Professor Ibrahim Gambari, a former chief of staff to ex-President Muhammadu Buhari and prominent diplomat, has stated that former President Olusegun Obasanjo came close to becoming the UN Secretary-General in 1991.
Gambari revealed that Obasanjo’s military background prevented him from being chosen by the nations with veto power while speaking at the public presentation of the biography of the first African UN Secretary-General, the late Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who took office in 1991 but only held the position for one term until 1996.
Former CoS of Buhari recalled the incident that resulted in the late Boutros-Ghali being chosen as the US Secretary General in 1991 and how one ambassador at the time 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.”
The 1994 Rwandan genocide, according to Gambari, was the low point of Boutros-Ghali’s career. He also discussed the high and low periods of Boutros-Ghali’s life.
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.”
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