One of diplomacy's finest
An old friend that I hadn’t seen for many years is being laid to rest today, October 24th 2019. Ambassador Chiedu Osakwe was one of the finest colleagues that I had the pleasure to know and work with. We met as fellow foreign service officers in the early 1980s. News of his recent passing came as a shock to me, just as I know it will have done to so many still serving and retired foreign service peers of ours.
The last time that we saw one another was many years ago when he, his dear wife Ime and their family visited us in the Washington, DC area. We spent a wonderful day together. His characteristic warmth and his overall cheery nature are hard to forget. His involuntary signature greeting when running into friends and colleagues was a hearty “Good to see you!” And this was always accompanied by his infectious bright smile and a firm arm-pumping handshake. He was so genuine.
In the elite profession of diplomacy, one of the most natural questions that a career diplomat asks himself from the outset is: “can I ably represent my country and make those that I represent proud?” Chiedu will not have had to ponder the answer to that question at any time in his illustrious career, for it would have been an instantaneous and emphatic affirmative. He was a fine representative of his country – during his years of stewardship in the Nigerian Foreign Service; as a senior international civil servant at the World Trade Organization in Geneva; and as Nigeria's Chief Trade Negotiator and Director General of the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations. He played a pivotal role in Nigeria signing the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to increase trade between African countries.
Indeed, I have always brimmed with pride to see Nigerians representing the country well. And among those of us who chose international diplomacy as our career, Chiedu easily distinguished himself as one of the finest. His poise, his intellect, his oratory talent, his personable nature – it all made for the perfect package. He was the consummate diplomat.
He will be truly missed. He left this world far too soon, but not without etching a significant mark for himself as one who made invaluable contributions to the development of his country. He left us – his family, his friends and colleagues – with warm memories that we shall forever cherish.
Chiedu, after not seeing you for so many years, I had looked forward to the day when we’d once again meet in these senior years of ours, hug one another warmly, and I’d hear those familiar words, “Richard, it’s good to see you!” But alas, it wasn’t to be. Man proposes but God disposes. May He grant you peaceful and eternal rest, dear friend.