Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 19, 1999
Mac High grad heads to Nigeria
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
It was a couple of pamphlets at the Edmonton public library that started Ian Ferguson on the road to where he is today - as the new Canadian High Commissioner to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
"I remember I was in Grade 9 or 10, I saw these brochures on careers," said Ferguson, 49. "I read these pamphlets about foreign affairs and diplomatic positions. And I knew that's what I wanted to do."
Ferguson, a University of Alberta graduate, has spent his entire career on the payroll of the Department of Foreign Affairs. From his beginning in the Middle East Division, he has held postings as directors and counsellors in far off places such as Pretoria, Damascus and Dakar.
Ferguson was also a graduate of Archbishop MacDonald High School and had a short stint as a high school issues writer with the Western Catholic Reporter in 1966.
As high commissioner, Ferguson represents Canada in a country overcoming its recent history of repression and military dictatorships.
"One of the challenges will be to get our property up and running again," Ferguson said of the Canadian Embassy, which was closed two years ago during the reign of General Sani Abachi's military regime.
Shortly after Abachi's death last year, General Abdulsan Abubakar took over leadership and brought some reform to the country by releasing political prisoners. Among the prisoners was former general Olusegun Ogasanjo, the newly-elected Nigerian president.
But Ferguson also admits the challenge is a welcome one.
"This is an exciting time for (Nigeria)," he said. Since April, Ferguson has been in Lagos, Nigeria, which has a population of about 10 million. He splits his time between Lagos and the capital city Abuja.
Like many Third World cities, the seven-figure population rate brings with it just as many problems from drainage to security.
"There are no working traffic lights here," Ferguson said. "Electricity is not very reliable.
"If anything happens here, like a rainstorm, I compare it to a monster truck rally where all the cars are driving over ramps and cars."
Nigeria is a world and culture away from Canada, but it has yet to cause a language rift for the multilingual Ferguson, who also speaks Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic.
Among his duties, Ferguson and his staff of nine are responsible for enhancing relations and development between Canada and Nigeria. His office will also provide support and aid to the 1,200 Canadians living in Nigeria.
"This is a relatively happy time here in the country," Ferguson said. "This is the first civilian president the people have had in 20 years. There's a lot of celebration.
"The people have been very welcoming," he added. "There is no hostility towards Canadians."