President Bush, President Clinton, President Carter, Congressman Rangel, Congressman Payne, both of the Congressional Black Caucus in the US Congress, Ambassador Young, Ambassador Jeter, Mr. & Mrs. Masters of the Leon Sullivan Foundation, who sponsored the event, in conjunction with Goodworks International and Chevron Oil, along with other invited Americans guests, too numerous to mention, were among the large assemblage of persons who came and paid befitting and glowing tributes in person and through messages, to President Obasanjo of Nigeria, a great son of Africa, at the world famous and historic Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, on Tuesday December 19, 2006.
This event was well attended by a cross section of the American society. In attendance in plentiful numbers were our African American cousins in the Americas, and our other cousins of African descent in the Caribbean; such as Jamaicans, Trinidadians, Guyanese, Haitians etc and of course, Africans from the continent, among them, Ghananians, Cameroonians and Ethiopians, to name a few, and of course some Nigerians from Nigeria and the Diaspora.
The son of the late Dr. Martin Luther King and Prime Minister P.J. Patterson of Jamaica were there to grace the occasion. Mr. Patterson was one of the guest speakers, and he did a wonderful job of recounting the very worthy life of public service by President Obasanjo which has been of immeasurable and immense benefit to Nigeria, to Africa and the world at large.
Ambassador Young, Prime Minister Patterson, Mrs. Masters and Congressman Payne described President Obasanjo’s worthy and admirable achievements, which encompassed and has spanned a long time period, including his service in peace keeping mission in the Congo as young Nigerian Army officer, and his role in the Nigerian civil war, and his leadership of Nigeria, soon after the assassination of General Murtala Mohammed.
Ambassador Young announced that there will be a drive for the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obasanjo, due him, for his numerous accomplishments and achievements on behalf of Nigeria, the African continent and the world at large. Ambassador Young reminded us of the bold and courageous actions undertaken by President Obasanjo regarding Apartheid, his voluntary hand over of power to civilians as a military head of government, which was unprecedented and unparalleled. He reminded us of President Obasanjo’s quiet dignity, his quietly powerful manners, and his silent strength, all through his public service life.
Ambassador Young compared President Obasanjo to his peers in public service who received the Nobel Peace Prize and pronounced our president head and shoulder as qualified to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and even added, that our president is surpassing in qualities, attributes, words and action, compared with previous recipients.
Speaker after speaker eloquently recalled the details of President Obasanjo slews of masterstroke diplomacy around the world. They recounted his uncommon selflessness in his voluntary hand over of power to the civilian administration of President Shagari, by which the President set a precedent in Africa and elsewhere in 1979.
This very moving tribute went on for hours at the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel on the highly heeled and gilded Park Avenue in New York. It included pictures and documents spanning President Obasanjo’s career which were used in decking the hallways of the hotel, and as if a precursor to a presidential library and center for peace, planned for President Obasanjo in Nigeria. This man with luminous views of Nigeria and Africa!
There was also a video tribute which included prominent world leaders and of course some Nigerians.
I was personally very pleased that this event happened in this great man’s lifetime and not after he joins his ancestors or when he is no more with us. I was immensely pleased as well, that Ambassador Young, Prime Minister Patterson and Mrs. Masters stated and restated President Obasanjo’s momentous and monumental efforts, in forever steering Nigeria onto the right path.
President Obasanjo, they reminded the world, and all those of us in attendance at the sumptuous event, has, in words, actions and works, steered Nigeria and Africa to our national and continental rightful place on the world stage. And in effect, President Obasanjo has done so much to nurture Nigeria and Africa into our national and continental pride of place in the world’s global affairs.
Also present were the doyens and the juggernauts of Nigerian diplomatic corps in the United States and at the United Nations, including, Ambassador George Obizor, Alhaji Aminu Wali and the UN Assistant Under Secretary for political affairs Professor Ibrahim Gambari., Ambassador Aminu Wali and the Nigeria Consul General in-charge of the Consulate of Nigeria in New York, Ambassador Ibrahim Awalu who was by the way, the first NIDO information officer at the Consulate. Then there were also Nigerian politicians and political appointees from near and far, the Governor Jolly Nyame of Taraba State, Governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State and Governor of Osun State Olagunsoye Oyinlola and the Minister for Foreign Affairs Professor Joy Ogwu, formerly of Nigerian Institute for International Affairs, and Commerce Minister, Aliyu Modibbo and Minister of State for Transport, Mohammed Aliyu, were in the presidential entourage.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala also graced the occasion! Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, the erstwhile Finance Minister, who was also a Minister for Foreign Affairs, even if briefly. She was, as usual of her, adorned and bedecked in her famous African attires, she looked wondrously gorgeous and radiant with her usual elegant simplicity!
President Obasanjo was equally resplendent in his African attires during his meeting with leaders of the United Nations, as well as when he met with us. And he wore African attires to the reception/dinner tribute to him. Each time, he appeared in a different design set and colors. He is a true ambassador to everything Nigerian and African. His mere appearance announces African pride everywhere, whether meeting President Bush, the UN leaders or even the Pope.
There was an African American Choir with old time traditional gospel songs they moved everyone with their rendition of ‘O Happy Day!’; and other gospel songs. Additionally, there was another African American Dance Troupe, I think it was from Philadelphia, they danced fire-dance! They danced vigorous African dances! They had the African dance steps completely down-packed, they danced like the Zulus, they danced like Ikpokiti dancers, they danced Igbo dances, Yoruba, Hausa and Calabar dances and every other Nigerian ethnic dance steps could be seen and boy!, did they have energy and vigor? The indelible African imprint or imprimatur is most discernible in dances, when performed by people of African descent. At this President Obasanjo tribute event, the dancer?s African-ness showed! They wowed everyone present. Every, of their dance steps were reminiscent of our African dances, they actually outdid African dancers! Their choreography was cinematic and picturesquely spectacular!
Clearly, President Obasanjo is having the best time of his life! It was also on Tuesday, that he met with the incoming Secretary General to the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon who thanked President Obasanjo and offered our president well-deserved thunderous applause for President Obasanjo’s laudable roles in the world and Africa in particular.
The UN’s Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon emphasized the invaluable roles played by Nigeria through the Obasanjo’s administration in the Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sao Tome, Togo, Guinea Bisau, Ivory Coast, Darfur Sudan etc. The list is endless. Nigeria spent billions of dollars in putting our soldiers, men and materials into peace keeping efforts in various parts of the world, and it was refreshing to witness the leader of the UN acknowledge Nigeria’s tireless efforts in global affairs and in part
icular, regional and continental affairs.
President Obasanjo is a statesman, a super patriot, a master strategist and master tactician! But all too frequently, he is under estimated under rated and under appreciated by Nigerian people! Therefore, it was gratifying, very gratifying, to see on Tuesday in New York, United States, that this same man that Nigerians disrespect and too often use vile adjectives to describe; This same man was being applauded and appreciated and thanked and paid glowing, befitting and well deserved tributes by non-Nigerians!