By Abraham Ariyo
It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of Walter Omowale Carrington on August 11, 2020. He was 90 years old.
Ambassador Omowale Carrington was an American diplomat who served as the United States Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to both Senegal (1980-81) and Nigeria (1993-1997). He left Senegal in 1981 to become the Director of the Department of International Affairs at Howard University in Washington, D.C. In 1993 he became the U.S. President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Nigeria. In that position, he brought a lot of good will to Nigeria. He deepened the Nigerian-American relationship on an official level. On a personal level, he married into a Nigerian family and lived on-and-off in three Nigerian cities.
Ambassador Carrington graduated from Harvard Law School in 1955. After military service, he returned to civilian life by joining a law practice in Boston, MA. He also served as Commissioner of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, the youngest person to serve in that position at the time. He started foreign service with the Peace Corps from 1961 to 1971, later serving as Country Director in Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Tunisia, and then as Regional Director for Africa (1969–71). From 1971 to 1980, he served as Executive Vice President of the African-American Institute.
He was especially beloved in Nigeria in 1993. He was seen as an ally and a ‘light’ during the dark struggle to actualize June 12. He was a great supporter and admirer of MKO, and at some point, treated him like the President. Omowale Carrington believed in our struggle, identified with us, and marched alongside with Nigerians. In exchange for his love, support and commitment to our struggle, we named the road leading to the American embassy, one of the finest streets in Lagos, ‘Eleke Crescent’, after him. In 2010, he published A Duty to Speak: Refusing to Remain Silent in a Time of Tyranny, a compilation of his speeches that supported democracy and human rights in Nigeria during the darkest period of Nigerian history, under the military dictator, Sani Abacha. Ambassador Walter Omowale Carrington, although you have left us, you remain in our hearts and whenever we visit the American embassy in Lagos, we will remember you and feel your presence forever.
Abraham Ariyo, M.D.
HeartMasters, Dallas, Texas