President Muhammadu Buhari, former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Goodluck Jonathan and Barack Obama and others have expressed sadness over the death of former United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell. The former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff succumbed to COVID-19 complications at the age of 84.
Buhari, in a release signed on Monday by his spokesman, Garba Shehu, said he believed that as the first African American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest military position in the U.S. Department of Defense, as well as the first African American Secretary of State, Powell, was “a great statesman and a global icon in every sense of it.”
Buhari said that as U.S Secretary of State, Powell played a very “important role in advancing his country’s foreign policy and national defence interests and was also a great advocate of the eradication of Polio and in addressing the deadly spread of HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa.”
President Buhari said his prayers and thoughts were with General Powell’s family and the people of the United States as they mourn the death of an exceptional leader and one of America’s greatest pride, who as a professional soldier, a distinguished public servant and an effective diplomat, gave his utmost for his country.
Obasanjo described Powell as a “trusted colleague and comrade-in-arm, whose closeness as an African-American with the mother Africa assisted in the growth of the continent”.
He added: “He was Secretary of State under the administration of President George W. Bush, Jnr, part of the time I was President of Nigeria.
“He was not just an African-American, he was understood Africa. That is what I found in him when he was Secretary of State.
“With him, among others, I have always seen advantage in the closeness of the African-Americans with the mother Africa. )
“It is mutually good and beneficial for the Africans at home and for our brothers and sisters in diaspora in the US, Caribbean or Southern America.
“I cherished our relationship for the good of humanity and especially for the good of our race, the most abused, despised and disregarded in modern history”, he noted
Also, in a ststement that Dr Jonathan personally signed, he described late Powell as a renowned United States public servant. “ Until the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, Colin Powell was the highest-ranking African American to have served in the public sector of the United States. In that capacity, he served as a beacon of hope and was a pride of the Black Race.
“His stellar military career, which saw him become the first Black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which pivoted him to also becoming the first US Secretary of State of colour, paved the way for other African Americans to reach for the top. His articulation of the Powell Doctrine gave the United States, and the world at large, a new paradigm for engaging in military action with honour and decorum.
“As Secretary of State, he was known for his tactful management of America’s foreign relations, of which he extended a right hand of fellowship to the Yar’adua administration when I was Vice President.
“His death at 84 after a long, useful and fulfilled life, is mourned by my family and me, as well as the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation. He left solid and indelible footprints in the sands of time and would be greatly missed. Our prayers are with his family at this trying time for them.”
Also Obama’s tribute pored out like confetti. In his words:
“General Powell was an exemplary soldier and an exemplary patriot. He was at the center of some of the most consequential events of our lifetimes – serving two decorated tours in Vietnam; guiding U.S. strategy in the Gulf War; serving as National Security Advisor, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of State; offering counsel to four presidents; and helping shape American foreign policy for decades. Everyone who worked with General Powell appreciated his clarity of thought, insistence on seeing all sides, and ability to execute. And although he’d be the first to acknowledge that he didn’t get every call right, his actions reflected what he believed was best for America and the people he served.
Along the way, General Powell helped a generation of young people set their sights higher. He never denied the role that race played in his own life and in our society more broadly. But he also refused to accept that race would limit his dreams, and through his steady and principled leadership, helped pave the way for so many who would follow. It was the way Colin Powell saw the world – not as a starry-eyed idealist, but as someone with deep and abiding faith in this country and what it stands for – that made him such a central figure.
On a personal level, I was deeply appreciative that someone like General Powell, who had been associated with Republican administrations in the past, was willing to endorse me in 2008. But what impressed me even more was how he did it. At a time when conspiracy theories were swirling, with some questioning my faith, General Powell took the opportunity to get to the heart of the matter in a way only he could.
“The correct answer is, he is not a Muslim; he’s a Christian,” General Powell said. “But the really right answer is, ‘What if he is?’ Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?”
That’s who Colin Powell was. He understood what was best in this country, and tried to bring his own life, career, and public statements in line with that ideal. It’s why, for all the battles he fought and problems he solved, Michelle and I will always look to General Powell as an example of what America – and Americans – can and should be if we wish to remain the last, best hope of earth.
Our family sends our thoughts to Alma, their three children and grandchildren, and everyone mourning his loss today.”
Former US president George W Bush:
“Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of Colin Powell. He was a great public servant, starting with his time as a soldier during Vietnam. Many presidents relied on General Powell’s counsel and experience.
“He was such a favorite of Presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom — twice. He was highly respected at home and abroad. And most important, Colin was a family man and a friend. Laura and I send Alma and their children our sincere condolences as they remember the life of a great man.”
US President Joe Biden
“Colin embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat,” Mr Biden said.
“He was committed to our nation’s strength and security above all. Having fought in wars, he understood better than anyone that military might alone was not enough to maintain our peace and prosperity.
“From his front-seat view of history, advising presidents and shaping our nation’s policies, Colin led with his personal commitment to democratic values that make our country strong. Time and again, he put country before self, before party, before all else — in uniform and out — and it earned him the universal respect of the American people.
“Having repeatedly broken racial barriers, blazing a trail for others to follow in federal government service, Colin was committed throughout his life to investing in the next generation of leadership.”
Former British prime minister Tony Blair:
“Colin was a towering figure in American military and political leadership over many years, someone of immense capability and integrity, a hugely likeable and warm personality and a great companion, with a lovely and self-deprecating sense of humor.
“He was wonderful to work with, he inspired loyalty and respect and was one of those leaders who always treated those under them with kindness and concern.
“His life stands as a testament not only to dedicated public service but also a strong belief in willingness to work across partisan division in the interests of his country.
“I am so sorry to hear the news of his death. He still had so much to give. My thoughts and prayers are with Alma and all his large and loving extended family.”
Former US president Jimmy Carter:
“Rosalynn and I join so many around the world in mourning the loss of General Colin Powell.
“A true patriot and public servant, we were honored to work beside him to strengthen communities in the United States, help resolve conflict in Haiti, and observe elections in Jamaica.
“His courage and integrity will be an inspiration for generations to come. We will keep his family in our prayers during this difficult time.”
First female US secretary of state Madeleine Albright:
“Colin Powell was an American icon whose career in public service will always be celebrated and remembered, but to me he was simply my friend Colin … He was a wise and principled man, a loyal friend, and one of the kindest people I have ever met.”