By Chiedu Uche Okoye

My interactions with Chief Emeka Anyaoku have given me a glimpse into his true persona.

“Some are born great; some achieve greatness; and others have greatness thrust upon them.” That Chief Emeka Anyaoku achieved greatness is an incontrovertible fact. He achieved greatness by dint of hard work, acquisition of education, and living a spartan and disciplined life. Chief Emeka Anyaoku, we all know, entered the pantheon of the great people when he served as the Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations. His becoming the Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations is a rare feat given the fact that he’s the first African person to occupy that exalted position.

But long before he was elected the Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations, Chief Anyaoku had been appointed Nigeria’s minister of foreign affairs in 1983 by President Shehu Shagari. His appointment to that post was a testament to his possession of vast experience in the area of foreign affairs. But sadly, President Shehu Shagari’s political administration was truncated by the jackboots and brasshats.

And as a diplomat par excellence, and Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations,  who held sway over fifty-four countries, Chief Anyaoku played big roles in the maintenance and sustenance of political stability in many countries of the world. His robust interventions, which helped to steer Nigeria to the path of democratic governance, is not lost on us. And till  now, he is still committed to the deepening of democratic governance in Nigeria.

Chief Emeka Anyaoku’s meteoric rise to the apogee of his career as the Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations was made possible by some factors, chief among which is his possession of quality education. He was an alumnus of the Merchants of Light School, Oba, Anambra State, a school that was founded by Dr Enoch Oli in 1946. While in the school, learned teachers brimming with knowledge imparted knowledge to him.

In addition to acquiring knowledge in the school, he received good moral training, which shaped his personality. So he thought out principles, which were his lodestars in his  journey of life. The saying that ‘character is fate and fate is character’ is made true in his life.

So not unexpectedly, he secured a place in the University of Ibadan- an affiliate of University of London- to study Classics. At that time, the university of Ibadan was teeming with mentally gifted young men and women, who were students in the school. And most of the people who studied Classics, then, as he did, were polyglots, who deploy languages creatively to achieve their ends.

For example, the great poet, Christopher Okigbo, who died during the Nigeria-Biafra civil war, studied Classics at the University of Ibadan. Okigbo used his poems, which foretold political cataclysm, to advert our minds to the looming danger, then.

Related News

As to Chief Emeka Anyaoku, his choice of study in the university, which is classics, aided him in no small way to become an astute and revered international diplomat. And he applied himself conscientiously and dedicatedly to his job, which culminated in his emergence as the Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Again, his wide travels, education, and exposure have imbued him with cosmopolitan disposition and liberality of mind. But Chief Anyaoku is not disconnected from the cultural moorings of his people. If anything, he is immersed in the ways of his people. And he is an active participant in the cultural life of his people. Is he not a traditional title holder in Obosi, his home town? Chief Emeka Anyaoku is the Adazie of Obosi; and as such, he is a member of the Igwe Chidubem Iweka of Obosi ruling cabinet.

His immersion in the traditional life of his people and the love he bears for his home town, Obosi,  have found expression in his building the Emeka and Bunmi Anyaoku Foundation Centre at Obosi, Anambra State. The centre is a conflation of a library and a museum. And it has a big hall for hosting events as well as board rooms for meetings.

But most importantly, Chief Emeka Anyaoku wants the centre to be a place where eggheads will gather to brainstorm to find solutions to Nigeria’s many hydra-headed problems, especially the one that  borders on the management of Nigeria’s ethnic and religious diversities. He is of the opinion that our past successive political leaders’ inability to manage our country’s ethnic and religious diversities is at the root of our country’s problem of disunity.

And Chief Emeka Anyaoku has always made reference to Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia as pluralistic nation-states that imploded owing to their political leaders’ failure to manage their countries’ ethnic and religious diversities. And he praises Switzerland and Canada as democratic models that exemplify how peoples  from diverse racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds can co-exist peacefully with one another as citizens of one country.

More so, it is an indisputable  fact that Chief Emeka Anyaoku is a patriot, who is not fettered by ethnic sentiments and religious considerations. His feelings of fealty for Nigeria are palpable. And he believes that the greatness of Nigeria lies in her diversities. Based on this, he is an advocate for the continued existence of Nigeria as an indivisible and indissoluble political entity.

Again, Chief Anyaoku holds the belief that education unlocks the potential of people. His belief that education is the bedrock of national development is hinged on the fact that only knowledgeable and skillful people can drive their country’s developmental initiatives. This informed his decision to build the Emeka and Bunmi Anyaoku Foundation Centre at Obosi, Anambra State. It is his contribution to the efforts, which are being made to revive the dying culture of reading among the Nigerian populace.

So now, it is obvious to us that Chief Emeka Anyaoku’s love for his people’s way of life, his of love education, his patriotic disposition, his civility, and his high sense of fairness and justice form his persona.

*Okoye writes from Uruowulu-Obosi, Anambra State