A former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Olugbenga Ashiru, on Saturday died in a South African hospital after a long battle with a terminal disease said to be brain tumour. He was 66 years old.
One of the deceased’s brothers, Professor Oladapo Ashiru, confirmed the death to our correspondent on Saturday night.
He said, “It is true. He died at about five minutes to 6pm today.”
The Professor of Anatomy/Consultant Reproductive Endocrinologist said Olugbenga’s death was a great shock to the Ashiru family.
“He was one of our illustrious sons; a gentle soul; a gentle man to the core; an ambassador extraordinary, who rose to the peak of his career.”
He added that the family was proud of his performance when President Goodluck Jonathan appointed him as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The professor said, “He had been ill for some time. We still don’t know why he had the problem (illness), probably due to frequent exposure to sunlight or frequent use of telephone.
“He recovered after a procedure and I was with him in South Africa in November 2013. He was full of energy and was raising fund for his church in Victoria Island. He was looking forward to getting back (to Nigeria).
“I told him that he would still be of use to the country in a different capacity. He was supposed to write his memoir when he gets back. Unfortunately, he had a relapse. His family spent Christmas with him in South Africa and just a day before the date he planned to come back, he had a relapse.”
President Goodluck Jonathan appointed Ashiru, who was said to have been nominated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2011. He was, however, removed in 2013 in a cabinet reshuffle.
Ashiru had been actively involved 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. The stand-off was eventually resolved after Nigeria retaliated.
Ashiru, while handing over, said he had succeeded in securing 22 key international appointments for Nigerians during his two-year stay in office.
“I am leaving foreign ministry as a fulfilled man considering my achievements in just two years,” he had said.
The deceased was born on August 27, 1948 in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun state. The graduate of the University of Lagos was Third Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1972. He also served as Nigerian Ambassador to South Korea in 1991.
He was Nigeria’s High Commissioner to South Africa, with concurrent accreditation to Lesotho and Swaziland, in 2005.