Farewell, M.T. MBU (1929 – 2012)
By Sun News Publishing
Friday February 17, 2012

If there is anyone who can lay solid claims to uncommon accomplishments so early in life in public service, Chief Matthew Tawo Mbu (fondly called M.T. Mbu), who died last week in a London hospital, undisputedly and eminently, qualifies to be one. He was 82.

His life story can only be painted on a larger canvas because it offers an up-close view of an extraordinary life dotted with a sweet scent of providence of open doors of opportunities that were used, not for selfish interest, but for the benefit of Nigeria.

The death of Chief Mbu may have brought to an unhappy end the last of that generation of Nigerians who placed patriotism and public service above other things else. His unparalleled achievements in all the positions he held in his public life, provide an unusual and invaluable opportunity for understanding the interplay of personality, conviction, candour and the dynamics of power.

By all accounts, many agree that the astonishing opportunities that came the way of Chief Mbu, both as a politician and career diplomat, could not have been possible without his proven integrity and sterling character. But he never flaunted them. Rather, each time he relived his golden moments in public service, he did so with quiet pride. Though the Nigeria in which he grew up was a different world from the Nigeria of today, his stream of successes was a triumph of consistency of purpose of how to be a victor in all life’s endeavours.

To call him a lucky man will amount to belittling how individual talents, good works and personal strengths and commitments can transmit influence through other men’s eyes. No wonder at a tender age of 24 he was appointed a minister of state in the office of the then Prime Minister. His life followed that uncommon trajectory of feats. Two years later, at 26, he was appointed first Nigerian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, a position he held for four years (1955 – 1959). Other appointments followed in the turf of foreign affairs.

From 1959 – 1960, he was the First Nigerian Chief Representative to the United Nations, Nigerian Chief Delegate to the International Parliamentary Union Conference in Brussels, Belgium, Nigeria’s Chief Delegate and Chief negotiator, United Nations Disarmament Conference in Geneva, 1963 – 65. In 1964, he was appointed Nigerian Head of Delegation to the Commonwealth Conference in Ottawa, Canada. He held so many other positions of prominence.

Instructively, Chief Mbu held some of these early positions with panache without a university degree. It was in 1959 that he received his first degree in Law at the University College London, and a Masters degree (LLM) soon after. He was subsequently called to Middle Temple (Inns Court), London and Nigeria Bar in 1960.
Born November 20, 1929 in Okundi, Ogoja, Cross River State, his early education started at the Roman Catholic Mission School, Okundi. He married Katherine (nee Anigbo) in 1955. They have eight children, six sons and two daughters.

By all standards, Mbu’s life was a paranormal of unending national assignments that can be viewed from different contexts. He was ever ready to take up every assignment that came his way. His impact was also felt in the political terrain at home. He was a prominent member of the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC). Between 1953 and 1958, he was in the Eastern House of Assembly and House of Representatives, as member for Ogoja.

He also held the portfolio of Minister of Defence (Navy), Federal Minister of Transport and Aviation (1966) and a fellow of many local and international organizations, among them, member, Lagos Island Club, Lagos Tennis Club, Member, Ambassador Club, London, Fellow, London Institute of World Affairs. He also played a prominent role in the Civil War reconciliation efforts, having served as foreign minister in the defunct Republic of Biafra. His negotiation skills and urbane nature were reported to have been crucial in bringing the three-year war to an end.

Undoubtedly, Chief Mbu left indelible prints in the socio-economic development of the country. In his twilight years, he was in the vanguard of resource control, championed by the South-South region where he came from. Altogether, he lived well for Nigeria and himself. He will surely be missed. We wish him a respectful farewell.

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