"> A DIPLOMAT writes on A DIPLOMAT - Titi Omo-Ettu


May 13, 2020


I am writing this cover note not because of the subject matter, Dr Ibrahim Gambari, that Ambassador Fafowora has written on, but because I have always wanted to write on Ambassador Fafowora, the author, himself.

I had a chance meeting with him and for the things I have read and known about him, I see this as a chance to say my own.

Here is the story. When late Engr Victor Adetunji Haffner, Nigeria’s No 0001 engineer on COREN list of professional Engineers in Nigeria, was 93 years old in year 2012, ATCON (Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria), whose President I was at the time, hosted him to a breakfast with Chief Executive Officers of Nigerian telecommunication companies who were members of my Association. He qualified for such celebrating because he was the first Chief Executive Officer of a Nigerian telecommunications company. It was at that breakfast event I extracted a pledge from Baba Haffner to write some aspects of his experiences in government service which peaked at being General Manager of NET (Nigerian External Telecommunications Ltd.) a post he held from 1962 till the Murtala Muhammed junta suddenly retired him in 1975.

Baba duly wrote the book which he called “Memoirs on my Engineering Career and Reflections on Nigeria (1960 – 1999)”. I was holidaying outside Nigeria in 2014 when Baba told his publisher to find me to write the FOREWORD to the script. I did and returned home to pay a THANK YOU visit to Baba for giving me all the honour.

In 2015 when Baba chose to launch the book, he told the launch organisers to invite me to review the book at the launch ceremony. He was told I was out of the country and Baba said to them “Find him on telephone and tell him I say he should return home to review the book”. “Meanwhile, make Ambassador Fafowora an alternative reviewer just in case, and put the Ambassador on notice”.

I returned four long days ahead of the launch and the launch organisers told baba that I was in town and available to do the review. Baba told them “Then, I already have two Reviewers, therefore. I want both of them to be the reviewers at the launch”.

I felt tall to hear that I was going to have my name written along Ambassador Fafowora’s and in an event to honour a distinguished engineer and Nigerian of Engr Victor Adetunji Haffner’s stature.

Let me digress.

The first time I stumbled on Baba’s name was in 1973 when, while serving the NYSC mandatory scheme, I read a publication of the United Nations on ‘WHO IS WHO IN THE UNITED NATIONS’. Two Nigerians were listed. Mr. Simeon Adebo and Mr. Victor Haffner. I thought the mentioning of Victor Haffner as a Nigerian must have been an error since the name was nowhere Nigerian to me. So, I considered that only one Nigerian was listed in the publication. It was in 1975 when Engr Victor Adetunji Haffner was retired that I realised the publication of 1973 must have been correct.

Now back to my story on Ambassador Fafowora. On the Programme of Events for the book launch, both the Ambassador and I were given 15 minutes each to complete our review. I was the first to take the podium and I completed my speech in fourteen and half minutes and I spent the remainder half a minute to say what amounted to wishing Baba, who was then 95, ‘many many happy returns‘ of his birthday.

As I made to sit down, I gave a courtesy bow in front of Ambassador Fafowora to invite him to the podium. The Ambassador said
“Titi, apart from what Baba has told me about you, I also know you are an engineer, so your time scheduling (you people call it ‘planning’) is all over there to know. I hope these people know that I am a career diplomat and time to talk cannot be limited to me on an occasion like this. You cannot invite an Ambassador to talk and then decree him out of talking”.

The Ambassador had not finished his review when I checked my time at 32 minutes but his account was so full of minute details of ‘expansion of a few things’ in the book that it appeared to listeners that he spent less time than me.

A very brilliant mind, I had looked forward to a day like this to tell my own story about his wits, his brilliant mind and his attention to details.

God bless you sir, Ambassador Fafowora.

Now let’s hear him on a subject whose theme, sentiment, and conclusion I share.


I know Ibrahim Gambari quite well. I was the one who in 1981 brought him to the UN at his request as a member of the Nigerian delegation. He was then a senior lecturer at the ABU. In fact, the late Prof Audu, who was then Foreign Minister actually advised me against inviting him to the UN. But he had strong academic credentials which impressed me. He had obtained his first degree in political science from the LSE, and a doctorate from Colombia University in New York. We were looking for strong delegates to the UN General Assembly and I considered him the kind of delegates we were looking for. So, I invited him as one of our delegates to the UN General Assembly. He was at the UN in New York with me. I gave him and his wife my city apartment which I was not using free for 3 months plus a car. I liked him and I was not seeking any favours from him. After 3 months he returned home and sent me a note thanking me for giving him the first opportunity to visit the UN as a delegate and giving him his first experience at multilateral diplomacy. However, he sent President Shagari a secret and private note that while he was at the UN, he observed that I had not been attending the meeting of Islamic states at the UN. President Shagari sent the note to Prof Audu who forwarded it to me in New York. He didn’t even ask me for any comments on Gambari’s secret memo as Prof Audu fully understood that Nigeria had traditionally not been attending meetings if the Islamic states as we were not then a member of the Group. Gambari asked for a private meeting with President Shagari which Prof Audu advised against. I was shocked that someone I had helped so much turned round to betray me so blatantly. I did not tell him I knew about the secret letter he had sent to the UN.

