His comment that Nigeria may not attain its potential with bad leaders following annulment of Abiola’s election triggered Wada’s reaction
His last word before leaving Nigerian soil: ”This is a country richer in human resources than almost anyplace I can think of and it is rich in natural resources too.
“And yet Nigeria is a country ranked by the United Nations as one of the poorest places in the world, and ranked by some as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. As a black American, this deeply saddens me. This is a place that should be one of the leading countries in the world.’’
POST-JUNE 12, 1993 POLL ANNULMENT AND CARRINGTON’S APPOINTMENT AS AMBASSADOR
When Walter Carrington, a lifelong African specialist, became the American Ambassador to Nigeria soon after the military junta annulled the most democratic elections that the country had ever held, he knew that his assignment would be a herculean and fog-bound one.
Right from the time of his arrival to his final weeks on the job before heading to a Harvard University fellowship the next month, Mr. Carrington had found himself butting heads with the leaders of Africa’s most populous country on a range of issues run from democracy and human rights to international drug trafficking.
But nothing could have prepared Mr. Carrington for the seeming final act in his ambassadorship, when state security officials undertook a campaign of intimidation against people who have organized farewell parties for him.
STATE-ORGANIZED ASSAULT ON HIM BY GUN-TROTTING SECURITY OFFICIALS
In what Mr. Carrington, a lawyer with over 38-year-long familiarity with Nigeria called ”the most surrealistic experience I have had here yet,” heavily armed policemen burst into a well-attended reception in Mr. Carrington’s honor in Lagos and threatened to shoot one speaker and ordered the foreign guests, including the American Ambassador, to leave at once.
After grabbing the microphone from an elderly man who had begun to make introductory remarks, witnesses said one policeman threatened to shoot another human rights activist who defiantly grabbed another microphone and sought to address the stunned crowd.
Earlier that evening, Mr. Carrington said a police unit cordoned off the area where the farewell was originally supposed to take place and physically denied the Ambassador and others entry, forcing the Nigerian human rights and pro-democracy groups that had organized the reception to shift the ceremony elsewhere.
”The leader of the police unit could be heard saying loudly on his hand-held radio, ‘Sir, we have located the place, the U.S. Ambassador is here, and we are going to break up the meeting,’ ” Mr. Carrington said. ”And when we were leaving we could hear the same man saying that they had succeeded, and that the Ambassador was leaving.”
In his reaction then, Washington had filed what diplomats call a ”strong protest” with Nigeria , calling the breakup of the reception ”scandalous.”
HIS OFFiCIAL PROTEST TO THE JUNTA, MINISTER’S ATTACK ON HIM
But the protest did not prompt an official apology from the late Gen. Sani Abacha’s government. Instead, his Minister of Special Duties, Alhaji Wada Nas (popularly nicknamed Wada Noise for his notoriety as a chatter box), launched a scathing attack on Mr. Carrington.
The late Mr. Nas was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying ”his stay in Nigeria must be described as four years of waste during which nothing was accomplished between the two countries in economic, cultural or political terms.”
Throughout Mr. Carrington’s tenure in Nigeria, senior officials have interpreted the deep chill that characterized the ties between Washington and Abuja as the reflection of Mr. Carrington’s efforts to poison relations.
Repeatedly, Nigerian officials in several interviews on local news media had vitriolic attacks on him, saying Mr. Carrington’s support of human rights and democracy in a country long ruled by the military did not reflect Washington’s official views of their country.
Instead, in a string of attacks that often have a poisonous personal quality, Nigerian officials depicted Mr. Carrington, who is a black, as part of a corrupt African-American elite that publicly criticizes Nigeria in the secret with the hope that Abuja will offer to buy their silence with “generous financial donations’’.
During a wave of bombings across Nigeria during the inglorious reign of Abacha, the maximum ruler, Mr. Carrington was summoned by the Foreign Minister on Christmas Eve for an official dressing down.
Senior government officials publicly complained about a safety warning by the American Embassy to American travelers to Nigeria, and hinted that Mr. Carrington, who had openly maintained close contacts with opposition groups, had knowledge of the attacks.
For Mr. Carrington, there is no mystery why relations between the United States and Nigeria have been so rocky during his tenure.
He said: ”I came here in November 1993, a few months after the annulment of the elections of June ’93, and I was here 12 days before the military under Abacha staged its palace coup and took over the Government,” Mr. Carrington said.
”Our Government put on sanctions in response to the annulment. Before that our Government had already banned flights between the United States and Nigeria because of security concerns.
”And a few months after I arrived, a third set of sanctions were slapped on because of a finding that Nigeria was not cooperating in narcotics matters.”
In none of these areas, Mr. Carrington said had there been enough progress in Washington’s view to lift sanctions ?
WORSENING RELATIONS BETWEEN NIGERIA AND US, HANGING OF PLAYWRIGHT AND RIGHTS ADVOCATE, KEN SARO-WIWA
Relations between the two countries worsened after the November 1995 execution of the playwright and minority rights advocate, Ken Saro-Wiwa and Mr. Carrington and two dozen other ambassadors were temporarily recalled by the home government in protest.
As he prepared to leave Nigeria for Harvard, his alma mater, Mr. Carrington responded to the personal attacks against him by voicing his own of regret over the state of Africa’s most populous and potentially most powerful nation: ”This is a country richer in human resources than almost anyplace I can think of and it is rich in natural resources too.
“And yet Nigeria is a country ranked by the United Nations as one of the poorest places in the world, and ranked by some as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
”As a black American, this deeply saddens me. This is a place that should be one of the leading countries in the world. But until they are able to resolve the problem of allowing the people to choose their leaders democratically, I am afraid they are not going to be able to realize this potential.”
- Favorite Color:
- Favorite Food:
- Jollof Rice
- Favorite Time of Year:
- Favorite Vacation Spot:
- Paris, France
- Favorite Quote:
- The Fault, Dear Brutus, Is Not In Our Stars, But In Ourselves.
- Birth Location:
- New York, New York