Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Four Small World Occurrences

Small World Occurrence Number 1

Since Oct. 1, Nigeria’s Independence Day, fell on a Saturday, the country declared Monday a holiday. People like a day off work.

Of course that’s only relevant for the Nigerians who are fortunate to be employed. It wouldn’t necessarily pertain to all the traders, small business people, or self-employed professionals.

My guess is that the government employees who make the decision are the real beneficiaries!

But President Buhari was busy on Monday! He was at the launch of his biography, “Muhammadu Buhari: The Challenge of Leadership in Nigeria.”

The author John Paden, was present. He is Clarence Robinson Professor of International Studies at George Mason University. 

He and Buhari have known each other for years according to Paden was on the faculty of Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, and also Bayero in Kano.

President Buhari and Professor John Paden the occasion for my first small world occurrence

President Buhari and Professor John Paden

During Buhari’s first visit to the U.S. after his election, he stayed at Blair House where there was a dinner with Madeleine Albright.

The picture shows Buhari at Blair House with Professor Paden. It’s from the article in AllAfrica.

I wonder if that’s where the idea for the biography was hatched.

Shaking Albright

I have to share with you the caption on another photo from the same article. It shows President Buhari shaking hands with Madeleine Albright. It says, “President Buhari Shakes Madeleine Albright.”

I’ve become used to this version of the expression ‘shaking hands’ over the years, but it still makes me smile. It’s best of all in writing!

More on John Paden

In 2008 the Institute of Peace published his book, Faith and Politics in Nigeria: Nigeria as a Pivotal State in the Muslim World.  On their website they say, “John Paden provides a much needed focus on African experience.” They call him “America’s foremost expert on Islam in Nigeria.”

Occasion of my first small world occurrence

Faith and Politics . . . I couldn’t find a picture of the new biography!

In that book, he “provides an analysis of how Nigeria, with the world’s fifth largest Muslim population and at the same time an equally large Christian population, has mastered the task of keeping the country together and most recently managing a transition to elected democratic rule. . .”

He sounds like a great cheerleader for Nigeria.

I found on the Institute of Peace website that he has been an international observer in three Nigerian presidential elections.

What Was My Small World Occurrence #1?

At the book launch four people with powerful credentials reviewed the book for the audience. Former US Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, was one of the four.

Sani Tukur, author of the All Africa article about the book launch, wrote, “[Campbell] said the US has always been paying attention to Nigeria, especially in the area of oil and gas as well as peacemaking efforts across Africa. He said Mr. Buhari has always been involved in both projects.”

“He also commended Mr. Buhari for his ‘deep concern for female education’ and his consistent patriotism both as a military officer and later Head of State.”

We heard Ambassador Campbell speak in Washington DC on September 22. We were at the Friends of Nigeria day, preceding the overall former Peace Corps conference. I didn’t write about him then – there was too much else to tell!

Campbell also had praised Buhari in his DC talk, saying, “He has a deep abiding respect to provide care for the poor.” Perhaps he was warming up for his appearance in Abuja!

Second Small World Occurrence

In the same piece about the book launch I found that a second person I know was one of the four reviewers!

“A former Nigerian permanent representative to the United Nations, Ibrahim Gambari who also served as Nigeria’s foreign Minister under Mr. Buhari, took time to brief the audience about the humorous nature of the president.”

When Gambari was at the UN, I spoke with him by phone more than once. I was then President of the Unitarian-Universalist UN Office, UU-UNO. But I can’t remember why I called him!

Third Small World Occurrence

On our last day in Washington we walked by the new National Museum of African American History & Culture.

My "granddaughter" Chiedza from LinkedIn

My “granddaughter” Chiedza from LinkedIn

Back in Westport after our Washington trip I received a postcard from Chiedza Mufunde.

Chiedza was my Mount Holyoke “granddaughter.” She’s from Zimbabwe.

She was a member of the graduating class the year of our 50th reunion. We “adopted” our granddaughters then! We’ve  stayed in touch.

Her home is now in DC. She’s at the World Bank. Her postcard was a picture of the museum. She said, “I thought of you as I walked on the grounds of this deeply historical new museum.”

She was there the day before I was! I hope to see her next time I go. I do want to go, so I can see the inside of the museum!

And Fourth Small World Occurrence  

Our sons Chinaku and Sam attended the 50th birthday party for their friend Aigboje in London.

A couple of days later Aigboje and his wife were honored at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford. They signed the documents for their sponsorship of five scholarships for students from Ghana and Nigeria.

The awards are for people working in the public sector. The awardees must commit to return to their public sector for five years!

Imagine sharing the stage with Kofi Annan! You can skip ahead to see Aigboje, at about minute 4.

As I read more about the program and the scholarships, I found that my friend and classmate from the Yale School of Management, Ken Ofori-Atta, is on Aigboje’s panel of advisors!

The bios of these two outstanding gentlemen are so impressive! You can check them out here. They are really eager to see progress in their two countries.

I’m thrilled to know them both.

What is your recent ‘small world’ experience?

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.

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