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 James Traub, a New York Times magazine journalist, who enjoyed unprecedented access to Mr. Annan and his top aides for three years from 2003 to 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 sought to confront them, and the failed attempt to act decisively against ethnic cleansing in Sudan.
And he accounts for Annan’s attempt to respond to criticism of the United Nations (UN) 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, etc. were written by Mr. Kofi Annan himself.
In all the books, the conclusion I arrived at is that Chief Annan was an intellectual who operated in the world of the academics.
His books matched his outstanding efforts at the United Nations, which he served meritoriously as secretary general from January 1997 to December 2006.
His appointment to the headship of that body 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, was a success for the true African. By any analysis, the Kumasi born Ghanaian diplomat was a great man.
He joined the United Nation 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 to 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 gotten the job as the chief scribe of the world’s number one multilateral organisation. He was first among equals.
In Nigeria, we have outstanding diplomats too, who performed creditably and laboured for peace throughout their careers. For peace is the goal of every diplomat.
A colleague of Annan in Nigeria is Chief Eliezar Chkwuemeka Anyaoku from Obosi in Idemili North local government of Anambra State, who served as the third secretary general of the Commonwealth of Nations.
Married to Ebunola Olubunmi Solanke, Chief 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.
Within a month of his entry into the service in April 1962, Anyaoku 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 (OAU) in May 1963. He was later posted to Nigeria’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York.
Like Kofi Annan, Chief Anyaoku wrote books and a number were also 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 Organisation of African Unity between 1983 and 1985, succeeding Edem Kodjo. Onu was educated at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Chief Simeon Olaosebikan Adebo (1913-1994), the Okanlomo of Egbaland, once served as United Nation’s 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, Chief Emeka Anyaoku (1983), Dr. Ibrahim Gambari (1984-1985), Chief Matthew Mbu (1993), Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe (1993-1995), Chief Ignatius Olisemaka (1998-199), Chief Oluyemi Adeniji (2003-2006) and Mr. Olugbenga Ashiru (2011-2013).
Professor Adebayo Adedeji was appointed executive secretary, Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and assistant secretary-general of the United Nations (1975). He resigned from the ECA executive Secretary and 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 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) from 1982 to 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 from 1995 to 1997.
We also have Ambassador Aderemi Olagoke Esan, Ambassador Joy Ogwu, Ambassador Oladapo Fafowora, Ambassador Isaac Aluko Olokun, Ambassador Olu Otunla, and Ambassador George Achuluke Obiazor 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 Anyawu, Elizabeth Bolere Ketebu, Florentina Ukonga and late ambassador J. J. Ayorinde.
Ambassador Hamzat Ahmadu was appointed Ambassador in 1975 and posted to the USSR. Between 1978 and 1981, Ahmadu was 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 the United States of America (USA) in 1987.
Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji (1934-2017) began his working career as administrative officer, Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1960, and served in various capacities in Nigerian Missions Overseas, including Washington DC (1960-1963); Freetown (1964-1965); Accra (1966-1997); New York (the Permanent Mission, 1970-1973); and Khartoum.
Adeniji was appointed Nigeria’s ambassador to Austria between 1976-1977; Switzerland, 1977-1981; and France, 1988-1991. He was appointed director general, Ministry of External Affairs from 1991 to 1994; and Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General to Central Africa Republic between 1998-1999.
Ambassador Adeniji has served as member and chairman of the International Jury of the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education, 1990-1995; member, 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. May the souls of other diplomats who have gone to the world beyond, continue to rest in peace too.