-The New Diplomat Editorial
The news did not come to many as a surprise. And with time, that phenomenon called time which Shakespeare once described as “the swiftest hours, as they flew” is an unavoidable keeper of time-frame and recorder of historical times. This is because time seems to pass very quickly, and sometimes unnoticed. It is about three months now into the appointment of Nigeria’s former foreign Affairs Minister, and Columbia University educated foremost international relations scholar-diplomat, Professor Agboola Ibrahim Gambari as Chief of Staff (CoS) to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Three months is rather too short to assess anyone in leadership position. However, we at The New Diplomat believe strongly that Professor Gambari has demonstrated clear expertise, rich experience and dynamism by putting his best foot forward since assuming office in May this year. Gambari’s approach, and debonair have been adjudged as highly inspirational since assuming office; deeply cerebral, highly pleasant. He has been credited with great profundity of thought, planning and strategic initiatives which he has brought into play.
These are vital attributes and dynamics that a good and effective CoS comes on board with. Thus as an eminent international diplomat, revered consensus-builder, and Columbia University-trained foremost global relations scholar-diplomat with spellbinding resume and excellent background, Professor Gambari whom the baton has been placed in his hands, in the view of the editors of The New Diplomat newspaper, has made a rousing start in the discharge of his duties. Indeed his conduct has been immensely re-assuring.
And this is more so as his track record of service clearly speaks for him. Highly regarded and most respected by peers and colleagues the world over, a cursory look at the profile of the incumbent CoS and founding Chairman of the Savannah Centre will reveal that indeed, he has come, almost tailor-made for the role he has now been handed. Gambari is an accomplished scholar, team leader as well as an immensely talented team player with world class insights into the workings of public policy, public administration, governance and global diplomacy. As one of the nation’s best regarded foreign policy technocrats, Ambassador Gambari has shone quite radiantly in literally the various public service engagements he has been saddled with in the past, both nationally and internationally.
From his tenure as Director- General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, NIIA, through his time as Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, and on to his serving as Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations (1990-1999), Gambari has come to every assignment with an evidently marked sense of commitment, dedication and industry. For example, during his time as Minister of Foreign Affairs between 1984 and 1985, he strengthened the institutional capacity of the ministry by establishing the Foreign Service Academy, a strategic institutional training centre and think-thank that has continued to serve and service the nation’s needs in that most critical regard.
Born in Nigeria in 1944, Gambari attended Kings College, Lagos, as well as the London School of Economics, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in political science, with a specialty in international relations. He earned his Master of Arts in 1970 and his Doctor of Philosophy in 1974 in political science/international relations from Columbia University in New York, United States. From 1969 through 1983, Gambari held a variety of teaching, and academic leadership posts. In recognition of his distinguished academic and professional accomplishments, Johns Hopkins University elected him to a membership role of the University’s Society of Scholars (2002); and the Government of Nigeria awarded him the national honour of Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR). He also served as a delegate at the 2014 National Conference on the structure and model of government for Nigeria.
Prior to serving as United Nations Under-Secretary-General (USG) for Political Affairs, Prof Gambari held the position of Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Africa. In that capacity, he creditably set up the Nigerian Office of NEPAD and replicated same in other jurisdictions. In March, 2007, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed the consensus-builder as his Special Adviser on the International Compact with Iraq and Other Issues. During the period, he also operated as UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Cyprus, Zimbabwe and Myanmar. On 22 May, 2007, the Secretary-General entrusted him with the Good Offices Mandate on Myanmar. Ambassador Gambari has held numerous United Nations positions, including Chairman of the UN Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations and the UNSG’s Special Adviser on Africa; Joint AU/UN Special Representative in Darfur and Head of UNAMID, which was then the largest international peacekeeping operation in the world and the first hybrid Mission.
He currently co-chairs the commission on Global Security, Justice and Governance at the Hague Institute for Global Justice and the Stimson Centre at Washington D.C. In January, 2017, he was appointed a member and is currently Deputy Chairperson of the Panel of Eminent Persons of African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). In the same vein, he was appointed in 2016 by Patricia Scotland, QC, the Commonwealth Secretary General as the Special Envoy to Zambia on Elections and reappointed in 2017 as the Special Envoy for Democratic Stability and Elections 2020. In addition, he is a member of the Senior Working Group (SWG) of the United States Institute for Peace (USIP). Also in May, 2017, he was honoured with the Global Leadership Award by the University of South Florida, USA.
Gambari has also been awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters (honoris causa) from the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut (2002) and Farleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey (2006). Others include: Honorary Doctorate of Public Service, Chatham University (May 2008); Honorary Doctor of Letters (D.Litt), University of Ibadan, Nigeria (November 2011); Special Recognition for International Development and Diplomacy Award conferred by the Africa-America Institute (September 2007), the Distinguished (Foreign) Service Award by the Federal Government of Nigeria (April 2008), the International House Harry Edmonds Award for Lifetime Achievement, New York (May 2009) and the Campaign Against Genocide Medal by the Republic of Rwanda (July 2010). Gambari received South Africa’s highest national honour conferred on non-citizens, the Order of the Companions of O. R. Tambo, which was conferred on him personally by President Jacob Zuma on 26 October 2012. He was also appointed as First Chancellor, Kwara State University in Nigeria, March 2013.
It is equally on record that the seasoned diplomat has played very commendable roles in crisis management and conflict resolution situations across many jurisdictions the world over. Whether as the United Nations Special Envoy to the Darfur crisis in Sudan, or in other similar and related high-wire theatres of conflict in Angola, Cyprus and Myanmar, Gambari has proven himself most creditably that he is indeed a consummate negotiator and eminent peace broker. And given the inherent diversity of the Nigerian nation which opens it to occasional, if not structural challenges of conflict, the presence of a well-heeled international conflict management strategist, foremost diplomat and negotiator in the central corridors of power is indeed a most veritable asset in the nation’s trouble shooting armoury at a time like this.
This is also reinforced by the fact that Gambari being an astute man of letters in every respect, and one who earned his training with distinctions at several prestigious global learning institutions, the Chief of Staff has come on on-board with a veritable treasure trove of intellection and exposure that would come in handy in the days ahead.
It is therefore not surprising that the choice of Gambari as Chief of Staff has already elicited wide and diverse approval from many who have interacted and worked with him through the years across virtually all of the length and breadth of the nation, and across many other jurisdictions. There has equally been a strong voice of aplomb from his primary constituency, the international community. With all of this, we have no hesitation in joining our voice to these illustrious voices of encouragement while adding a prayer that the Almighty God would help him succeed in this new role and beyond measure too, in the overall interest of the government and people of Nigeria, and above all, the Nigerian nation.
Thus, Gambari’s recent appointment as the Chief of Staff to President Buhari promises to bring expansive vigour to governance. This is because Gambari can be summarized as enigmatic; his pedigree no less of an epoch of meritorious and outstanding service. Nigeria would no doubt look to springboard off his vast multilateral base and win herself back to the frontline of the comity of nations. But most importantly, he needs the support of stakeholders, and indeed all to deliver effectively, and most successfully on his mandate. We at the editorial Board of The New Diplomat wish this eminent international diplomat the very best on his new role and assignment.