African Ambassador News Conference Series
July 15, 2010
Nigeria's recently appointed Ambassador to the United States Professor Adebowale Adefuye has unveiled the cover page of a historic book celebrating 50 years of Nigeria-U.S. bilateral relations in a press conference held at the Nigerian Embassy.
The book titled The United States & Nigeria: Celebrating 50 Years of Friendship & Progress In Pictures is the second in a series launched by AMIP News early this year.
The cover page features President John F. Kennedy and Prime Minister Tafawa Balwewa (Nigeria's first Prime Minister) in an iconic White House photograph taken on July 27th 1961 after a state visit to Washington. Others pictured are Dr. M.A. Majekodunmi (Health Minister) - Right of Balewa, T.O. Benson (Information Minister) - Behind and Vice President Lyndon Johnson — Extreme Right
The book will be launched in Washington during Nigeria's 50th Independence Anniversary celebrations.
Transcript of Ambassador Adefuye's Remarks during the press conference is below:
On behalf of the huh…government and people of Nigeria, thank you most sincerely for finding it fit to be with us uhhh… this morning. Ummm…Quite a number of us have… even before joining the Diplomatic Corps been concerned with the perception of the American public uhhh… about Africa and Nigeria in general. But let me start by uhhh… giving you a few background I… about myself.
I… started life as a university professor, uhhh… university lecturer with a B.A. and a PH.D. from the University of Ibadan and ummm… being … lecturing at the University of Lagos for about thirteen good years during which I became Professor and head of History… Department. I managed to get a …a few… side… ummm… side… some side door entry into international relations and diplomacy arising from the fact that my discipline was ummm… history of international relations and ummm… fully involved in commenting on uhhh… on issues of diplomacy and international relations that do involve my country. And of course, at that period I… I happened to … to kind of get some access into uhhh… being uhhh… members of the tasking committees of Nigeria's delegations to many international conferences - AU, Ecowas, UN. But in 198… in 1987 uhhh… about the time I was finishing my tenure as head of History Department at the University of Lagos, I got called up to be Ambassador of Nigeria to Jamaica with concurrent accreditation to uhhh… Belize and Haiti. I did that for a couple of four years before being posted to London as ummm… uhhh… Deputy High Commissioner with specific uhhh… responsibilities for Nigeria's participation in international affairs uhhh… with regards to UN, Commonwealth and relations with European Union.
From there I joined the Commonwealth Secretariat first as Deputy Director, Strategic Planning and then later on Director, Africa Program for the Commonwealth Secretariat. The Commonwealth is ummm… the … an association of former uhhh… English colonies uhhh… 53 of them, who joined together for … to promote ummm… democracy, good governance and… and co-operate economically. I was the … I first started as ummm… Deputy Director, Strategic Planning, then moving on to uhhh… to the Director of the Africa Program.
There are nine…. there are nineteen African countries in the Commonwealth and my major task was to promote good governance ummm… encourage uhhh… in… international co-operation among member states and also uhhh… pro… uhhh… promote the ideals of democracy, good governance, accountability, responsive government, human rights, rule of law and sustainable develo… development in all the member countries of the Commonwealth but in my own case with particular reference to Africa. I did that uhhh… between 2000 and 2007. Thereafter I thought I had done enough uhhh… abroad then I decided to go back home to serve as the advisor on democracy and good governance to the Eco… Economic Community of West African States, otherwise known as Ecowas, the acronym for ECOWAS. Ecowas is of course the… West African includent of the OAS here… and I did that for 2 years and 3 months before call… being called … the call up for duty for this assignment. So ummm… that's where we are… that's how I got here.
