I'm fulfilled -Peter Eriki, WHO official
After spendiong six years in the country as the World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative, Dr Peter Eriki, says his duty tour had been a most exciting experience. The international civil servant said coming to Nigeria had added colour to his life and that he was going back to his country in peace.
Posted to Nigeria in 2006, Eriki, who hails from Uganda, retired at the end of 2010. He singled out Nigeria as the most unique of the countries he had woked in different parts of Africa and indeed, the world. According to him, living and working in Nigeria made him to understand that the negative perceptions of people around the world about Nigeria were borne out of sheer ignorance, hence they are not justifiable:
'Before coming to Nigeria, I had worked as a representative in Angola from 1996 to 2000. Then I was reassigned to Kenya from 2000 to 2006. I have been here now since November 2006 to 2010. When I came, there was a Mohammed Belloson, a colleague from Algeria, and I took over from him.
'I find Nigerians not to be what people depict outside Nigeria. Nigerians are very warm individuals, committed and highly trained people. I have never seen a group of such highly trained professionals in one country like this and they know what it takes and they have the means.
'Nigeria is a warm country, they have everything it takes and to me personall,y I feel if Nigeria moves, which they are doing, Africa is going definitely. Nigeria is a very, very vital country and very important and anybody who thinks of development in Africa, should never forget that Nigeria should be the core.'
During his stay in the country, he said he was fascinated by the lifestyle of hard work and hospitality of the Nigerian people, which he said was missing in several countries of Africa.
The culture and cuisine of the people, he said, also swept him off his feet, saying that even though he found it tough at first, it is now a thing of serious concern how that he would not be able to stay in Uganda without having those foods on a daily basis as before:
'Sometimes, I do not even know if Nigerians have worms in their stomachs because of the pepper, the amount of pepper you take in your soup. When I started, I had to have a four glass of water to keep on accompanying every time I swallow. 'The interesting thing about it is that when you swallow, the next step is very anxiously waited for because you feel you should continue. So the cuisine is a very encouraging thing.
I will remember things like the egusi soup, cow leg and the rest of this very enticing food. You have a very rich culture and this should keep going because it is what it takes for visitors like me to bind us not only in terms of personalities but also the cuisines, they bring us together.
'I have been working for the last 37 years.
I have done one compulsory part of my life and that is serving the world. I have done my best in Nigeria in partnership with Nigerians, very warm individuals, very intelligent and focused. I think with what I have seen, Nigeria is a lovable country. I am retiring to Uganda. Working in Nigeria was like running a race and I have finished it successfully, with the Nigerians together we have won the race.
'Nigeria was the best place to exit from because I am leaving a happy person. I am leaving having worked with the greatest country in Africa and I am leaving with satisfaction because what I came to do we have made a lot of inroads to it which makes it really very, very pleasant for me.'
Regarding his primary assignment, he was visible virtually in all major health events, discussing and finding solutions to the problems of the sector. Thus, during his period of stay, the country made appreciable progress in the health sector and enjoyed laudable assistants from the WHO.
Perhaps for his expertise and initiatives, the then Health Minister, Professor Eyitayo Lambo, who himself was a genius in managing the sector, lobbied his way to ensure that Eriki came to the country, and even stayed for an additional one year on request, before finally retiring.
He is happy that on his retirement, the health sector in the country had improved remarkably with the war against polio being conquered, while malaria and other diseases are getting a serious fight too.