At 90, Nigerian Diplomat Renews Belief In Fatherland
Attaining the age of 90 is by no means a small feat especially in a country where life expectancy for men is put at 53 years, as contained in the new World Health Statistics 2014 report published by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
It was therefore not surprising when family, friends and well wishers of Ambassador Victor Adeyeye Adegoroye, a conscientious diplomat, who bestrode the nation’s foreign service in the 70s like a colossus, rolled at the drums to celebrate his 90th birthday in Lagos last Sunday.
The event, which kicked off with a thanksgiving church service at Our Saviours Church, Lagos, was attended by many dignitaries and was rounded off with a cocktail party that lasted throughout the night.
The nonagenarian, who relived his experiences in life as a young man left to wade through murky waters of life alone having lost his parent at tender age, was full of gratitude to God for sparing his life and attaining the rare age of 90.
Although, his life has been full of many achievements, he recalled with nostalgia, the expulsion of Nigerians from Ghana, when he was Nigerian High Commissioner, describing the incidence as the most challenging time of his life, which he wished should never repeat again.
According to him, between 1976-77, Nigerians were being expelled from Ghana and unfortunately during Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s time, Nigerians were treated just like Ghanaians and therefore had businesses everywhere in Ghana.
Suddenly, this new government decided that they should go.
“So when they were asked to go, it was a very terrible situation, it was just so sudden. They could only pick what they can and came to the Embassy.
The Embassy was so crowded that Nigerians working in Ghanaian police came to help us to clear the place when they are off duty.
Even to enter my own office, I needed police assistance to go up there. Fortunately, I had already acquired an area on the way to the airport to use as residence and there was a big hall, so we have to move all of them there and start arranging to get them exported to Nigeria.
Fortunately, the government responded well and instructed all national shipping lines coming from Europe to branch in Accra and take then and bring them home.
There was also a lady mayor in Lome then, who was extremely good, she quickly established a camp by the seashore so that they can get some air and avert serious trouble with the crowd and put them there, when the ship came, they were moved to Nigeria.
The experience cannot be compared to the famous ‘Ghana Must Go’ era’ because the houses of Nigerians were seized and we had to start fighting for that, some told their friends to help them keep their houses, when they left, they changed the titles with the local government and that house becomes his, so many cases like that, where we have to be struggling with the Foreign Office to establish some of the houses and so on, then their businesses.
“Nigerians have to sell them at give away prices because Nigerians have a lot of businesses all over Ghana. As a matter of fact, the situation was that the flourishing shops and all that the Ghanaians bought them.
Some hired a bus to take them to Lagos, when they reached the boundary with Togo, they will go in and bribe the border officials and they will say the lorry has no permit to go to Nigerian, every body out, that is how, we started having refugees in Lome. It reached a stage that the Togolese government had to close their border and monitor who is coming in and all that.
Beyond that experience, the renown diplomat want Nigeria to consolidate their position in Africa, because it will be difficult to compete with America or with other Europeans powers.
He said: “It is only in Africa that we can make an impact, if we have not wasted our resources.There is no country that has the kind of resources that Nigeria has, when I was the Permanent Secretary in Nigeria Ministry of trade, we exported one million tonnes of groundnuts to the West, Nigeria was number two in cocoa production in the world, then in the East, we have palm produce, Nigeria provided seedlings to Malaysia because they did not have, they came to us and we provided for them. Now, Malaysia is doing research on palm produce to see if they can drive a car with it. Do we have any right now, we made soap with palm oil, now we are importing because they are not enough. Look at rubber in the Midwest, what have we done? Everybody had abandoned these resources for oil and then the price of oil has gone down to 50 percent. If we have concentrated in all these things in addition to the oil, Nigerians will be great in all these and the oil price will not have bordered us very much. But I still believe that Nigeria should concentrate more in Africa because that is where our influence can be felt”.
Born in March 1, 1925 in Akure, the present day Ondo state, young Adegoroye served as a houseboy with a headmaster at St Barnabas Schools, Ilorin, where he stayed for four years following the death of his father in 1929 before returning to Akure.
Thereafter, he attended St David School for his Primary education and finished in 1941, just a year after the death of his mother in 1940.
Thereafter, he attended the Christ School Ado Ekiti, As one of the first students that took the school to secondary, he spent four years instead of spending six years and finished in 1945 where he obtained his Cambridge School Certificate
Upon the completion of his secondary education, he has no option but to the Western Nigeria civil service.
In 1951, he went to England with less than £1, and was able to survive as the British government was then assisting members of the Common Wealth countries
For the first two years in England, Adegoroye was in Regent Polytechnic for his qualifying examination into University
Thereafter, he gained admission into the prestigious London School of Economics, where studied Economics between 1953-55.
Until about two years before he finished from the university, he was working from 11.30 – 7.30 am as a porter in Euston Station, London before the Western region gave him scholarship for the remaining two years.
He started his working life in 1956 at the Administrative Affairs of Western Civil Service serving as Assistant District Officer (ADO) in Auchi.
He was later posted back to Sagamu but during that time, the Federal Government was preparing for Independence and was recruiting officers they want to train as diplomats.
Adegoroye applied and was taken but at that time, the Premier of the Western Region felt that the Federal Government was trying to snatch away their best brains and was not keen to allow them join the service.
However, they were later released and he was sent with others to London for training by the Commonwealth office, while some who came earlier were sent to New York to get trained at the United Nations.
After his training, Adegoroye was sent to Bad Aibling in Southern Germany to learn the German language and was later attached to the British Embassy at Copenhagen in Denmark for six months.
Afterwards, he was sent back to London at a time, they were called Commissioners because Nigeria has not yet gained political independence.
Upon Nigeria attaining her political independence in 1960, Adegoroye was sent to Ghana to establish Nigerian embassy, he was there until 1961, when he was asked to go to Bonn, the then capital of Western Germany to open Nigerian Embassy. When he finished, he was also sent to Moscow to open Nigerian Embassy in Moscow.
He was there until 1963, when he was returned to the headquarters inn Lagos, where he served as head of political department.
In 1967, he was again posted to Accra, Ghana as High Commissioner at the same time over seeing Togo.
In 1971, Adegoroye was posted back to Headquarters and seconded to the Home service, where he was appointed as the Permanent Secretary, Federal ministry of Trade, which supposed to be one year but General Yakubu Gowon, the then president wanted him to stay another year after which he was posted to Ethiopia as Ambassador accredited to the Emperor Haile Selassie.
He was there till 1975, when the emperor was removed and retired through a coup d’état
After his retirement, the astute diplomat gone into private business, where he founded two private companies, which included, a construction firm, Rosuar Nigeria limited in Lagos.
The construction firm constructed quite a number of buildings, including houses at Festac Town, Lagos, residence of the Commissioner of Police, Akure the Telephone Exchange at Ikire Ekiti and the Army Battalion Barrack in Okitipupa.
The nonagenarian, who attributed his longevity to exercise, good feeding and abstinence from politics said trouble in Nigeria is that we don’t have leaders who come to serve as many of our politicians came for what they could get. He urged the youths told use their education for the country not just for their pockets, they should be contended with what they invest for the future and used their education for the benefit of the country.
According to him, Nigeria can rise to her feet, if good leaders are elected.
The man, who still drives himself to Akure from Lagos, is happily married with five children, who are all doing well.
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