As Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the first African to serve as Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations, turns 89 today, the government and people of Anambra State celebrate this global citizen who thinks home. He is in every sense exemplary.
One of the most decorated Africans in modern history, as exemplified by 34 honorary doctoral degrees he has received from various local and foreign universities, Chief Anyaoku’s tenure as the Commonwealth chief executive from 1990 to 2000 is spoken about throughout the world in nostalgic terms. The organization, for example, became a global vehicle for the mobilization of democratic values like holding periodic free and fair elections but also upholding the dignity of the human person. He was thus easily reelected 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 professorial 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 various speeches and writings on critical national issues as well as involvement in different patriotic activities.
Despite his towering international and national achievements, Chief Anyaoku has his two 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, the state 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 civilization, 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; 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. The people and government of Anambra State will always remain grateful for the decisive intervention.
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.
The former Commonwealth secretary general has demonstrated great love for his Obosi community, too, inspiring other eminently successful individuals to identify with theirs. He always spends the Christmas holidays in his Obosi town, and his presence frequently attracts local and international statesmen to the community.
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 yet done, Chief Anyaoku began a few years ago the building of an edifice in his hometown for the Emeka Anyaoku Foundation to work in collaboration with the Emeka Anyaoku Centre for Global Studies at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. The state of the art 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 the 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.
Meanwhile, Governor Willie Obiano has called on the former Commonwealth chief executive to wish him a rewarding birthday.
“Much as your birthday will be marked, rather than celebrated in view of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the Anambra people will not fail to tell the world how you have been a great blessing to them”, Governor Obiano declared.
Anambra State governor-elect Chukwuma Soludo has also congratulated Chief Anyaoku on his 89th birthday.
“We can’t thank God enough for the life of this preeminent Nigerian from Anambra State”, said Professor Soludo, according to a statement signed by his media aide, Joe Anatune.
“At 89, Adazie Obosi displays the level of physical, mental, emotional and philosophical alertness which many people 20 years younger do not possess.
“He remains a voice of reason, a voice of wisdom, a voice of courage and a voice of moderation in Nigeria and elsewhere in these turbulent times. He is truly the conscience of Nigerian society”.
C. Don Adinuba
Commissioner for information & Public Enlightenment.