Olugbenga Ashiru, former minister of foreign affairs, has died in a South African hospital after a long battle with illness.
The career diplomat, credited with re-energising Nigeria’s presence in international diplomacy in the post-Olusegun Obasanjo era, died on Saturday. Family sources told TheCable that he had been battling with brain tumour for a while and had be hospitalised for over three months.
Ashiru played a key role in the diplomatic face-off between Nigeria and South Africa in 2012 over the deportation of 125 Nigerians for not possessing valid yellow fever vaccination certificates. Nigeria retaliated and the stand-off was eventually resolved. Ashiru, appointed minister by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011, was removed in 2013 in a cabinet reshuffle. He had been one of the most respected ministers but he was said to have been nominated into the cabinet by Obasanjo who had publicly fallen out with Jonathan.
Ashiru, while handing over, said he had succeeded in securing 22 key international appointments for Nigerians. Some of the positions included the commissioner for political affairs in African Union and commissioner for peace and security at the ECOWAS commission.
“I am leaving foreign ministry as a fulfilled man considering my achievements in just two years,” he said. He was born on August 27, 1948 in Ijebu Ode, Ogun state. The product of University of Lagos, was Third Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1972, and served as ambassador to the South Korea in 1991. He was Nigeria’s high commissioner to South Africa, with concurrent accreditation to Lesotho and Swaziland, in 2005.