Omotayo Ogunsulire, a career diplomat, passed on Monday, 20 November, at the age of 93.
The ambassador was one of the first 12 young diplomats hired into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1957. Mr Ogunsulire’s passing is the 11th leaving Phillip Asiodu as the only surviving of the first crop of professional diplomats, otherwise famously named, “The 12 Apostles,” three years to Nigeria’s Independence.
The 12 Apostles admitted to Nigeria’s Foreign Service in 1956 were Omotayo Ogunsulire, Olu Omololu, Soji Williams, John Garba, Aminu Sanusi, Adedokun Haastrup, Leslie Harriman, Phillip Asiodu, Dixon Igwe, John Ukeagbu, Chuks Ifeagwu, and Chike Chukwura.
Mr Ogunsulire specialized as a diplomat for the Francophone world, serving in Paris and several Francophone African countries, including the Republic of the Congo where he was Charge d’Affairs during the era of Patrice Lumumba until his assassination. He also served as the first Executive Secretary for the Lake Chad Basin Commission, which was founded in 1964, to ensure the sustainable and equitable management of Lake Chad and other shared water resources. He was the head of the Africa Department till his retirement in 1976.
He was born into the famous family of Ogunsulire of Ondo City on 12 November 1930. He entered the prestigious Ondo Boys’ High School, Nigeria’s first community secondary school, in 1943, after completing elementary education at St Stephen’s Primary School in Ondo. After obtaining with flying colours the Senior Cambridge School Certificate in 1948, he worked briefly in Lagos as a telex operator and at the Customs and Excise before proceeding to Fourah Bay College of Durham University in Freetown, Sierra Leone, where he was for two years the president of the College’s Foreign Relations Club.
As a young diplomat, Mr Ogunsulire accompanied Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa and General Yakubu Gowan on several trips to Francophone countries of West and Central Africa as a specialist in French and Francophone culture.
After his retirement from diplomatic service in 1976, Mr Ogunsulire started a second career in banking, as Deputy General Manager of the United Bank for Africa. He later rose to the position of Executive Director of the Bank. During his tenure at the bank and because of his language expertise, he served as President of the West African Bankers Association for two years before his second retirement in 1986.
While in the bank, Mr Ogunsulire got involved in the establishment of the Franco-Nigeria Chamber of Commerce & Industry and later became the pioneer chairman of the organization. After serving on the Board of Alliance Francaise de Lagos as Treasurer, he also served as vice president of the alliance for many years.
At the 60th Independence anniversary celebration of Nigeria, the Association of Retired Career Ambassadors of Nigeria (ARCAN), honoured some of its prominent members for their distinguished service to the nation. He was among five retired diplomats honoured in the Platinum category as Smbassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo and head of the Africa Department, along with C. Olisemeka, former Ambassador to the US, Canada, and Israel and first Career Ambassador to serve as Foreign Minister; Abdullahi Attah, former High Commissioner to Canada, Ambassador to Cuba and Head of the Intelligence Service; Olusola Sanu, former Ambassador to the African Union (AU), Washington DC, High Commissioner to Australia and Special Envoy to the Sudan Peace Process; and B. Akporode Clark, former Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
As if he was in a valedictory mood to the world of diplomacy and international relations, Mr Ogunsulire with his wife hosted the 2023 meeting of the Association of Retired Career Ambassadors of Nigeria (ARCAN) early in the year of his own death.
Mr Ogunsulire was survived by his wife, Soba Ogunsulire, and three children: Kola, Yinka, and Ronke.
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