Immediate past Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Sola Enikanolaiye, has recalled how the late former Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), Mr. Kofi Annan, cajoled former President Olusegun Obasanjo to sign the Bakassi Peninsula agreement.
In a statement issued following the death of Annan, on Saturday, Enikanolaiye said he received the news of the passing of Annan with shock and sadness, his ripe age, notwithstanding.
He said Annan was an outstanding soft-spoken and deft internationalist whose vision of international relations in the post-Cold War era led to the reinvigoration of the global body at a time of waning relevance and influence.
Enikanolaiye added that Annan spent most of his years at the UN in the Peace-Keeping Department which he headed before being elected the first black Secretary-General of the UN in 1997.
In the words of Enikanolaiye, “His greatest contributions in this regard is his push for the fundamental reform, restructuring and democratisation of the UN Security Council which he captured in his seminal report to the UN entitled ‘In larger Freedom.’
“This was a follow up on two previous reports by another African, late Dr Boutros Boutros Ghali who was the sixth UNSG, and first from Africa – ‘An Agenda for Peace,’ as well as ‘An Agenda for Development.’
“Paradoxically, he was unable to prevent the genocide in Rwanda which took place under his watch as Secretary General. So were the atrocities committed in Srebrenica in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the same period.
“His warning that enforcement action against Saddam Hussein must be subject to the authorisation of the UN Security Council was simply ignored by Washington which erroneously and tragically justified the war on the possession of weapons of mass destruction that were never found.
“He was also enmeshed in the controversy over the oil for foods programme in Iraq.
“These failures illustrate most tragically the sheer importance of the United Nations and indeed, its Secretary General in conflict prevention and resolution where there is no super power unanimity.
“It is however to the credit of Dr Kofi Annan that his astute diplomatic skills, post retirement, helped a great deal in mediating the post-election violence in Kenya in 2008, having played similar roles as Secretary-General in other troubled spots in Africa such as Sierra Leone and beyond.
“Many in Nigeria will however not forget in a hurry how he cajoled and mesmerised President Olusegun Obasanjo in November 2002 in Geneva to sign and agree to the acceptance and implementation of the judgement of the International Court of Justice over the disputed Bakassi Peninsula whatever the outcome of the case.
“That was how the judgment became a fait accompli, without adequate safeguards and guarantees of their future in Nigeria, thereby leaving them in their present pitiable conditions of quandary,” Enikanolaiye said.
He further said analysts would continue to wonder how the Geneva meeting with President Paul Biya of Cameroon came about.
He, however, said one of Annan’s enduring legacies must be the Kofi Annan International Peace Keeping Training Institute which he founded in his native country of Ghana, which had been providing training opportunities to many in election monitoring and conflict resolution.
“On balance, Dr Kofi Annan represented an authentic African voice, a dove in the manner of a patient peacemaker, an icon, a diplomat’s diplomat, an international civil servant and elder statesman who deployed the best of his talents and skills in the service of humanity.
“His baritone voice and suave, confident manner of engagement added a refreshing dimension to the work of the United Nations in being more inclusive and participatory, including his role in the enunciation of the Millennium Development Goals. It was in recognition of these that he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2001.
“Africa has lost an icon in the person of Dr Kofi Atta Annan. May his soul rest in peace,” Enikanolaiye prayed.