Thursday, June 14, 2012

Meet HE Lawrence Olufemi OBISAKIN, Nigeria’s latest Ambassador to Benin Republic

Meet HE Lawrence Olufemi OBISAKIN, Nigeria’s latest Ambassador to Benin Republic

Amb. Lawrence O. Obisakin.  PHOTO: MAURICE ARCHIBONG Copyrights reserved.

Finally, after more than 15 months without a substantive envoy, Nigerian Embassy Cotonou now has an ambassador in the person of Mr. Lawrence Olufemi Obisakin. Until his appointment as Ambassador to Benin Republic, Mr. Obisakin was Director, Foreign Service Inspectorate (FSI) at Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abuja.

Ambassador Obisakin was one of 93 new ambassadors, who got their Letters of Credence from President Goodluck Jonathan last Tuesday, 12 June, 2012 at Aso Villa in Abuja. Aged 55, Obisakin is Nigeria’s 10th ambassador to neighbouring Benin Republic since the former French colony, known as Dahomey until 1975; attained independence on 1 August, 1960.

Benin Republic is Nigeria’s immediate neighbour to the west and it is widely believed that about 2million Nigerians have migrated to this Francophone nation. Despite their contiguity, ancestral ties, the huge population of nationals living in Nigeria and vice versa and the colossal volume of trade, albeit largely informal; it is worth pointing out that these two West African countries could do much to deepen their diplomatic relations.

Nigeria’s mission opened in the Beninese economic capital in the early 1970s and Ambassador D. D. Obunge was the premiere envoy. Ambassador Obunge worked at Nigerian Embassy Cotonou from 1974 to 1976. Interestingly, after Benin became independent in 1960, it took all of 14 years before Nigeria sent its first full-fledged ambassador to that country in 1974.

Curiously, too; there have been times, when the Nigerian mission to Cotonou was left acephalous for too long. For example, Ambassador Obisakin is assuming duty in Cotonou some 16 months since the passage of his immediate predecessor in that office. Obisakin succeeds the late Ambassador Lawrence Olayiwola Akindele, who passed on in 2011 (3 February), while on active service. 

Did you notice that the in-coming envoy is namesake of the immediate-past Nigerian Ambassador to Cotonou? Apart from their common initials - L.O - both men shared many characteristics. Obisakin is, as Akindele was, enviably versatile. And, aside being career diplomats, they shared deep interest in sport, languages, diligence and passion for work;  among others.

Although he never won as many laurels in sport as Akindele, Obisakin also was once a keen table-tennis player. Like Akindele, Obisakin is also a polyglot. And, reminiscent of his late colleague, Obisakin is now one of very few Nigerians with residual knowledge of Latin and Greek.

Diplomat, linguist, author, translator, interpreter and minister of God; Obisakin is all of these and more. Obisakin is a vocational pastor and head of the Redeemed Christian Church of God’s Francophone congregation. With regard to work, Obisakin, like the late Akindele was; is infectiously passionate and meticulous. By some uncanny coincidence, the new Nigerian envoy to Cotonou also served at many of the same stations, where work took Akindele, now of blessed memory.

When it comes to tongues, Obisakin must be something of a deity: He has perfect comprehension of at least four languages. Aside fluency in his mother tongue, Yoruba; and, Nigeria’s lingua franca, English language; Obisakin actually holds a degree in French and Portuguese. Hear him: “At advanced interpreter’s level, English, French, Portuguese and Yoruba; and, at ‘B’ or working level, Spanish and German. Also, an average knowledge of Igbo, Latin Greek, Hebrew, Italian and Russian”. Howzat!

In the realm of diplomatic career, with his posting as Nigeria’s envoy to Benin Republic as substantive ambassador, Obisakin, who joined Nigeria’s Foreign Service, then known as Ministry of External Affairs, on 4 August 1981; has without any doubt attained professional apogee.

Obisakin was a member of the pioneer class of 1983 (January to October) at the then nascent Foreign Service Academy of Nigeria in Lagos. For two years, before proceeding to Nigeria’s Foreign Service Academy in 1983, Obisakin worked as Third Secretary, Protocol Directorate as Presidential Translator and Interpretor. In the process, he also served numerous other VIPs in the same capacity.

