…Says academy emerging at a period of its greatest need

From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja

The Federal Government, has expressed delight over the inauguration of the Academy of International Affairs, Nigeria.

This was even as a former Supervisory Minister of Foreign Affairs and one of the newly inaugurated Fellows of the Academy, Professor Viola Onwuliri, expressed the hope that the academy will help the foreign policy of Nigeria to diversify and grow.

Speaking with Daily Sun, Onwuliri said with the crisis-ridden world, there was a lot of work before the Academy.

Onwuliri, a former Minister of State (1), Foreign Affairs and a former Minister of State, Education, however said the fellows, like a think-tank, will rise up to the challenge.

Onwuliri expressed gratitude to the founder, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, for putting the Academy together.

“I thank God for this. It is something that the organisers and the founder thought necessary that someone like me should be part of this inaugural group of fellows of the new academy.

“So, I am grateful to God, I feel appreciated and I thank God. We believe that this will help the foreign policy of Nigeria to diversify and grow,” Onwuliri said.

Speaking during the inauguration and investiture of fellows of the Academy in Abuja, the Vice President, Kashim Shettima, said the academy has great potential to make great improvements in the management of the nation’s foreign policy.

Shettima who was represented by the Special Adviser to the President on Political Affairs, Office of the Vice President, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, also said it was even more remarkable that the inspiration and impetus behind the formation of the Academy was entirely the initiative of distinguished foreign service officers who have paid their dues to our country many times over.

“History will record this day as a key bookmark in the place of our elite in keeping the faith that our country can continue to rely on them to place before it their entire assets in patriotism, skills and competences. You have vindicated a widely-acknowledged truism that nations which know what was best for them trusted the conduct of their foreign policy only to its best and the brightest. Allow me therefore to place on record today, the nation’s inestimable gratitude to all our foreign service officers who saw our nation through its best and most challenging moments. I hope there are enough serving foreign service officers in this building today who should draw inspiration from the undying passion of service to the fatherland from all the Fellows and other members of the foreign service officers,” Shettima said.

Speaking further, Shettima said the Academy is emerging at a period of its greatest need, noting that the international environment is becoming increasingly more complex and more demanding of the nation’s best intellects, professionalism, commitments and visions to find spaces within areas demanding consensus, or in competitions with others and managing conflicts.

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“Nigeria lives with historic limitations and multiple contemporary challenges, and we will not claim that we are self-sufficient in answers to dealing with poverty levels, limited resources for critical infrastructure and raising skilled and educated younger Nigerians. We will leave our doors open to this Academy for ideas and recommendations.

“This Academy will be a Think Tank we cannot afford to ignore. We need your inputs on achieving our priorities in the contexts of often harsh and unforgiving circumstances. This administration acknowledges the severity of our challenges, although we are also convinced that Nigeria shall survive its current challenges. What we need is faith and support, the same assets that saw us through major challenges in our past. We need to begin to think of a future full of opportunities as well. In the next two decades, Nigeria will have one of the largest, youngest and most enterprising population in a world that will be aging and changing. We need to survive our current challenges with courage, wisdom, patriotism and vision of a great future full of our opportunities for the next generation of Nigerians,” Shettima added.

Shettima congratulated Professor Bolaji Akinyemi and all the Fellows of the Academy for stepping up when the nation needed them most.

“The selection of Fellows of this Academy reminds Nigerians of its wealth in human resource, both active and relatively un-utilized. I hope this Academy triggers an active interest among other professional groups to organize and place assets at the disposal of the nation,” Shettima also said.

Also speaking, a former Head of State and Chairman of the Occasion, General Yakubu Gowon, said the establishment of an academy of this calibre, bringing together, some of the nation’s brightest minds in international relations is highly commendable.

“This is timely when our President, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR is the leader of ECOWAS and quite visibly promoting Nigeria’s global image, and all efforts to save ECOWAS. While there are several government agencies that are created to perform vital roles in formulating and implementing foreign policy, the wisdom and experience of private citizens with many years of foreign service are invaluable. I therefore urge you Academy for International Affairs (AIA) to offer your services and collaborate with this and successive administrations to ensure that Nigeria’s rightful place as a global voice and leadership is secured at all times. I request the government, present and those to come in the future to consider and accept this proposal,” Gowon said.

In his remarks, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Tuggar, said the think-tank will be of immense assistance to the country.

In his address, the Keynote Speaker, Professor Benedict Oramah, recalled how African leaders, upon gaining political independence, set their sight on attaining economic independence and bridging the development gap between the continent of Africa and the developed world.

The President of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) however said regrettably, after 60 years of the effort, progress remained short of expectations.

“The facts are there for all to see. Instead of being the bread basket of the world today, our continent remains a basket case in many spheres,” Oramah said.