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Amb. Joe Tonye Fubara Iyalla: Nigeria’s Numero Uno diplomat

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His Excellency, Ambassador Joe Tonye Fubara Iyalla OFR, was Nigeria’s Numero Uno Diplomat, champion of Nigeria’s diplomacy and sovereignty, who for many years made it known to the world, at the United Nations that Nigeria, indeed African nations can be self-reliant, if only they are spared imported corruption and the plundering of their God-given natural resources. This was in the 70’s considered to be the golden era of Njgeria’s Diplomacy and foreign Relations, when Nigeria asserted her Sovereignty even to the so called super power nations of America, Britain, France, Russia, Germany. She was a leading light in the commity of emerging independent nations of her continent Africa of which she was a key player in the OAU now AU. It was no secret that he also spearheaded Nigeria’s robust foreign policy. He was found to be a formidable representative, a cultured and fine gentleman fluent in Greek, Latin and other languages not least Kalabari his mother tongue, which along with the Kalabari culture was foremost.

According to his statements, “if I don’t know my own history and culture and I cannot speak my own language, then I might as well give up and not bother knowing anything about other people and their cultures”. It is therefore not surprising that in the household of this gentleman of the world who was fluent in the classical languages as well as other modern languages, Kalabari was the lingua franca learnt and spoken by everyone residing there, no matter where you came from. He believed language is the root foundation of every culture and identity.

His character and personality traits were shaped by his antecedents, that is the Kalabari people of the Niger-Delta, from time immemorial fiercely independent, fearless expansionists and brilliant in strategic diplomacy. They were famous in statesmanship in which they excelled and equally astute in commerce which they conducted strategically as ‘middlemen’ between inland traders and foreigners from overseas.

The Kalabari people were proud of their nationality and as a people and individuals would never wish to do anything to tarnish their image as a people nor their family name. Ambassador Joe Tonye Fubara Iyalla was a prince from the Kalabari City- State of Bakana, the first City State in Kalabari land and it was in this metropolis that this prince was born. Bakana citizens in the Kalabari nation were known to be courageous and fearless initiators and are to be feared, held in awe and for good reason. They led where others feared to go.

The founder of Bakana in 1801 were a group of powerful princes, paramount chieftains led by paramount chiefs Iyalla and Will-Braide They were the formidable warrior princes of Kalabari who joined forces with paramout chief Igbanibo of Tombia who spearheaded the internal conflict, break-up and dispersal of the kingdom (Elem kalabari) and founding of Kalabari city states.

Bakana was the first city-state founded in 1801 by the two princes Iyalla and Will-Braide with others who originated from Tombia (where Iyalla’s compound still exists till today) in the old Kalabari kingdom. Iyalla according to Bakana history founded Bakana but handed the ruling of the city to his cousin paramount chief Will Braide who was the elder of the two. Iyalla is the Kalabari name of the family, (which the Europeans pronounced as ‘Yellowe) on account of the light skin-tone of which in Kalabari is the nickname “pina pina Inai”. Paramount Chief Iyalla and his people were the first to move from Elem Kalabari to found The City-State of Bakana.

Ambassador Joe Tonye Fubara Iyalla, from his antecedents understood nation building, strategic diplomacy and negotiations and commerce.
A man who wouldn’t condone violence of any sort, a man who believed in genuine dialogue and fair play and truth, as what will win the hearts of Nigerians and the tools to re-build and unite Nigerians once they found a way to cast out the corrupt politicians (and perhaps throwing them to the sharks to feed upon).He was a cultivated and fine gentleman who loved and was proud of his Kalabari culture, a patron of the Arts; he also loved Western classical music.

Just as his career in the Foreign Service of the nation was superlative, so was his foray into the private sector, which he excelled equally. He was a quiet achiever of greatness. After retirement from the Civil Service he was a player in the finance and banking sector, in many other fields either as a participant in various industrial, commercial, international joint ventures, enterprises and companies that cut across various sectors, in automobile, electronics, chemicals, food technology and also agro-allied services with partners from Europe and the Far East, as well as companies quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

For his unalloyed patriotism, brilliant, distinguished professionalism, astuteness and integrity, he was recognized and received many awards including two honorary doctorates honoris causa from his Alma Mata the University of Ibadan (of which he was a foundation student) and the Federal University of Port Harcourt. And national honors of Officer of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (OFR). A true leader and a peacemaker indeed.

He loved people, was kind and inspiring, a mentor to many. He loved his family dearly and was very protective as a husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle and friend.He made indelible footprints in the sand of time that will be difficult to match; and in the hearts of his loved ones a vacuum to be filled with memories of a glorious life well spent. He will forever be celebrated as the prince who became the Nation’s Numero Uno Peacemaker!

All will sorely miss him. He is survived by his wife and supportive partner of many decades Princess Chief Mabel Joe-Iyalla nee Sotinwa of the royal family of Ode-Remo, the children: Mrs. Ere Ademola, Mrs. Ogita Finnih, Dr. Apiribo Joe-Iyalla, Mrs Alamina Oloye. His son Mr. Senibo Joe- Iyalla predeceased him. Also by grandchildren, great-grandchildren, brothers, sisters, nephew, and nieces; distinguished colleagues and business associates.
“Uncle Joe,”
“Dein na mu”
Adieu, Requiescet in pace.


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Joe Tonye Fubara Iyalla
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