Friday, August 17, 2012

Amb Lawrence Olufemi Obisakin: Nigeria’s 10th envoy to Benin Republic assumes duty

Amb Lawrence Olufemi Obisakin: Nigeria’s 10th envoy to Benin Republic assumes duty

Monday, 6 August, 2012 marked a significant milestone in the diplomatic tie between Nigeria and her immediate neighbour to the West, Benin Republic. It was on that date, Nigerian Embassy Cotonou had a new ambassador, after more than 16 months under the leadership of three different Charges d’Affaires.

It could be recalled that the immediate-past Nigerian Ambassador to Cotonou, Mr. Lawrence Olayiwola Akindele, passed on in the early hours of 3 February, 2011 and that this mission faced several challenges arising from the absence of a substantive envoy there. Cheeringly, however, Nigeria’s latest envoy, Ambassador Lawrence Olufemi Obisakin, formally assumed duty in Cotonou on 6 August, 2012.

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 on Tuesday, 12 June, 2012 at Aso Villa in Abuja. Interestingly, Amb Obisakin also doubles as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Although Obisakin had practically relocated to the economic capital of Benin Republic some four weeks earlier, the gentleman was at best Ambassador-Designate since he had not yet presented his papers; until Monday, 6 August, 2012. So, finally, after some 16 months without a substantive envoy; Nigerian Embassy Cotonou now has a full-fledged ambassador in the person of 55-year-old Mr. Obisakin.

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. Accompanied by his wife and clad like her in similarly resplendent Aso-Oke woven in Nigeria’s Green-White-Green national colours, Ambassador Obisakin presented his Letter of Credence to President of Benin Republic, Dr. Thomas Boni Yayi on Monday, August 6 in Cotonou.

Alhaji A. A. Lawwal and Mr. Ernest Monn, Minister II and Head of Chancery respectively at Nigerian Embassy Cotonou as well as Pastor Adebamibo Aderinto, President, Cotonou Chapter of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO); were among the privileged few that accompanied the envoy to the Beninese Presidency.

The event featured several trappings of a state visit, such as excellent renditions of the National Anthem of Benin and Nigeria by the military band of the host country as well as a guard of honour at the Presidential Villa for Ambassador Obisakin, who 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.

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. Obisakin succeeds the late Ambassador Lawrence Olayiwola Akindele, who passed on, while on active service.


Although His Excellency Dr. Yayi Boni was meeting Obisakin for the first time in the latter’s new capacity as Nigeria’s Ambassador to Cotonou, there are grounds to believe the duo had met in the course of work in previous times; when Obisakin served as Presidential Interpreter to various heads of states and Nigerian ministers.

Today, Obisakin has risen in stature; and, so has President Yayi Boni for the enviable transformations he has brought and continues to bring to Benin Republic since assuming the office of Chef de l’Etat.

If the warmth and body language that characterised the meeting between President Boni Yayi and Ambassador Obisakin could be taken for mutual preparedness to consolidate on the existing brotherly ties between Nigeria and her immediate neighbour to the west; then more positive strides could be expected in the coming months and years.

It is not for nothing, Beninese Coat of Arms carry the words Fraternite, Justice, Travail. These words, which could be taken for Brotherhood, Justice and Industry characterise the affection between Nigerians and our kiths and kin to the west. Unofficial figures put the population of Nigerians living in Benin Republic at over 1million and colossal volume of trading (albeit largely informal) daily take place between nationals of both countries.

Moreover, aside being contiguous neighbours, geographically, as well as fellow members of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States); Beninese and Nigerians are inextricably bound by ancestral ties. Evidently, therefore, whether in consideration of Africa or Citizen Diplomacy or Economic Diplomacy as Centrepiece of Nigeria’s Foreign Policy; Benin is very important to Nigeria and vice versa.

Nonetheless, the population of Nigerians living in Benin Republic or passing through to other West African countries is believed to be in the millions. Given the diverse occupations, backgrounds and motive of some of these migrants and wayfarers; it would be naïve not to expect occasional eruption of certain issues.

Indeed, the frequency of such unwholsesome developments could overwhelm the Consular Desk of any nation’s diplomatic mission; and, Nigerian Embassy Cotonou is not an exception in this regard.

Therefore, even when armed with academic and professional competences as well as patriotic zeal and passion for the job; if faced with inadequate funding, a mission’s effort could fall far short of expectations. It is common knowledge among watchers of Nigeria’s Foreign Service that the country’s missions often cannot succour distraught compatriots abroad due to impecuniosities.

The issue of funding is therefore crucial to the proper execution of the task of any Nigerian Embassy, including the one in Cotonou. This cash-strapped situation of Nigeria’s embassies came to light during a visit by members of the House of Representatives’ Committee on the Diaspora to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Abuja. Speaking inside the Conference Room of the MFA during the legislators’ call, the Director of Consular Services, Amb MaiKano had lamented: “As of now, there is no dime voted for Consular Services”.

While explaining that cash crunch is the primary reason many distressed Nigerians cannot find succour from their embassy, this director of consular services had practically emphasised that, there is no vote dedicated to assisting any distraught Nigerian in some foreign land. According to this diplomat, there is a need to change the perception among Nigerians that their embassy is loaded because, “There is no money kept at any embassy for distressed Nigerians”.


NB: For CV of Amb Lawrence Olufemi Obisakin, visit:

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