‘Highly reputed diplomat’; ‘dillustrious statesman and patriot’; ‘eitherOne of the brightest minds in the Southeast’…
Positive vibes and praise have been in the air since George Obiozor took his last breath on Wednesday and said goodbye to life. Until his death, Obiozor was the general president of Ohanaeze Ndigbo worldwide. In his eight decades on earth, his experiences were rich and varied.
“HE LOVED TO TALK ABOUT NIGERIA”
Obiozor was born in August 1942 in Imo State. He attended the Awo-Omamma Comprehensive Secondary School in Oru, after which he moved to Switzerland to study at the Institute for African Studies in Geneva and at the Albert Schweitzer College in Vaud. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Puget Sound in 1969.
“As a student at Puget Sound, George participated in many clubs and activities and spent a lot of time talking to groups on campus about Nigeria and his experiences. He was also active in the Tacoma community, speaking at local school and church groups and working as a soccer coach and instructor through Tacoma Metro Parks in the summer,” information about him at Puget Sound Alumni Page read
Obiozor also attended Columbia University, where he earned his Ph.D. He remained in New York City after completing his Ph.D., teaching at City University before returning to Nigeria in 1979.
“For me, because of my own ambition to work both in government and academia, I had to go back to Nigeria,” he said.
In 1998, he was appointed visiting professor of international affairs at the African Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.
DIPLOMATIC PAR EXCELLENCE
Obiozor served as director general of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs and later as a high commissioner in Cyprus. In 1999, he became Nigeria’s ambassador to Israel, a position he held for four years, and was then appointed Nigeria’s ambassador to the United States in 2004.
“The main lesson of my education, both in Switzerland and in Puget Sound, was to seriously learn the ways and the manner in which human beings behave,” he was quoted as saying. in this piece by Margot Kahn.
As ambassador, Obiozor said the most important part of his job was to be “present, ready and able to serve the interests” of his host countries, as well as “negotiate and explain issues of mutual interest.”
POSITION ON BIAFRA
Obiozor was elected President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in January 2021 and has been the voice of the organization on a number of issues ever since.
speaking in a interview with Arise TV in April 2021, Obiozor said that Nigeria needs to heal if the country is to overcome its crisis and ethno-religious upheavals, adding that he does not support secession. He also said that what the country needs to face its challenges is political will.
He said that the Biafra concept is not applicable only to the Igbo, and that it is a representation of the call of various Nigerians for justice, fairness and fairness.
“The Igbo are not at war with Nigeria. The youth of the IPOB are our children. We cannot deny them. If they are doing something in the interest of the Igbo, they definitely have our support. There is not even a dispute between them and many people in the Igbo land, except that there is a difference in method. The problem is not who formed which organization,” he said.
“It is time for the country to start healing to reduce the level of crisis. There is Biafra in every Nigerian who seeks justice, fairness and fairness. There is a Biafra in your neighborhood. It is not only in the southeast where the secessionist movement is.
“The justice that is seemingly done across the country will change the minds of many people. I definitely don’t believe in secession at all. All regions of Nigeria have been secessionist, but they are not labeled as such. I have written several times that most Igbo actually prefer a Nigeria.
“Nigeria’s problems have been diagnosed time and time again and the solutions are known, but there is no political will to solve them. In 2014, there was a national conference and the report would have been a milestone in solving Nigeria’s problems.
“Nigeria’s problem can be solved through structure or through leadership.”
On the Igbo presidency for 2023, Obiozor had said that the country is ripe and ready to be ruled by a person of southeastern extraction.
“Ultimately it’s our turn and we’re going to work very hard for it and talk to people in other parts of Nigeria to give us a chance because it’s right, it’s reasonable, it’s deserved and it’s timely.” he said.
When asked if he had any candidates in mind, he said it was too early to make a decision.
“In politics, tomorrow is eternity,” he added.
NIGERIA AS AN ‘IROKO’
In January, while also speaking of the secessionist agitations, Obiozor described Nigeria as an Iroko treesaying that the country is strong enough to resist and survive all the upheavals for separation.
“No amount of all this lateral militancy, the revolutionaries is a threat to the unity of Nigeria because none of them are capable of defeating Nigeria, whatever you call it,” he said.
“Other crises we face today will pass; they will be contained. Nigeria is like an Iroko; the tree stands firm and strong. What is shaking are the trees and the branches.”
AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY ABOUT THE STILL BIRTH?
Kahn had said in the 2019 article that Obiozor was “writing an autobiography”. However, it is not clear what happened to the publication before his death.
Meanwhile, as much as a diplomat, Obiozor was an academic. Some publications to his credit include: ‘Uncomfortable Friendships: Nigeria-US Relations, Fourth Dimension Publications’; ‘The Politics of Precarious Balance: An Analysis of the Conflicting Issues in Nigerian Domestic and Foreign Policy, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs’; and ‘Nigeria and the World: Managing the Politics of Diplomatic Ambivalence in a Changing World’.
Tributes have arrived to Obiozor, and you can read them here.