By Rasheed Akinkuolie
His Excellency Ambassador Ernest Adedugbewo Adefemiwa was born into royalty in his native Ondo Kingdom. He was precocious and brilliant as a young lad, an attribute which earned him scholarship and admission to GCI (Government College Ibadan) a rarity, at a time when only 1 pupil in a thousand was admitted to the elite and prestigious college.
He got admission to the premier University in Nigeria, UI, (University of Ibadan) where he studied Modern European Languages with specialization in French Language and Civilization. He was among the very few who pioneered and studied modern languages, other than Classics, Latin and Greek, which was the norm in the 1950s, and in the early years of University education in Nigeria.
He joined the Nigerian diplomatic service soon after graduation, which was generally reserved for the best, brightest and luckiest. He rose rapidly and became an Ambassador at a relatively young age of 42 years. He was Nigeria’s Ambassador to Benin Republic and High Commissioner to India. He also served at the High Commission in London, the Nigerian Embassy in Warsaw-Poland, Sweden, Ethiopia and Mozambique.
In the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he was the Director of Administration, which in hierarchy was next to the Permanent Secretary.
The high and low points in his career was in India as the High Commissioner. He built the mission’s ultramodern Chancery and Residence in New Delhi. He was acclaimed as one of the most effective High Commissioners in India by his peers and the host authorities.
The Ambassador was not immune to the internal politics in Nigeria. His detractors in an attempt to ingratiate themselves with the Abacha’s regime created a fictitious story, that he met the wife of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, when the latter was on trial and opposed to the government.
This fabrication was absolutely untrue. The former First Lady was in Southern India and never met the Ambassador in New Delhi or anywhere.
On the basis of this vile lies, he was recalled from his post. After full investigations, there was no evidence to substantiate the story. He was nevetheless, not allowed to return to his post before his retirement.
Ambassador Adefemiwa was well known to General Abacha, and both could be considered as friends. When Abacha was promoted to the rank of Colonel, he went to inform the ambassador wearing the red lapels of the new rank, and enthusiastically declared ‘I am now a red neck, all red’. The coveted red lapel worn by officers from the rank of Colonel in the military.
Ambassador Adefemiwa could have exploited his relationship with the General to return to his post or get a juicy appointment. He did not meet Abacha based on personal conviction and principle.
After his retirement, he was engaged to share his wealth of experience at the Defence College as a directing staff. He finally bowed out of service to lead a peaceful private life.
He was survived by his daughters and wife who devoted time and means to take care of him, until the end, when he joined the triumphant saints on 21st, August 2018 in London, aged 76 years.
He will be laid to rest on 12th October, by the side of his last daughter, Folake at the Grove Park Cemetery, Marvels, London SE 12. 9PU
May the beautiful soul of His Excellency Ambassador Adedugbewo Adefemiwa Rest in Peace . Amen.
Ambassador Akinkuolie Rasheed was Director of Trade and Investment, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abuja.