Profile of Chief Emeka Anyaoku
Chief Eleazar Chukwuemeka (Emeka) Anyaoku was born on 18 January 1933 in Obosi, Nigeria. Not only is he a chief through lineage, but also through his exceptional leadership skills. His career in leadership spans many decades and institutions, both national and internationally. The promotion of democracy on the African continent has always been his primary focus and an area of concern. His precociousness in leadership showed when he joined the Commonwealth Development Corporation at the tender age of 26, in 1959.
Shortly after the Nigerian independence, the new Government invited him to join the country’s diplomatic service. In 1963, he was posted to Nigeria's Permanent Mission at the United Nations (UN) in New York.
After the establishment of the Commonwealth Secretariat, Chief Anyaoku became assistant director of international affairs. He was seconded to the organisation by the first Secretary General, Arnold Smith of Canada. He later became a director and by 1975, Chief Anyaoku became Assistant Secretary General. In 1977, Commonwealth governments elected him Deputy Secretary General with responsibility for international affairs and the Secretariat's administration.
His commitment to Africa remained with him and in 1983, Chief Anyaoku returned to Nigeria to serve as the country’s foreign minis-ter. On the overthrow of the Government by the military, he went back to his Commonwealth position as deputy secretary general. In1989, Chief Anyaoku was elected the third Commonwealth Secretary General. He proved an indispensable leader in matters of national, continental and international political leadership and was re-elected at the 1993 Limassol Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting for a second five-year term.
His career as a leader spans over 30 years of Commonwealth initiatives and negotiations. He does not avoid dealing which matters that are controversial. Chief Anyaoku’s strength in leadership can be seen in his active involvement in issues such as the Gibraltar referendum of 1967, the Nigerian civil war of 1967 to 1970, the St Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla constitutional crisis of 1969 to 1970, the problems following Commonwealth Games’ boycotts during the 1980s and the process leading to peace and democracy in Zimbabwe, Namibia and, in particular, South Africa. Chief Anyaoku was also closely involved in the establishment of a joint office in New York for small Commonwealth countries that are thus enabled to be represented at the UN.
Concerning the liberation of South Africa, Chief Anyaoku met the former President of the African National Congress (ANC), Oliver Reginald Tambo in 1963, when he was junior officer in the Nigerian Embassy to the United Nations. This meeting was a genesis to a life-long friendship between Chief Anyaoku and the Tambo family, resulting in the then President of the ANC, Tambo, introducing Chief Anyaoku to Tambo’s then Personal Assistant, and current President of the Republic of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, in 1968. Additionally, in view of his closeness to the Tambo family, he was one of the few people (number three to be exact after Trevor Huddleston and President Thabo Mbeki), who were invited to deliver lectures at the Memorial Lecture of Oliver Tambo.
In 1990, on the release of former President Nelson Mandela from Pollsmoor Prison, he hosted Madiba to his second dinner in London. Between 1 November 1991 and 17 November 1993, he visited South Africa 11 times, using his diplomatic skills in order to break deadlocks around the negotiation processes in South Africa.
In 1998, the former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, in recognition of Chief Emeka Anyaoku’s antecedents concerning South Africa, and the manner in which he had championed the cause of the progressive movements around the world, afforded him the rare honour of addressing a joint sitting of the South African National Assembly. Lastly, former President Nelson Mandela wrote the foreword to Chief Chukwuemeka Anyaoku’s book, Eye of Fire.
In early 1997, he organised the first African Commonwealth Heads of Government Roundtable to promote democracy and good governance on the continent. However, he still honours his traditional duties, serving as a chief in the midst of his international commitments. Anyaoku continues to fulfil the duties of his office as Ichie Adazie of Obosi, a traditional Ndichie chieftaincy title.