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Gambari: How Obasanjo lost chance to become UN Secretary-General

Chief of Staff to former President Muhammadu Buhari, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, has opened up on how ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo was edged out in the race…

Chief of Staff to former President Muhammadu Buhari, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, has opened up on how ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo was edged out in the race to become the Secretary-General of the United Nations in 1991.

Gambari said this in Lagos at the public presentation of the biography of the first African UN Secretary-General, the late Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

The book, ‘Boutros Boutros-Ghali: Afro-Arab Prophet, Pharaoh, and Pope’, was authored by Prof. Adekeye Adebajo.

Gambari, a former diplomat, explained that Obasanjo’s military background disqualified him from being selected by the countries with veto power, a development that led to the choice of the late Boutros-Ghali as the US Secretary General in 1991.

“Your candidate (Olusegun Obasanjo) has no chance in hell of becoming secretary,” Gambari recalled how some envoy told him.

“I asked: ‘What do you mean? He is the most qualified former head of state, handed over power voluntarily to civilians, and was head of the group that led to the process of the end of apartheid.’

“He said ‘No. Listen carefully, when we, the big ones, are looking for a Sec Gen, the emphasis is on the secretary and not on the general.’ A very profound statement.

“The thing was that the veto ruling power wanted somebody they could dictate to, not a general, who would be giving them orders. Sometimes they think they are getting a secretary but they end up getting a general.

“Ghali, who they thought would be a secretary turned out to be a general and Koffi Annan, who they thought was a secretary turned out to be a general.

“When you turn out to be different from what the big powers want, they do something about it. Boutros-Ghali was not given a second term, and Koffi Annan was nearly forced to retire over frivolous charges.”

Nigeria’s former permanent representative to the United Nations described his relationship with the late Boutros-Ghali as ‘up close and personal.”

Gambari also described the 1994 Rwanda genocide as the low point of Boutros-Ghali’s career.

“It was under his watch that the UN failed to respond adequately and to prevent genocide and when it was happening, the big powers also did nothing,” he said.

Adebajo explained the reason for the title of the book, saying Boutros-Ghali acted as a peace-making prophet in terms of being the de-facto foreign minister of Egypt during the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel between 1977 and 1981.

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