Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari and former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, have extended the sympathy of the Nigerian government to the United States President, Joe Biden, and the people of America over the demise of a former US Secretary of State, General Colin Powell.
They expressed their feelings over the demise of Powell in separate statements yesterday.
President Buhari in a statement by his spokesman, Garba Shehu, said he believed that as the first African-American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest military position in the US Department of Defense as well as the first African-American Secretary of State, Powell was a great statesman and a global icon in every sense of it.
He recounted that as US Secretary of State, Powell played a very important role in advancing his country’s foreign policy and national defence interests as well as being a great advocate of the eradication of Polio and addressing the deadly spread of HIV/AIDS disease in Africa.
Buhari said his prayers and thoughts were with Powell’s family and the people of the United States as they mourned the death of an exceptional leader and one of America’s greatest prides, who as a professional soldier, a distinguished public servant and an effective diplomat, gave his utmost for his country.
Obasanjo, in his message, described the death of Powell as a loss not only to the America, but to the entire world, stressing that the late Powell was a trusted colleague and Comrade-in-arm, whose closeness as an African-American with the mother Africa assisted in the growth of the continent.
In a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Kehinde Akinyemi, Obasanjo said, “General Powell’s tenure in office marked a significant departure from the traditional relations between Africa and the United States.
“He was Secretary of State under the administration of President George W. Bush, Jnr, part of the time I was President of Nigeria. He was not just an African-American, he was an African-American, who understood Africa. That is what I found in him, when he was Secretary of State.
“With him, among others, I have always seen advantage in the closeness of the African-Americans with the mother Africa. It is mutually good and beneficial for the Africans at home and for our brothers and sisters in diaspora in the US, Caribbean or Southern America.
“I cherished our relationship for the good of humanity in general and especially, for the good of our race, which collectively is the most abused, despised and disregarded race in modern history. He was indeed a trusted colleague and Comrade-in-Arm,” Obasanjo said.
The former president noted that the news of Powell’s death was received with sadness, adding, “his death is a great loss not only to his immediate family and to the United States of America but also to the entire world.
“Though the world, particularly Africa, would miss him, his legacies would continue to inspire many to reach the highest points of their productive, political and creative abilities. May God grant his soul perfect peace and rest.”
On his part, Jonathan in a tribute personally signed, described late Powell as a renowned United States public servant and great leader, who left solid and indelible footprints in the sands of time.
He also stated that his stellar military career paved the way for other African Americans to reach for the top, because he articulated a new paradigm for engaging in military action.
The former President, in a statement by his Special Adviser, Ikechukwu Eze, stated: “Until the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, Colin Powel was the highest ranking African-American to have served in the public sector of the United States. In that capacity, he served as a beacon of hope and was a pride of the Black Race.
“His stellar military career, which saw him become the first Black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which pivoted him to also becoming the first US Secretary of State of colour, paved the way for other African-Americans to reach for the top. His articulation of the Powell Doctrine gave the United States, and the world at large, a new paradigm for engaging in military action with honour and decorum.
“As Secretary of State, he was known for his tactful management of America’s foreign relations, of which he extended a right hand of fellowship to the Yar’Adua administration, when I was Vice President.
“His death, at 84 after a long, useful and fulfilled life, is mourned by my family and I, as well as the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation. He left solid and indelible footprints in the sands of time, and would be greatly missed. Our prayers are with his family at this trying time for them.”
Nigeria’s former Minister of External Affairs, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, said his admiration for the late Powell was usually for his astute military insights and less for his political performance.
The former Director General of the Nigeria Institute International Affairs (NIIA) explained that, “For instance, while evicting Sadam Hussain’s military from Kuwait, he declared it would be a strategic mistake to overthrow Sadam himself. That view has been vindicated. That he got roped into the weapons of mass destruction deception is the stuff of politics, which perhaps explains his disdain of it.
“The second reason for my admiration is what is now referred to as the Colin Powell doctrine about the need of ‘overwhelming force’ to guarantee military victory. In this respect, I recall a debate about the appropriate size of the Nigerian army in the aftermath of the Nigerian civil war.
“Leading the side for downsizing were military Hawks like Gen TY Danjuma (and some of his colleagues in the Ruling Council) who saw a ‘small compact and mobile Force’ as being more economical for national defence arrangement,” Akinyemi explained.
However, he pointed out that then, in opposition was a group whose prominent advocate was himself, saying he preferred a large military for purposes of National defence.
Akinyemi said he had argued then that there could be circumstances when only overwhelming force could win a war (a sort of Colin Powell doctrine).
“Such circumstances as when a nation is besieged by guerilla warfare that overstretches the military. The military proponents decided to prune the military from about a quarter of a million men to about 100 thousand.”
Deji Elumoye in Abuja and James Sowole in Abeokuta