicative of their world view, their portrayal of the way the world works and the ramifications and consequences for Africans and peoples of African descent. They were elaborate and on points in every specificities! President Obasanjo informed the audience that Africans were the first in the world to practice globalization, albeit, involuntarily. He demonstrated this by reminding us that there are Africans in Americas , Antigua and Barbuda , Bahamas , Cuba , Jamaica , Trinidad and Tobago
and in-between. He reminded us how that first globalization in the world, is what built structures, and created wealth in the world, with the blood, sweat and tears of Africans and peoples of African descent, but the structures and wealth, were mostly outside Africa for non-Africans.
President Obasanjo mentioned repeatedly, and explained his depth of knowledge of the world interdependence and interrelationships; he stated for example, that God put petroleum under the earth in parts of the world for a reason. He stated that he quite understand the world’s need for oil for economic growth and survival. He however insisted that those whose soil posses such nature’s bounty, should earn the reward or benefits imbued in such bounties and fortunes of nature. It will be recalled that President Obasanjo administration has seen to it that oil producing states in Nigeria have since 1999, received increased revenue allocations for the benefit of the inhabitants of the lands where oil is produced, with its attendant environmental consequences. Instances abound of pollutions of rivers and streams, farmlands and fishing waters and other ravages of the environment in oil prospecting and producing areas of Nigeria . It was clear that our president thinks globally and acts locally! President Obasanjo warned prophetically about a “fourth scramble for Africa ”, which he said was coming in the wake of slavery, imperialism/Apartheid and colonialism. ”“I can see a fourth scramble for Africa for petroleum and other important strategic resources which Africa is endowed or possess.
Apart from the visit to the United Nations by President Obasanjo, and his attendance as the honored guest and cynosure of the tributes and celebrations at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, our president also conducted other important national business, including a meeting with a Nigerian engineer, Bamidele Oyekanmi PhD, an inventor of an automotive part, for which this Nigerian is currently partnering with Ford Motors Company, with a view of possibly producing the particular automotive part in Nigeria, thereby offering employment opportunities to Nigerians in Nigeria.
Another Nigerian, Dr. Greg Oghafua, a medical doctor in the cardiology specialty was also introduced to President Obasanjo, this cardiologist has an invention for which he has a patent and the invention prototypes were manufactured in China and in Mexico , but there are plans to make Nigeria the home country of the invention and its manufacture.
Both inventions were demonstrated to all present by the inventors, two of our best and brightest. You will all recall that President had a remarkable idea that gave birth to the Nigeria in Diaspora Organization (NIDO); that umbrella organization of Nigerians abroad,. NIDO’s mission includes, among other things, the bringing together, of accomplished Nigerians in all fields of endeavor, and the harnessing of expertise and special skills, training and education, our experiences in the Diaspora, for the benefit of Nigerians in Nigeria , our homeland. These NIDO efforts coalesced and culminated into the meeting of NIDO Board Chairman Dr. Ola Kassim who practices medicine in Canada ; Ms. Adejumoke Akin-Taylor who is a manager of retail real estate with Chase Bank, Jumoke is consummate advocate of all that is good and beneficial to Nigeria . She is a Board member of NIDO. Also present was Mr. Robert Ngwu a NIDO Board member who traveled from Minnesota and of course, my humble self, we on behalf of NIDO, introduced these Nigerian inventors to our president as facilitated by the amiable Ambassador George Obizor, Nigeria’s ambassador to the United States. Our thanks and appreciation is reserved for our embassy and our consulate in New York.
Meeting President Obasanjo is always a good experience; it has always been for me. He is a straight shooter! He is very effacing of all the negative things that is peddled about him and he erases any doubt as to his intention and sincerity of purpose. During our meetings, he cracked humorous jokes even as he was singularly focused on the business at hand. He caught anyone, who slipped or misstated an issue or glossed over something. Even though you may have thought that he may be momentarily distracted by the banter and laughter, no! He does not miss anything. He was always very attentive at our presentations. He made knowledgeable suggestions to the Nigerian inventors for instance. He also informed us, how the Nigerian government may be able to facilitate all these.
On PDP nomination, he praised Governor Yar’Adua’s integrity, qualifications and suitability. He emphasized his reform policies as key to Nigeria
development and advancement, just as he reiterated that the PDP has adopted his reform policies as policy fulcrum, even beyond 2007. His reform agenda has become PDP’s plank and platform. He highlighted Governor Yar’Adua’s fiscal discipline austere financial management style President Obasanjo assured Nigerians at home and abroad, that Nigeria is destined for development and greatness soon, as the foundations and institutions in that direction have been laid. At the end of all these events, I came away with more admiration for our super patriot, our statesman and the man who has earned all these accolades, all these befitting, glowing and well-deserved tributes by non-Nigerians. I personally wish that Nigerians appreciated President Obasanjo much more; I strongly believe that will be the case in due course and as time goes by!
Some pictures of President Obasanjo's visit to New York, More to follow