In Plateau State, one of the names that not only rings bells but resonates from one nook and cranny to the other is Ambassador Danjuma Nanpon Sheni. This is neither on account of the fact that he is the richest or most powerful man there, nor because he is the most handsome. No; Ambassador Sheni’s name ring bells because over the years, nay decades, the gentleman has distinguished himself in different areas of human endeavours.
The often-quoted words of Williams Shakespeare, “He came, he saw, and he conquered” can be applied to many men and women with due justification, but in some particular exceptional cases it could be applied with double justification. In Sheni’s case, you have one of such classical cases: he came to the diplomatic arena, saw and conquered from Nigeria through Doha, Qatar, and Zimbabwe to Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire and Guinea Conakry. Then he waltzed into the highest echelon of the nation’s civil service as a permanent secretary, saw and hasn’t stopped conquering since then…
At this juncture it is pertinent to pause and ask: who is Danjuma Nanpon Sheni and where is he coming from? The narrative started 58 years ago in Shendam, Plateau state when baby Danjuma was born that fateful day. Determined to ensure that their young son would not only grow into a disciplined and responsible adult, in 1964 his parents enrolled him at the Bawarat Primary School in Langtang North Local Government for his basic education. In 1970, he proceeded to St. John’s Secondary School Jos from where he obtained his college certificate in 1975.
As part of his quest for more academic laurels, the young man who was destined to be a distinguished diplomat furthered his education to the University of Benin and crowned his effort with a bachelor’s degree in English and Literature in 1980. Barely three years later, Sheni obtained an M.Sc in International Relations from the Obafemi Awolowo University (Formerly University of Ife) in 1983. This trend continued even after he had boosted his C.V with a sterling career as a seasoned diplomat with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which he had joined back in 1982.
First, he enrolled at the university Abuja in 1999 for legal studies, bagging a Law Degree in 2006. Then, just as you were assuming that he had acquired more than his fair share of academic laurels, Sheni registered for a master’s degree programme in International Business Law at the University of Liverpool, which he is presently undertaking. Indeed, for him and his ilk, the quest for knowledge respects neither age nor career advancement or social status.
Joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1982 as a third secretary and Personal Assistant to the then Permanent Secretary was the beginning of what promised and has indeed become a journey encompassing different continents of the world and all sorts of high profile assignments. Beginning with his role as the Project Manager, Peace-keeping and Peace-making (a project funded by the Ford Foundation and United Nations in New York) in southern Africa from 1991 to 1993, Sheni served in various capacities as a staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1999 to 2003.
His flowers continued to bloom as evidenced by his being appointed Deputy Director in charge of the situation room, office of the Honourable Minister from 2007 to 2008 and Director West African Division from 2009 to 2010. This is even as he had a privilege of serving in various capacities of Nigerian missions, including as Head Chancery, Embassy of Nigeria in Brussels, Belgium; Acting High Commissioner, Accra, Ghana; and Charge D’affairs, Embassy of Nigeria, Libreville, Gabon. The list also includes his being Acting High Commissioner, Nigerian High Commission, Singapore; Consul-General of Nigeria, Hong Kong, for many years, and a tour of duty at the Embassy of Nigeria in Washington, D.C.
In addition to his diplomatic career, Sheni has been involved in various civil, public and international affairs. He was a member of the Nigerian delegation to the Afro-Arab Ministerial Commission on the Qatar Peace Initiative in Doha, Qatar in 2009; a member of the ECOWAS Monitoring Team on the Zimbabwean Election in 2008 and the Presidential Election in Ghana 2008. He was also a member of the Nigerian Monitoring Group for the elections in Togo, Guinea Conakry and Cote D’Ivoire.
In the same vein, Sheni was at one time a member of the Nigerian Delegation to the meeting of the Gulf of Guinea Commission in Libreville Gabon, Luanda, Angola, Malabo and Equatorial Guinea. He has served as a member of the ECOWAS Team for the resolution of the Liberian crisis in 2006.
In view of remarkable record of service, Sheni was appointed federal Permanent Secretary in June 2014. He was, however, redeployed to the Ministry of Defence in November 2015 after holding forte as Permanent Secretary, Career Management Office (CMO) in the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation between April and November 2015. Incidentally, his tour of duty as Permanent Secretary had also seen him serving in that capacity at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from November 2014 to April 2015, the same ministry where it had all begun back in 1982.
As he holds sway at the Ministry of Defence in his capacity as Permanent Secretary since 2015, even his most implacable critic would concede that although Ambassador Danjuma Nanpong Sheni is like the rest of us not perfect, his dedication to duty and sparkling record of service mark him out as one of the most distinguished diplomats and a peerless Permanent Secretary of his generation.