But I think I should just tell you about the current state of Nigeria. You are quite aware of course that Nigeria has been in the news for quite some time, moreso when our departed Head of State uhhh… had to leave for… for Saudi Arabia for medical treatment. But at such a time where he was not in the mood… in … able to do a proper handing over note. Uhhh… we… we had… we experienced a lull in … in our activities… uhhh… but then wise… wise counsel prevailed … our [inaudible] were able to ride on together. All the real stakeholders knew that democracy had to survive. And then the current president, who had been Vice President was transformed first into an acting president, with the concurrence of all sector recoverability, the legislature, the ummm… the former heads of government, all the various stakeholders in the Nigerian community and ummm… unfortunately when the uhhh… the, the president died uhhh… the… the current, the act… the then acting president was confirmed… was sworn in as president. And since then uhhh…
I can tell you that ummm… things are quite stable in Nigeria right now. Quite a number of steps have been taken. We are…. we… we the… the government on the scene now, is now FULLY, fully committed to removing the fundamental weakness in our body politic and economy. Concrete real steps are being taken to set Nigeria on the right footing. We are taking… making efforts to diversify our economy… to diversify our economy… to lay a solid basis for democracy… a solid basis for uhhh… for political stability in our country, and we are making efforts to ensure that our relations with the outside world is on a very positive note. We are… the… the four… the four… the four major objectives of this government is that ensure that democracy and good governance is restored…
We are aware of the fact that the last elections we conducted was not the best and the government… the current government is nevertheless determined to ensure a solid base for democracy is assured and by promising to conduct a free, fair and credible election. We are also… the government is also aware of the… uhhh… the… the unbalanced nature of the economy - excessive reliance on oil and we are make… taking frantic effort to develop… to diversify the base of our economy by emphasizing the non oil aspects of the… of our economy. Infact, I am just coming here … I'm just uhhh… from here I am just meeting the uhhh… minister for solid minerals who is… who is around to… to some negotiation with the World Bank and to ensure that uhhh… on, on areas of … other areas of our mineral resources that we… that uhhh… that will be developed to ensure that uhhh… we have non oil exports for the economy.
The government is equally committed to restore the confidence of the people … the international community AND Nigerians in our ability to deal with the endemic crisis in Niger Delta - areas where our oil is being…. is being… where oil is being produced. An amnesty program is in motion, its been relatively successful. The amnesty program involves the militants surrendering their weapons and those of them who have skills before, are to be re-integrated into the economy and made… and to make sure that they are… the areas, the years of neglect are to be compensated by an uhhh… an intensified development program for the oil producing areas and to make sure that uhhh… uhhh… that the … those militants are re-integrated into the economy. And of course, we are excelling… we are… we remain committed to the ideas of rule of law.
On the international scene we want to remain an active player. Quite naturally we want out of the… we… the Nigeria has… is normally expected to play a leading role. We regard it as our manifest destiny to be a bastion… a su… a bastion of support for the aspirations of the black community all over the globe. Because for historical reasons 1 out of every 5 Africans is a Nigerian and 1 out of every 8 black persons in the world is a Nigerian. And with the resources that providence has endowed us, we see it as our moral responsibility … a responsibility endowed uhhh… forced on us by providence to be the leading light in the aspirations of black fellows. And we have a good record to prove this.
We were are at the forefront of the struggle for the liberation of Southern Africa - be it Namibia, ummm… Zimbabwe, South Africa and the rest of it. We were so much active on the liberation front that we were officially declared a member of the frontline country in the 1970's. Frontline countries are countries that are bordered… have boundaries with South Africa. But our… despite our geographical distance from that area… way back in… in… in West Africa… we were officially declared … we were officially declared a frontline country because we were in the forefront of the struggle for emancipation of our brothers in the Southern African continent. So that is the responsibility imposed on us by destiny and we are determined to carry it out. And how we carry it out … we'll have a strong economic and political basis and that's what we… we are doing. So we do, of course recognize our relationship with the … with the United States is very important.
The US is the leading, is the only uhhh… world power, and our relationship with the US goes back a VERY long way, for I mean… the … the dictates of history and the reality of the situation dictates that we should be on an even keel with the US. But then we know that we… we suffered setbacks from time to time. There was a time we were … we had some differences on the issues of liberation in Southern Africa, it was sorted out, especially during the Carter regime where uhhh… differences sometimes … especially with the Regan regime, uhhh… we sorted it out… But right now I'm proud to say that with President Obama here, things just have to be right between us.