Upon completion of his training at the foreign service academy, Obisakin was sent to Embassy of Nigeria Bern in Switzerland on Attachment Training Programme from 1983 to 1984. He subsequently worked at that mission as Second Secretary Consular (Passport and Commercial Matters) till 1986, when following his promotion to Second Secretary, he returned to the headquarters of Nigeria’s foreign service as Staff in the Administration Department.

From August, 1987 to January 1991, Obisakin worked as Personal Assistant (PA) to four Foreign Ministers; Prof. A.B.Akinyemi, Senator Ike Nwachukwu, Alhaji Rilwanu Lukman and Prof Akinyemi again. Thenafter, he was deployed to Embassy of Nigeria Brasilia (Brazil) as Counselor/Head of Chancery, Economic/Political Desk Officer. In 1994, after his tour of duty in Brazil, Obisakin was appointed Senior Counselor, Protocol Directorate, Head of Conference and Visit Unit (CVU) and later head of the unit in charge of Relocation of Embassies from Lagos to Abuja.

After transfer from that office in October 1998, Obisakin was sent to Embassy of Nigeria in Tel-Aviv, Israel as Minister-Counselor/Head of Chancery/Desk Officer (Political/Economic Matters). He was later appointed Minister Plenipotentiary, covering Economic/Commercial Matters as well as Liaison Officer with Host Foreign Office.

From May 2003 to May 2007, Obisakin worked as Director, Protocol, (State House) and Personal Interpreter and Translator (French, Portuguese, Spanish and English) to the President and Commander-in-Chief. He later served as Minister, Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations, New York. First, he was member of the Committee, dealing with Disarmament and International Security. Obisakin later served as Chairman of the African Group of this Committee as well as Election Desk Officer of Nigeria from July 2007 to February 2011 before being appointed Director, Foreign Service Inspectorate.

Obisakin was practically, Sole Interpreter in French, Portuguese and English, during the West African Peace Negotiations on Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea Bissau in 2005 and 2006. He also worked from 2003 to 2007 as Director of Protocol and Interpreter to various presidential delegations at multilateral and bilateral levels, including the AU (African Union) and EU (European Union) as well as bilateral conferences in Africa, Asia, China, Europe and the Americas (North and South).

Evidently, Obisakin is endowed with multilateral and diverse experiences, having attended many a UN General Assembly (UNGA) since 1987 as Member of the Nigeria Delegation. He was also at UNGA 1990, and was a Member of the Delegation to the historic Rio 92 summit on environment and climate change in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Additionally, Obisakin saw action as Member, National Delegation to UNGA from 2003 to 2006, where he participated in Bilateral Meetings on the fringes as well as several AU Ordinary and Extra-Ordinary Sessions in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia since 1987.

As author, Obisakin has five books and an academic paper to his credit. The titles of his published works are Dislodging demons: A systemic approach to deliverance ministration (Jerusalem) Yanetz Ltd. 2002; Protocol for life: Guidelines on diplomatic official and social matters (Ibadan) Spectrum Books Limited, 2007; God the Holy Spirit: Mystery of Christianity (Ibadan) Spectrum books Limited, 2007; On the Wings of time, a novel; also published by Spectrum Books in 2007; Proverbs in communication: A conflict Resolution Perspective (New York) Triumph Publishing, 2010; and, an Academic paper: Interpretation in diplomacy: A testimonial Approach.

On his sojourn in the academia, Obisakin’s education is evocative of his polyglot’s disposition as regards the numerous languages he speaks and writes. Akin to the proverbial chicken, whose trail leaves no doubt that it would grow into the king cockerel, Obisakin probably struck a chord as to the path he was determined to tread, when he emerged with Aggregate 17, Division One; the best school result among all students of Saint John’s Catholic Grammar School in Oke-Atan, IIe-Ife, in the June 1974 West African School Certificate Examinations (WASCE).

