Diplomat and former Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, has recounted the events of 1991 when ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo lost the race for the position of Secretary-General of the United Nations, All Nigeria Latest News reports.
Gambari disclosed that Obasanjo’s military background served as a disqualifying factor, preventing him from being selected by countries wielding veto power during the race for the position of Secretary-General of the United Nations in 1991.
All Nigeria Latest News reported that the former Chief of Staff stated this on Wednesday at the public presentation of the biography of the first African UN Secretary-General, the late Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who assumed office in 1991 but served only one term till 1996.
The first historical biography of the Egyptian diplomat, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, written in English, is authored by Prof. Adekeye Adebajo. The book is titled “Boutros Boutros-Ghali: Afro-Arab Prophet, Pharaoh, and Pope.”
The book launch took place at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs on Victoria Island, with Ambassador Martin Uhomoibhi serving as the reviewer. In attendance was the Director General of NIIA, Prof. Eghosa Osaghae.
Reminiscing on the event leading to the choice of the late Boutros-Ghali as the US Secretary General in 1991, Gambari said he recalled how some envoy told him: “Your candidate (Olusegun Obasanjo) has no chance in hell of becoming secretary.”
He said, “I asked: ‘What do you mean? He is the most qualified former head of state, handed over power voluntarily to civilians, and was head of the group that led to the process of the end of apartheid.’
“He said ‘No. Listen carefully, when we, the big ones, are looking for a Sec Gen, the emphasis is on the secretary and not on the general.’ A very profound statement.
“The thing was that the veto ruling power wanted somebody they could dictate to, not a general, who would be giving them orders. Sometimes they think they are getting a secretary but they end up getting a general.
“Ghali, who they thought would be a secretary turned out to be a general and Koffi Annan, who they thought was a secretary turned out to be a general.
“When you turn out to be different from what the big powers want, they do something about it. Boutros-Ghali was not given a second term, and Koffi Annan was nearly forced to retire over frivolous charges.”
Gambari described his relationship with the late Boutros-Ghali as ‘up close and personal,” adding that apart from being the first UN Secretary-General from the African continent, he was also the first Post-Cold War Secretary General but encountered difficulty organising a security council meeting that had all the heads of states as delegates.
“He hardly had a meeting of the security council where the chief delegates were the heads of states of those member states.”
Gambari also touched on the high and low points of Boutros-Ghali’s career, saying the 1994 Rwanda genocide was the low point of his career.
He said, “It was under his watch that the UN failed to respond adequately and to prevent genocide and when it was happening, the big powers also did nothing.”