As Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the first African to serve as Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations turns 89 on Wednesday, Nigerians celebrate the global citizen who thinks home.
He is in every sense exemplary and is one of the most decorated Africans in modern history as evidenced by 34 honourary doctorate degrees from local and foreign universities.
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Chief Anyaoku’s tenure as the Commonwealth chief executive from 1990 to 2000 is spoken about throughout the world in nostalgic terms. The organisation, for example, became a global vehicle for the mobilisation of democratic values like holding periodic free and fair elections and upholding the dignity of the human person. He was thus easily re-elected at the summit in Cyprus in April, 1995.
One of the most respected voices across the globe, Chief Anyaoku has served as the president of the Worldwide Foundation and on the board of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. A chair of international studies has long been established in his honour at the University of London.
A patriot of the finest hue, he relocated to Nigeria on retirement from the Commonwealth. He has become the conscience of the nation through his speeches and writings on national issues, as well as involvement in patriotic activities.
Despite his towering international and national achievements, Chief Anyaoku has his feet planted in Anambra’s soil. Unknown to most Nigerians, Chief Anyaoku played a most significant part in stopping the mayhem of November, 2003, which saw a small but powerful coterie of political operatives with strong connections to Aso Rock burn down, in broad daylight, the Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS), the House of Assembly, the Judicial Complex, the Governor’s Lodge in Onitsha, Government House in Awka and other institutions of government.
As the great Chinua Achebe described these Barbarians at the door of civilisation, the renegades were determined to “turn my homeland of Anambra State into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom.”
Though he was on an official duty in London when the mayhem started, Chief Anyaoku, on learning of it, put an emergency call across to the Presidential Villa in Abuja and the arson and riots ended immediately. Thus the renegades’ plans to remove the sitting governor and replace him with one of their minions through the declaration of a state of emergency were frustrated and democracy consequently saved in Anambra State.
Chief Anyaoku has been serving Anambra people in various other ways. For instance, his leadership of the Anambra State Council of Elders has been marked with great understanding, wisdom, knowledge and dignity.
He has demonstrated great love for his Obosi community too; inspiring other eminently successful individuals to identify with theirs.
About a decade ago, Chief Anyaoku took the initiative to bring together a team of professional historians to write an authoritative book on the history of his hometown. The effort resulted in the publication in 2015 of the well-received and well produced book, The History of Obosi: From the Earliest Times to the Present, which he sponsored.
Not done yet, Chief Anyaoku began a few years ago the building of an edifice in his hometown for the Emeka Anyaoku Foundation (EAF) to work in collaboration with the Emeka Anyaoku Centre for Global Studies at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. The state-of-the-art EAF building, which will house a large library and a museum, among other facilities, is now completed.
As Chief Anyaoku, who proudly holds the traditional title of Adazie Obosi marks his 89th birthday, the people and Government of Anambra State thank God for his life and wish many more years of good health, wisdom and service to God and humankind.
Don Adinuba is the Commissioner for Information & Public Enlightenment, Anambra State