By Amb. Dapo Fafowora
I know him quite well. I was the one who, in 1981, brought him to the United Nations, UN, at his request as a member of the Nigerian delegation. He was then a senior lecturer at the Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria.
In fact, the late Prof Ishaya Audu, who was then the Foreign Minister, actually advised me against inviting him to the UN. But he had strong academic credentials, which impressed me. He had obtained his first degree in political science from the London School of Economics, LSE, and a doctorate from Colombia University, in New York.
We were looking for strong delegates to the UN General Assembly and I considered him the kind of delegate we were looking for. So I invited him as one of our delegates to the UN General Assembly. He was at the UN in New York with me. I gave him and his wife my city apartment, which I was not using free for 3 months plus a car.
I liked him and I was not seeking any favours from him. After three months, he returned home and sent me a note thanking me for giving him the first opportunity to visit the UN as a delegate and giving him his first experience at multilateral diplomacy.
However, he sent late President Shehu Shagari a secret and private note that while he was at the UN, he observed that I had not been attending the meeting of Islamic states at the UN. President Shagari sent the note to Prof Audu, who forwarded it to me in New York.
He didn’t even ask me for any comments on Gambari’s secret memo, as Prof Audu fully understood that Nigeria had traditionally not been attending meetings of the Islamic states, as we were not then a member of the Group.
Gambari asked for a private meeting with President Shagari, which Prof Audu advised against. I was shocked that someone who I had helped so much turned round to betray me so blatantly. I did not tell him I knew about the secret letter he had sent to the UN.
When Shagari was overthrown by then General Muhammadu Buhari, Gambari became the Foreign Minister. When career ambassadors were being suddenly retired, I was at first not on the list. But Gambari, now Foreign Minister and Mohammed Lawal Rafindadi, the head of the defunct Nigerian Security Organisation, NSO, who had worked under me in London, and was now head of the NSO worked together to secure my retirement.
In fact, when I called him from New York to confirm from him news about my retirement, he first denied it. Thereafter, he no longer pick my calls. In fact, I remained at my post in New York for another three months, during which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs tried to reverse the decision to retire me.
I had done absolutely nothing wrong in my entire career in the diplomatic service and only got into trouble for helping a young academic, who turned against me to fulfill his own personal ambition.
Since then, he and I have only met twice in very difficult circumstances. First at a dinner by a mutual friend in New York, several years after my retirement. He could barely look directly at me. He was clearly embarrassed.
Then when President Muhammadu Buhari won the elections in 2015, I headed a team that was set up to prepare a paper for him on our Foreign Policy. Subsequently, Alhaji Ahmed Joda asked him to join the team.
Then, last year, he suddenly called me to ask if I would kindly represent him at a public lecture he had agreed to chair. I told him I could not and that he should look for someone younger. He immediately hung up on me.
Now, he may be the kind of person Buhari is looking for to succeed Abba Kyari as Chief of Staff, COS. They are very much alike; but Gambari is more subtle and even more dangerous and will substitute the national interests for his own personal interests.
I have no doubt about that. What I have written in this long piece is just some of my personal experience and encounter with him. Everything I have written here is in my memoirs, ‘Lest I Forget,’which he has seen and read.
It is nothing new. But I think it is important that the character of our top govt officials should be revealed and not covered up. We have, as a nation, paid dearly for supporting appointments to high office that are often detrimental to our nation. Enough is enough and this has to stop.
*Fafowora is a retired diplomat.