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Clark at 91: Retelling Nigeria’s diplomacy story – Part 2

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Ambassador Blessing Akporede Clark

Continued from yesterday
Despite his standoffishness, in a day of communication technology and social media, hundreds of accolades, and felicitations on this 91st birthday have come from world leaders, peers, and younger colleagues. For obvious reason, quite regrettably only few of these, representing a broad spectrum need mention.

“Wonderful role model with razor sharp intellect; hates pompous ignorance which sometimes is accompanied by pride and a misplaced confused claim to ‘hereditary right ‘. Without rudeness Ambassador Clark puts such people in their rightful place”. Former Nigerian Ambassador to Brazil and former Editor, Daily Times Dr. Patrick Dele Cole.

“He remains of amongst Nigeria’s greatest diplomats”: Former Permanent Secretary, MFA Amb Joe. Keshi.
“I consider the 1970s and 1980s as the golden age of the Nigerian diplomatic service. Along with our other thorough-bred diplomatists of the time like Ambassador Ignatius Olisemeka and the late Ambassador Olu Adeniji, Ambassador B. A. Clark was a key player whose views and insights carried considerable weight in the formulation and implementation of our foreign policy” Former Nigerian Ambassador to Ireland and now Chairman, Enugu State Council of Traditional Ruler, HRM, Igwe Amb Lawrence Agubuzu, OON, Ogbunechendo of Ezema Olo

“we remember your time in the Ministry of External Affairs when young officers were trained to be confident and to examine issues of international relations dispassionately, showing their knowledge of the subject matter and giving well thought out and sound recommendations in the best interest of Nigeria. Our bosses were our big brothers, correcting the younger ones when necessary and encouraging them to give of their best. Erudition was encouraged and candid speaking was greatly supported with no fear of any adverse repercussions on the officer.

Hard work was equally well rewarded….” Seasoned Diplomat and current Executive Secretary, Gulf of Guinea Cooperation Council, Amb Florentina Adenike Ukonga.

“He is certainly one of the legends who bestrode the Foreign Service like a colossus. He meritoriously served as Ambassador in Europe, Africa and Ambassador/Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations in New York, where he became a reference point and encyclopedia of sorts among his colleagues” Former Nigerian Ambassador to Thailand, Amb. Chudi Okafor.

“Clark has dedicated his active life to the continuous building of the Foreign Service. Though from a noble family with deep and wide knowledge, talent and intelligence about Nigeria and the world at large, he has always demonstrated considerable humility, but spoke with candour and confidence. Great mentor and teacher, compassionate with subordinates, whom he treats as colleagues” Former State Chief of Protocol and Former Ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire, Amb Wole Coker.

“Classical Career Diplomat, luminous role model. I recall, according to Amb Leslie Harriman that Ambassadors Iyalla, Ogbu and Clark and fellow humanist and classicists were fond of taunting him in jokes about the error of appointing him (Harriman) a Zoologist as a diplomat. But he always fired back that: it is because of people like you that we zoologist are needed in the Foreign Service to tame you. We enjoyed their jokes. As I am going to be 87 years on August 4, this year by the Grace of God, I look up to him as both mentor and superior” Okrika Council of Chiefs, Rivers State and Former Envoy to Germany, HRH Chief (Amb) SMK Taribo.

Interesting enough, Clark appears to have been one of the most reported by foreign missions and their various special services of Nigerian diplomats. Due to his great patriotism and sharp intellect, declassified intelligence reports show loads about what the world was saying about. A 1973 report from a world power stated thus:

“Akporode Clark, ambassador to ern, Ankara, Vienna And Un Geneva, is close personal associate of permsec Joe Iyalla (see reftel). His previous assignment was deputy permsec of external affairs ministry in Lagos. Clark, known as “b.a.” to friends, is pugnacious in appearance, intelligent, hard worker, and one of most outspoken Nigerian diplomats — frequently to point of bluntness. He is unafraid to make views known and they are often sharply divergent from those of (that country’s) interlocutors.”

Exit from government service in 1983, did not spell doom or inactivity for Amb Clark. He was swarmed by international appointments but ended back in the United Nations system as Special Envoy to the Secretary General in brokering peace in some of Africa’s most intractable civil and cross-border wars. He was at different times between, 1984 to 1990 responsible for Chad and the Great Lakes. In 1999, when democracy was restored to Nigeria after the chain of military regimes, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was elected President, Clark was called back to service as member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Foreign Relations.

Amb. Clark belongs to a fading generation of global citizens who hold the truth that the greatest worth of life is the privilege of making one’s self available for the good of the nation and humanity. In his own case, it is ingrained for over 150 years in family circles. It was once said by former Florida State Governor, Jeb Bush whose father and brother were Presidents of the United States of the America and grandfather and great grandfather was Senators that, “it is so blessed to be part of a family that has dedicated its life to public service.” This has equally been the story of B.A Clark whose family record of service stands out in Nigeria.

Beside his elder and younger brothers whose public exposure is of common knowledge, the other siblings numbering about 43 in total boast of at least three military Generals, three professors of international standard, an ambassador and countless other great notable Nigerians. Their immediate father, Chief Clark Fuludu was literate and a community leader while their grandfather Chief Royal Highness, Fuludu was a prominent traditional ruler and a delegate to the 1951 Ibadan Conference and the meetings that followed thereafter towards Nigerian independence. Their great grandfather Ambakeremo was one of the most prominent political and economic figures in the western Delta at the close of the 19th century. An intelligence report written in 1923 by Sir Chadwick, a colonial official amongst other things, described him as having: “A large compound, thought to be the size of the Oba of Benin kingdom, ……..a court, the compound contains divisions inhabited by wives, children personal house and a guest house for partners. He was a court member and middle man for the Niger Company based in Gold Coast West Africa.”

Whether of privilege family standing as in the case of Amb. Clark, a great old boy Government College, Ughelli or of humble birth, Nigerians of his type who live putting the nation above all typify the dictum that “public officers are servants and the agents of the people”.  With the gift of longevity, God has preserved Amb Clark and few of his type to stay alive even in this greary years  to continue to impact on our troubled country, not just on diplomacy but in the continuing effort to rebuild the nation. After all, they were part of the starting days and have so much to still impact, if only our leaders of today, across the country and their coterie of counselors will listen.

Happy birthday good old Ambassador.
Concluded.

Dr. Igali is a retired career diplomat and Federal Permanent Secretary.


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