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Says latter’s experience assisted him while in govt and former’s support for debt relief impressive 

The Former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has described his late former Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Obong Joseph Ufot Ekaette as someone whose experience in the Civil service assisted him a lot in the transformation recorded in the public service during his administration between 1999-2007.

Also, the former President said that the late  President of France, Jacques Chirac’s support for the country’s debt relief was impressive and commendable.

 

The late President reportedly died at the age, 86, on Thursday, while the former Minister for Niger-Delta Affairs, Ekaette, died on Wednesday, at the age of 80.

In a release by his Special Assistant Media, Kehinde Akinyemi, the former President, who is still in South Africa, where he went for an international engagement in his capacity as the Chairman of Brenthurst Foundation, remarked that the deaths of the two great personalities would be missed in both the French speaking country and Nigeria respectively.

On his former SGF, Obasanjo said that Ekaette who served Nigeria in several capacities would be greatly missed, having left behind worthy legacy.

“He would be missed not only be his immediate family and the people of Akwa Ibom state, but the entire country.

“We had a very robust environment when he was chosen as the SGF in 1999 and I decided to retain him in 2003, because of his experience. He is industrious, hardworking and a special breed of civil servant whose experience in the civil service assisted me a lot.”

“By all standard, he did his best to my admiration. He was a great man who I could easily describe as my ‘Encyclopedia’. He saw through our administration’s policies and programmes from their initiation, nurturing and implementation. As the SGF, he was an advocate of human capital development and he so demonstrated it through his interests in improving the welfare and quality of life of everyone around him. He was so loved and revered by all his colleagues and staff. Indeed, he was a God-sent.”

In the political front, Obasanjo said that the late SGF “was never a novice in politics, remember he was a deputy governor in Akwa Ibom State. He did his job conscientiously.

“As pioneer Minister of the Ministry of Niger Delta, under the administration of President Musa Yar’Adua’s in 2009, he also helped to lay the foundation for this strategic Ministry that is at the forefront of transforming the Niger Delta Region.

“Ufot was a prominent patriot and a detribalized Nigerian, who was well regarded not only for the great commitment that he had for the progress of the country, Nigeria, but also for his abiding faith in national unity. He belonged to the rare group of Nigerian politicians who eschewed ethnic chauvinism even at the risk of incurring the displeasure of his kinsmen. It was quite fitting, therefore, that his invaluable contribution to building a better society was well-acknowledged via the conferment on him of the national honour of Commander of the Federal Republic, CFR, in 2000. I must say, both Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria should be immensely grateful to this great man.”

Obasanjo urged his family and the people of Akwa Ibom, “to take solace in the memory of his total dedication and commitment to the service of his people and for the country’s public/civil service. We salute his achievements in laying the foundation of the reformed civil service in the country.

“We pray that the Almighty God will give the entire Ekaette family, the good people of Akwa Ibom and the rest of us, his admirers the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss and grant Obong Ekaette eternal repose in His bosom,” Obasanjo disclosed.

On the death of Chirac, the former President remembered with nostalgia, the role played by the former French Prime Minister, declaring that it was impressive and commendable.

According to Obasanjo, ” He was a great advocate for securing debt relief for Nigeria which had been enmeshed in unsustainable debt overhang, crushing poverty, deep seated conflicts and other communicable diseases and debilitating crisis long before my assumption of Office as President in 1999. Indeed, he agreed to 70% relief as against our demand for 25% while also campaigned and lobbied within the Paris Club for consensus for that quantum of relief. His efforts were also directed to Germany, Italy and Japan as Britain has indicated going as far as 70% relief.

“I remember vividly his efforts at exploring modalities for settling the crises in Cote d’Ivoire sometime in 2003 and, with political will on all sides, the conflict in that brotherly African country, which had hitherto enjoyed stability and progress, was resolved satisfactorily. On the Nigeria–Cameroon border dispute, he also got himself involved to such an extent that the principle and the political reality were harmonised for durable peace and security for all concerned. 

“President Chirac raised serious concerns over the humanitarian situation in the Darfur region of Western Sudan and demonstrated his strong preference for the return of a lasting peace in the region through the initiative and the effort of France in its drive to support the relief agencies in their efforts to alleviate the suffering of the people of the Darfur region, which no doubt emanated from his conviction that the crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan with its Herculean humanitarian problems was not simply an African problem but one, which concerned the entire international community.

“His intervention on the renewal of Nigeria’s HIV grants from The Global Fund AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria can also not go unrecognised.

“Also worthy of mention was his declaration that France would continue, in the spirit of true partnership, to support the efforts, programmes and initiatives of the African Union. France showed exemplary role in supporting NEPAD and other programmes of the AU that had been designed to reposition the continent for growth, stability, development and democracy. Then, he never relented in his belief in the efforts of the African leaders and in his support for Africa. I must say, the whole of Africa shall remain grateful to this great man for his consistent and personal interest in Africa and his long-standing belief in the capability of African States to address problems that affect them in cooperation with their development partners.

“It is my prayer that Almighty God grants his immediate family and all the good people of the Republic of France the fortitude to cope with the passing of this committed world leader.”