When Shagari was overthrown by Buhari Gambari became Foreign Minister. When career ambassadors were being suddenly retired I was at first not on the list. But Gambari, now FM and Rafindadi, the head of the NSO who had worked under me in London and was now head of the NSO worked together to secure my retirement. In fact, when I called him from New York to confirm from him news about my retirement he first denied it. Thereafter, he no longer took my calls. In fact, I remained at my post in New York for another 3 months during which the MFA tried to reverse the decision to retire me. I had done absolutely nothing wrong in my entire career in the diplomatic service and only got into trouble for helping a young academic who turned against me to fulfil his own personal ambition. Since then, he and I have only met twice in very difficult circumstances. First at a dinner by a mutual friend in New York several years after my retirement. He could barely look directly at me. He was clearly embarrassed.

Then when Buhari won the elections in 2015 I headed a team that was set up to prepare a paper for him on our Foreign Policy. Subsequently, Alhaji Joda asked him to join the team. Last year, he suddenly called me to ask if I would kindly represent him at a public lecture he had agreed to chair. I told him I could not and that he should look for someone younger. He immediately hung up on me. Now, ha may be the kind of person Buhari is looking for to succeed Abba Kyari as COS. They are very much alike but Gambari is more subtle and even more dangerous and will substitute the national interests for his own personal interests. I have no doubt about that. What I have written in this long piece is just some of my personal experience and encounter with him. Everything I have written here is in my memoirs ‘Lest I Forget ‘which he has seen and read. It is nothing new. But I think it important that the character of our top govt officials should be revealed and not covered up. We have, as a nation, paid dearly for supporting appointments to high office that are often detrimental to our nation. Enough is enough and this has to stop.

Post script*

Long after Prof Bolaji Akinyemi left office as Foreign Minister, I asked him at dinner at the Metropolitan Club whether he had called for my files, including secret files, when he was Foreign Minister, and whether there were any queries issued to me when I was in the Ministry. He said it was the first thing he did when he resumed duty in the Ministry and that he found nothing negative about me in the three files he looked at. I had asked him about this as I was still mystified by my retirement when I had done nothing wrong.

There were many other Yoruba and Southern officers retired who like me had done nothing wrong. Now, the result of these capricious and vengeful retirements that took place under the watch of Gambari is that the fine Foreign Service we had, of which we were all proud, was wantonly destroyed. Gambari played a leading role in this ugly episode. I don’t expect anything better from him as COS.

-Amb. Fafowora.


However, one other Mr Niyi Olakunle has written to take Prof Gambari’s bullet and train it back on Ambassador Fafowora. He seems to know why the Ambassador was retired and he says, categorically, that Prof Gambari had nothing to do with it. His piece on the subject (slightly edited for good flow ):

Amb. Fafowora’s poisonous opinion on Prof Gambari is to say the least unfortunate.

I am a retired career foreign Service officer, who served in FUND (First United Nations Dept) at the headquarters. I was later posted to New York where i served under Amb. Fafowora.

I am previleged to know that his premature retirement has nothing to do with Prof Gambari. It was the issue of his reckless epicurean life style. Fafowora, like Kingibe, were apostles of 90% alcohol, 10% protocol diplomacy school. He is brilliant no doubt but lack of personal discipline was (is) his albatross. His post retirement tenure as Chairman of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria MAN was a disaster.

What he said about Prof Ishaya Audu was also untrue, because in the Shagari Presidency religion was not an identity issue. It became so during Babangida’s Presidency. Amb Fafowora cannot eat his cake and have it. He is a Yoruba irredentist full of hate and spite for his more succesful peers.

Late Amb. Olu Adeniji in post retirement was invited into the United Nation System, where he served as Special Envoy to S/Leone. Prof Gambari rose meritoriously and distinguished himself as a hard worker who delivers.

Your tale is stale, sour and poisonous.
As President of Career Ambassadors Association you invited people last year to the lunching of its journal. Eminent and distinguished people attended, millions of naira were raised, what happened. End of the story

Niyi Olakunle

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6 thoughts on "A DIPLOMAT writes on A DIPLOMAT"

  • Probably one of the last chapters in the history of Nigeria that started with the January 1966 coup and its ongoing revenge coup. But it sometimes requires undisguised oppression to rouse a slumbering nation. Can our pre-dawn hour get any darker!

  • Whilst we are in power or given opportunity to serve, do we ever thought it could be an Act of Providence or simply Hard work… I read this report with a mixed feeling and not trying to a portion blame, I think Gambari should have done better. The Yoruba saying goes ” ko si ase gbe, ase pa mo lo ku. There are days of reckoning, when the books will be presented on how we fared particularly during our old age. May we all remember this as the day goes by. Life goes round for all of us. My submission.

  • When I read comments such as that of Ambassador Fafowora and your cover page, I am moved to hot tears for this country. The question that jumps to my small mind is ‘when shall we arrive at the stead of selfless people who mean well for this country and will deliver us from our self-imposed yokes?’

  • I have known you since 1978 and one thing that I can say about you is that you do not pretend and where/what you do not know you say so. The Harris Seminar/workshop of 2000 where you publicly what is SoHo readily comes to mind. I started reading about Ambassador Fafowora in late 1980s to early 1990s and everything I have heard about him is in positive light. Professor Gambari is a brilliant scholar- those who knoq he say, but he cannot be trusted, he doesn’t keep a promise, he is a schemer they say. We are already in serious mess that the Buhari presidency cannot clear, maybe Gambaris’coming is God way of saying NOW YOUR SUFFERING CONTINUES (NYSC).

  • President Buhari has done it again always seeking for comfort zone by appointing his estwhile Foreign Minister (1983-1985), Prof. Ibrahim Gambari as his new CoS. As they say by this appointment it is just continuation of the same.


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