Last week, former United States Secretary of State, Colin Luther Powell, passed on at the age of 84. According to his family, the renowned diplomat died from Covid-19 complications while suffering from blood cancer which affected his immune system.
Born on April 5, 1937, in New York, to Jamaican parents, Powell was an American statesman, diplomat, and four-star general, who served as the 65th US Secretary of State from 2001 to 2005. He was the first African-American secretary of state. He also served as the 16th United States National Security Advisor from 1987 to 1989 and as the 12th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1989 to 1993.
He distinguished himself in his chosen military career as a brilliant and dedicated officer. Thus, he rose on merit and rapidly through the ranks to occupy very senior strategic positions in the US defence and military establishments.
No doubt, his stellar military career paved the way for other African Americans to also reach for the top. He articulated a new paradigm for engaging in military action. Till date, Powell is credited to have repositioned the US strategic doctrine in its involvements in foreign campaigns.
He was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during the critical moment of the first Gulf War and he led the US Army successfully through the campaign that culminated in the liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi occupation.
The death of Powell, whose leadership in several Republican administrations helped shape American foreign policy in the last years of the 20th century and the early years of the 21st, came as a major loss to the global community, particularly the Americans of African descent.
Former Nigerian President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, in a special tribute to Powell, on his passing, described him as a renowned United States public servant and a great leader who left solid and indelible footprints in the sands of time.
Jonathan said as Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, Powell “was known for his tactful management of America’s foreign relations, of which he extended a hand of fellowship to the Yar’ Adua administration in which I served as Vice President”.
Even after he bowed out from public life, Powell had remained a leading light, a strong voice who never failed to speak truth to power. He was a man of charm and remarkable eloquence, filled with captivating demeanour. His integrity and humility are also some of the outstanding qualities he had during his lifetime.
The world will miss him but there are a lot of lessons to be learnt from him and it will be good politicians and so called leaders in Nigeria read about him, especially how he used power and authority at his disposal to influence what is positive and right for his people and country.
There are just too many things Nigerian politicians and public servants need to learn from Powell. Also, aspiring leaders should look out for all literatures about him and begin to mentor themselves on how to be better than him when they have similar opportunities to lead.
We also hope that his legacies will be preserved and that he will be so honoured not just by the United States Government but leaders across the world for his role in promoting peace, security and stability.