1. As Chief Emeka Eliezer Anyaoku, the erstwhile Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations, marks his 88th birthday tomorrow, Monday, January 18, the Government and people of Anambra State join all Nigerians and, indeed, the rest of the world to wish him a most memorable and rewarding anniversary. Much as this event represents a new and important stage in his life, Chief Anyaoku will not celebrate the birthday with a crowd. He will rather stay with his wife and a few other family members in his Lagos residence to count his numerous blessings from God and give glory to his maker. He will also use the opportunity to pray for Nigeria and humankind.
2. Chief Anyaoku’s decision to stay away from the public on the occasion of his 88th birthday is in conformity with the global protocols to check the spread of the coronavirus, especially the second phase which has seen a new strain of the virus considered more infectious and perhaps deadlier. He is a leader who leads by the force of personal example rather by mouthing platitudes. The consistency and transparency with which he pays his personal income tax, for example, caused the Babatunde Fashola administration in Lagos State to publicly issue him a certificate of commendation and later named the biggest housing estate built by the administration in Ikeja GRA for him.
3. Chief Anyaoku, GCVO, CFR, CON, is a very important gift which Anambra State gave to the world. He is arguably the most famous and honoured of all Commonwealth secretary generals ever. During his tenure, the Commonwealth became a very important institution for the struggle for democracy, human rights and dignity of the human person. The whole world remembers how the organization fought to save Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Nigerian writer and Ogoni environmental activist from execution during the Sani Abacha dictatorship. The whole world appreciates how the Commonwealth fought gallantly to free such eminent Nigerians as Chief Moshood Abiola, who won the June 12 1993 presidential vote which was inexplicably voided by a previous military regime; the former military Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo; the former Chief of Staff at the Supreme Headquarters, Major General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua; the ex-Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae; the ex-Kano State governor, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi; the Civil Liberties Organization founder, Mr Olisa Agbakoba; the frontline publisher and author, Dr Arthur Nwankwo; the former Oyo State governor, Chief Bola Ige; and many others who were in prison in different parts of the country under the military regime.
4. An international statesman through and through, Chief Anyaoku at 88 still travels around the globe to carry out various assignments and speaks on the most important issues of the day and in a most engaging manner. Among his numerous honours is the creation of the Emeka Anyaoku Professorial Chair of International Relations at the University of London.
5. Despite his global status, Chief Anyaoku is passionate about Nigeria. That’s why he returned to Nigeria to live after decades of living and working abroad. He participates effectively in different national conversations on the Nigerian condition. He is also passionate about his home state. He wears his traditional title of Adazie Obosi as a badge of honour and serves admirably as the Chairman of the Anambra State Council of Elders. He works closely with the Governor Willie Obiano administration to make Anambra remain the most competitive state in Nigeria.
6. The people and government of Anambra State led by Governor Obiano, who has already called him on the phone to wish him a happy birthday, are in solidarity with Chief Emeka Anyaoku as he marks his 88th birthday. We pray for more years of sound health, wisdom and devotion to the public good.