Former Head of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Yakubu Gowon, has described former Ambassador of Nigeria to Cote D’Ivoire, Professor Lawrence Ekpebu, as a distinguished Nigerian, who played a very critical role in taking Nigeria to a great height.
Stating this in his address, as chairman at the celebration of the 78th Birthday Anniversary of Ambassador Professor Lawrence Ekpebu, and Launch of the Lawrence Ekpebu Foundation and a Biography, Lawrence Ekpebu: His Contribution to National Development, Integration and Integration and International Co-operation, Dr. Gowon said Ekpebu deserved all the accolades he received from Nigerians.
Represented by former Minister of Information, Professor Jerry Gana, Dr. Gowon said that Nigeria, as a nation, was proud of Amb. Ekpebu’s contributions to national development, stressing: “I must say that I am proud of Ambassador Ekpebu, as a distinguished Nigerian. Nigerians are proud of him. He is gifted and has used his gifts to serve Nigeria in all endeavours; in education, as a diplomat, technocrat, and athlete etc. He deserved the commendation; we are gathered here to honour him today. He displayed his intellectual prowess in Harvard University as the first African to graduate there. He has helped in the development of Nigerian education that the scholarship programmes he initiated benefited 53 African countries, in which Nigeria alone are over 250 professors, 12 Vice-Chancellors in addition to politicians, technocrats, diplomats, etc. His contribution to the development of Nigeria is robust.”
Earlier in his welcome address, the Chairman, Niger Delta Forum Study Group, Dr. Ambily Etekpe, who is also one of the authors of the biography, said that they wrote the book and organized the event because Amb. Ekpebu’s desire to share his wealth of experience in addition to humbly contributing to the growth of Nigerian nation and mentor the younger ones had been immense.
Dr. Etekpe also said that the decision to organize the event at Ekpebu’s 78th birthday was to make it remarkable, because, “of his passion for education right from his undergraduate studies at Harvard University, USA, in 1956. As the first African to graduate from Harvard he became instrumental to the establishment of Nigerian American Scholarship Scheme (NSAP) in 1960, African Scholarship Programme of American Universities (ASPAU) in 1961, African Graduate Fellowship Programme (AFGRAD) in 1964, Advanced Training for Leadership and Skills (ATLAS) in 1990, Used Books Scheme (UBS), which he introduced as a member of Harvard Student Council; Automatic Scholarship for Old Rivers State. Today, the ASPAU and AFGRAD programmes have been adopted by 250 American Universities to produce over 4000 top world class African graduates.”
The book reviewer, His Royal Highness Barr. David Serena-Dokubo Spiff (Ada IX), said Ekpebu’s career as a renowned diplomat and the qualities itemized by Etekpe had earned him (Ekpebu) an induction in year 2000, into the esteemed International Educators Hall of Fame, Cairo, Egypt, Distinguished Educational Leadership Award from the Institute of Industrial Administration in 2005, International Year Book and Statesman’s Who is Who, an Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) and Dictionary of International Biography and Diplomacy.
Barr. Serena-Dokubo Spiff further said that all these qualities again made the authors of the book to depict him as a man, who applied high level of diplomatic acumen to overcome difficulties, and even turned it to become an enduring relationship in Africa, as he was in the thick of things at the highest diplomatic level.
He noted that what informed this was that “those who taught him at Harvard University were world class Professors who are distinguished in the US polity, among who are Dr. Henry Kissinger, one-time American Secretary of State and world best known expert in shuttle diplomacy, Zibignew Brezinsky, National Security Adviser under Jimmy Carter. Ekpebu has also interacted with notable figures like Sir Adetokunbo Ademola, Teslim Elias, Ali Mazrui and Richard Falk. He is a role model. This book is a must read for Ijaw nation, Nigerians and the world.”
The event was graced by eminent Nigerians including: the Executive Governor of Bayelsa State, Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson, represented by his Special Adviser (Political matters), Chief Fred Agbedi, the first Military Governor of Old Rivers State, HRM, Alfred Diete-Spiff, former Executive Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha, Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Deziani Alison-Madueke, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe, the Obanema of Opume, King AJ Turner (Obigbo Mikimiki), the Director-General, Nigerian Atomic Energy Commission, Dr. Franklin Erepamo Osaisai, the Executive Secretary, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Dr. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, the Chief launcher, Prince Tonye Princewill, represented by Alhaji Musa Sheidu, Chairman of NYSC Governing Board, Chief Gordon Bozimo, top government functionaries, traditional rulers, diplomats, and captains of industry, among others.
Nwagbo Pat Obi