Hamzat Ahmadu (1924 – 2016)
If anyone deserved the description of “a diplomats’ diplomat” among members of Nigeria’s foreign service corps, past and present, Hamzat Ahmadu was the one. He saw it all and did it all so well in the nation’s foreign service. He discharged his duties in so many locations around the world and with so much success. When the public servant, veteran diplomat and Walim Sokoto, died in Lagos on May 1, aged 92, Nigeria lost one of her very best. Little wonder the cream of the Nigerian elite, especially from the golden era of the nation’s public service, beat a path to Ahmadu’s residence to pay tribute to a public servant like no other.
A brilliant, dedicated and astute officer, Ambassador Ahmadu spent all of his working life in the service of Nigeria, rising over many years to become permanent secretary and head of the nation’s diplomatic service.
He attended Gwadabawa Elementary School (now Nagarta College), Balham and Tooting College of Commerce, and Queen’s College, Oxford in the UK. He returned to his job in the service of the colonial government in 1958 and was subsequently transferred to the Federal Civil Service. He served as private secretary to three heads of state namely, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Maj-Gen. J.T.U. Aguiyi Ironsi, and General Yakubu Gowon. Before that, he had also worked as private secretary to the late Premier of Northern Region, Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello. In 1975, he was appointed ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to the Soviet Union with concurrent accreditation to the then German Democratic Republic. Between 1982 and 1987, he was ambassador to several countries, including the Republic of Cameroon, the Kingdom of Netherlands, France, and Germany. He was also at a time, Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.
Ambassador Ahmadu held various posts in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including director- general of protocol and of African Affairs. In 1987, he was appointed ambassador to the United States of America where he raised Nigeria’s profile to enviable heights.
Unrepentantly Nigerian, Ahmadu made friends across the country and was at home everywhere. A man of many capabilities, he was the first Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka (1991-92). In the business world, he served as chairman of the A.G. Leventis Group, he was a member of the boards of NCR (Nigeria) Plc, and of SGS Limited, a destination inspection company, and he was a council member of the Royal Commonwealth Society of London. In business, his reputation for honesty and integrity was legendary.
A fighter for the environment, he was chairman of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation. And his commitment to corporate social responsibility and charity saw him serving as member and then chairman of the MTN Foundation for many years. Until his death, he was a consultant to the Editorial Board of The Guardian where his depth of knowledge and vast experience not only enriched discussions but also helped elevate the newspaper’s positions.
A highly polished and respectable personality, the late ambassador was acknowledged with honours for his meritorious service to his community and to Nigeria. He was leader of the Sokoto State delegation to the 2005 National Conference on Political Reform. And, given his exposure, experience, and depth of knowledge in the diplomatic service, he played, over the years, important roles in the formulation, management, and implementation of Nigeria’s foreign policies. Even in retirement, he was a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on International Relations.
Ambassador Ahmadu’s public-spirited activities have also been hailed by many charity organisations he was involved with, all of which noted his insistence on effective and timely intervention of such organisations in areas of health, education, and economic empowerment.
With his passing, the nation has indeed lost one of her steadiest hands, one of her most refined minds, and without doubt, an encyclopaedia of modern Nigeria
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