It is worth noting that from 1972 to 1974 his secondary school education was funded through a Scholarship, the N.K Zard Cocoa Award. Obisakin would later enjoy another scholarship, this time from the French Government, following his emergence as one of the three best students, out of the then seven universities across Nigeria.

In 1979, he had attained a similar feat, even going a step further to graduate  Summa Cum Laude, bagging the equivalent of a First Class Higher Diploma in French and Social Studies (Diploma, Superieur d’etudes Francaises), thus blazing a historic trail as the first African to record such academic distinction at the elite University III of Grenoble, France in 1979.

In 1980, Obisakin was awarded a BA (Hons) by University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University). Obisakin Bachelor’s degree was in French (Major), but he also studied Portuguese for Minor. In 1994, Obisakin had landed a BBA First Class from a Brazilian university, UNEB, located in Brasilia; after a course in International Trade.

In 1997, Obisakin took a post-graduate diploma (PGD) in Theology from the Redeemed Christian Bible College in Abuja; and, only last year (2011), Obisakin earned an MA in Biblical Leadership and Ministry. That course was steep and featured Concentration in Conflict Management from University of Newburgh in Indiana, USA.

Interestingly, this topflight diplomat holds some professional certificates, too. Obisakin holds a UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) Certificate in Structure, Drafting and Adoption of UN Resolutions (2007); and, another UNITAR Certificate in Effective Negotiation in Multilateral Conferences (2008).

But, despite he’s perspicacity on numerous fronts, Obisakin is still flesh and blood. He’s another mortal and must have his shortcomings, too. But, with regard to his weaknesses, whatever they may be, we would rather leave these to unfold in the course of time.

However, when asked to clue us in on his strengths, Obisakin observed that, astounding versatility, like operating in ten languages; expertise and considerable experience in International Trade, Disarmament, Peace and Security Matters, Multilateral Communication, Public Diplomacy, Conflict Management and Mediation as Alternative to Dispute Resolution, Theology and Inter-cultural relations; must rank among his strong points.

Born on 27 February, 1957 in the Yoruba spiritual hub of Ile-Ife, Osun State in South-western Nigeria; Ambassador Obisakin is married to Pastor (Mrs.) Cecilia Gbemisola Obisakin. The couple’s union is blessed with four children.

So, what does Obisakin do, for recreation? Obisakin’s hobbies include athletics, jogging, reading, table-tennis, volleyball, theology and writing. Evidently, this man’s hobbies and work overlap at certain points.

Given Obisakin’s eloquence in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish as well as his comprehension of Greek and Latin to some extent; we couldn’t help but wonder, if a man with so much knowledge of European culture wouldn’t have served Nigeria better at some station in Europe?

On the other hand, Obisakin may well be the one, picked through divine intervention, to get Nigerian Embassy Cotonou back on track. This is a mission that was once loathed by Nigerians across Benin Republic, but after barely a year at that post, Ambassador Akindele was roundly lauded for having turned the hitherto mere consulting clinic to a general hospital. This analogy was played out during an encounter between Nigerians in Benin and President Goodluck Jonathan, during the latter’s visit to Cotonou on 31 December, 2010.

Sadly, after the demise of Akindele, the image of Nigerian Embassy Cotonou had become severely tarnished by perceived ineptitude and dereliction to duty on the part of some staffers. Hopefully, as author of a book entitled Dislodging Demons…, Obisakin must have acquired the wand to exorcise the demons that seem to have seized Nigerian Embassy Cotonou since the passage of Ambassador Akindele.

If, at the end of the day Obisakin succeeds, and we pray he does by God’s grace, the long wait would have proven worthwhile.  


  1. Really Nice post!! Essential for informative informations. We are a real-time news platform focused on serving the Nigerian audience and the world at large with verified and undiluted news reports. We cover breaking news and topics in areas of Business, Entertainment, People and Politics, Love and Romance, Technology and Life Style. Look at Nigeria news

  2. Hello daddy, Eku use oluwa sir,
    Please Daddy we are on our way to Mauritania sir,I want to come and book with transportation in Cotonou Benin sir on wed 13th November