Diplomats To Establish ‘Amb. Eloho Otobo Academic Prize’ At UniLag Sociology Dept

Obaze At PBA Colloquium, Speaks On Africa Of Amb. Eloho Otobo’s Dream

2 years ago
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The Africa of Ambassador Eloho Otobo’s Dream

Remarks by Mr. Oseloka H. Obaze

At the Virtual Online Colloquium 

In Honour of Late Ambassador Ejeviome Eloho Otobo, 

Nigerian Diplomat, UN Official & Board Director of Prime Business Africa

6p.m. (WAT) Thursday 11 August 2022


Reality Check

Good evening. Thank you all for gathering today to honour our mutual friend: late Ambassador Ejeviome Eloho Otobo. It is rather surreal to gather and to talk of, and pay tribute to a very dear friend, brother and colleague, when we should have gathered to honour him for his work and service to our humanity.

Throughout this evening and going forward, we shall speak of Eloho in the past tense. That should give us pause. As we bid Eloho farewell and grapple with some unending questions, let us pause awhile and think of this: What we are now, Eloho was. And what Eloho is now, we shall all become. That reality check is quite numbing. You will only be remembered for your good deeds.

Who Was Eloho Otobo?

But who was Ambassador Ejeviome Eloho Otobo; fondly called Eloho by family and friends? He was the dear husband to Esther; devoted father to Ufuoma, Elo, Oheri and Ejiro; and a very dear brother, uncle and friend to many persons.

Eloho was to me, a very dear friend and a brother from a different mother. He was a friend, brother, confidant and literary interlocutor. He was a very jocular and effervescent person. Our professional and personal friendship began over forty years ago. We were professional colleagues as members of Nigerian Foreign Service. More personally, Eloho was Godfather to our second son, Chinua. My family members can count of a few people, whom I consider my best friends. Eloho belonged to the top echelon of that list. Often we joked about our antecedents: coming from poor and small rural farming communities in Nigeria; him from Itor-Igho in Isoko North Local Government (Delta State), and me, from Ochuche-Umuodu in Ogbaru Local Government (Anambra State).

Eloho was different things to different people-all positive. He was a great gift to his family, the Isoko community, Nigeria and to our humanity. To most people, however, Eloho was the consummate, professional, career diplomat. He cut his niche in that sector as a scholar-diplomat, both at the national and international levels.

During a stellar diplomatic career that spanned more than three decades, Eloho served in Nigerian Missions in Jakarta, Beijing, and New York. During his tour of duty at the Headquarters, he was a member of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs highly regarded policy planning team. In the Ministry, Eloho created a sustainable fad, when he took a self-sponsored study leave and proceeded to the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, in Massachusetts, for his Master’s degree in Public Administration, where he specialized in Political Economy. Several of his mentees have on his counseling, toed that same line.

We were both privileged to have served at the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the UN, in New York under General Joe Garba from 1987 to 1990. Thereafter, Eloho joined the U.N. system one year before me, serving first, at the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa (ECA); then in the Office of the U.N. Special Adviser on Africa (OSAA); before moving to the United Nations Peace building Support Office, from where he retired in 2013, as the Acting Head of that Office.

In retirement, Eloho took to consulting and writing. He became a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Global Governance Institute in Brussels; consulted for the African Union, the African Development Bank, and the United Nations. He was until his demise on the Board of Directors of Prime Business Africa and The New Diplomat Newspaper.

A Cerebral Writer, Conversationalist and Dreamer for Africa:

By way of adjectival qualifications, Eloho was a cerebral writer, conversationalist and big “Dreamer” for Africa. He was unrepentantly Afrocentric and wrote passionately about Africa and for Africa. He wrote broadly on African governance, development and security and issues. Eloho saw in Africa, not just an emerging frontier, but a continent imbued with infinite possibilities. Nigeria, however, was his passion, given his deep conviction that an inextricable link existed between Nigeria and the realization of Africa’s manifest destiny.

Eloho and I had been writing partners since 1994. Over the past years, he and I wrote joint policy briefs and individual books. Our focus was on Nigeria in particular, but Africa in general. From 2015 we decided to aid good governance in Nigeria by publishing monthly policy-influencing op-eds in major Nigerian dailies. It was our best way of spending our retirement and providing advocacy a policy recommendations aimed at good governance.

During that period Eloho had published three books: Consolidating Peace: The Role of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission (2015); co-edited African Development in the 21st Century: Adebayo Adedeji’s Theories and Contributions (2015) and Africa in Transition: A New Way of Looking at Progress in the Region (2017).

Two of Eloho’s books offer glimpses into his commitment to Africa. Consolidating Peace in Africa: Role of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission (2015) is a 246-pages and seven-chapter volume of empirical analysis and lessons learned, in Post-Conflict Peacebuilding. Eloho’s second book, Africa in Transition (2017), was aptly described by my dear friend Dr. Marcel Mbamalu, as “a bird’s-eye view, incisive and richly illuminating dissection of Africa’s epochal moments.”

In 2018, Eloho and I decided to co-author a book on governance in Nigeria, titled; Nigeria: Caught in the Whirlwind. That would have been his fourth book, but COVID intruded. Now, I’m tasked to completing that work alone.

As a person, diplomat, writer and African dreamer, Eloho true to his erudite sagacity, proved himself a worthy raconteur of good governance principles, for which his knowledge and authority remained unquestionable.  To paraphrase Adebayo Adekeye, a mutual friend who also knew Eloho well: “His legacy will thus be as a U.N. peace builder; a prophet of Africa in transition; and a patriotic Nigerian policy intellectual.” Eloho shared and understood fully that U.N.’s Peacebuilding activities, especially in Africa, validated U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold’s now famous maxim: “The U.N. was not created to take mankind to heaven, but to save humanity from hell.”  Eloho always wrote with that in mind.

A Life Well-Lived and Explored that Ended Too Soon:

It is always difficult to assess a dear friend without exhibiting bias. Yet as writers, policy wonks, and administrators, ever so often we are called to offer peer assessments. This is what I once wrote of my dear friend and brother, Eloho:  “Otobo has a unique blend of professional qualities, including a breadth of international experience, strong analytical skills, and ability to explain the links between political and economic trends;he is an effective manager and excellent team player, with a penchant for details, and substantive knowledge of political and development issues in Africa. Though a team player, he has little patience for persons that lack detail orientation or display lack of analytical rigour.”

That unvarnished assessment of the man, will stand the test of time.

Since 1987, Eloho and I had a monthly lunch whenever we found ourselves together in Nigeria or New York. Often our wives, Esther and Ofunne joined us. On 10th June, 2022, Eloho and I had our usual monthly lunch in New York to discuss our book, Nigerian politics and our contributions to the Manifesto of the Obedient Movement. Alas, unbeknown to us, it was to be our last lunch.

Eloho Otobo’s life was one well-lived and explored fully: but also one that ended too soon. Good night my dear friend. We shall meet on the other side of life.


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