Its quite na… its simply natural. Most Nigerians were very happy when Obama won, and of course that has been more than justified… ummm our… our hopes are more than justified. Yes, there was a time when uhhh… when a misguided Nigerian attempted to bomb a… a Detroit-bound plane, but we made it clear to the world that that attitude was completely out of character, completely un-Nigerian. Nigeria is a country where we have Muslims and Christians living together. 50% … roughly we are almost evenly divided between Muslims and Christians. But not as neat as people will say as if Muslims live in the North, Christians live in the South. There are Muslims in the South and there are Christians in the North. So we are an ethnically and religiously diverse community and you find… find families where the… the… the wife is a Christian, the husband is a Muslim and vice versa. And we have communities where people live together in that. So we made the point clear to the US that its completely out of character.
Not only that, Nigeria has been in the forefront of the struggle against terrorism. Both at the level of Ecowas and the level of the AU, we are against terrorism, we have uhhh… we have made measures… proposed measures which have been adopted by both Ecowas and AU to… to… to stop terrorism and… and it was so funny that by the time… even before the Mutallab episode occurred, we had submitted a bill to our national assembly by which Nigeria was proposing strategies to deal with the possible spread of terrorism… in … in an innocent manner. So all this we made quite clear to the American government and I think that influenced them in invoking a new policy by which access to… access to ummm… visitors will be dictated not by the … the green passport anymore but by you know… their own travel history. So we got that moved up. And then we were to transform our president … our vice president to the … into an acting president.
Mr. Johnny Carson the… the Deputy Secretary of State for the US was in Nigeria at that time and…. and ummm… America was the first country to openly declare support for the move in order to safeguard democracy. Uhhh … it was so clear that they were very much in support of us. And President Obama kindly consented to receive our president … our acting… then acting president when he visited and that was a VERY very successful visit. He provided with a platform to explain his policies, his hopes, his aspirations and these were endorsed and approved by the American government. Not only that, we now have a bi-national commission agreement with the United States of America. A bi-national commission agreement is the highest level of strategic co-operation you can get between 2 countries. And therefore access of that bi-national commission agreement.
First is… ummm… we call it trans… TGI… transparency, governance and ummm… integrity. And these are to deal with … essentially to deal with preparation for the 2011 elections, to ensure that our economies have a financial crime commission which deals with issues of bribery and corruption in the private sector and the economic area is made to work more effectively to ensure that uhhh… the… the human rights set posts of the government actively maintained and encouraged. And so they are working towards the… the first … that's the first aspect of the bi-national commission agreement. The second aspect has to deal with the ummm… energy and investments and the third aspect has to deal with ummm… Niger Delta and regional security, while the fourth one deals with ummm… food security and agriculture. We've had the first two meetings on the first two aspects on… on… on ummm… TGI, transparency, governance and integrity and that … that was held in Abuja. The second one on energy and investments was held at the State Department here some three… four weeks ago and what it means is that first…. the acronym of the first one is that the American agencies will assist us in our preparations towards the 2011 elections.
We have right now in Nigeria IFES, helping us with issues of water registration, ummm… issues of logistics in preparation for elections and all that. We also have … when we met on energy and investment, the whole purpose was to ensure that uhhh… the usual power generation problems we have in Nigeria are put to… are put to rest and we have Ame… many American companies in … in Nigeria now intensifying their activities in Nigeria to ensure that we have ummm… we have ummm… a good… a good electricity supply. Also, the… the.. the… around September… infact we are still discussing the date now, we decided to meet in September … we're gonna have the third… a meeting on the third aspect of the bi-national commission agreement is going… which is going to deal with ummm… the issue of Niger Delta and regional security. Thereafter we have the one on food security and agriculture. But it cannot be otherwise. Nigeria and America … we are bound by the forces of history… strategic consideration and … and the rea… issues of the realities of the moment.
First, there are 1 million… 1 million Nigerian-Americans making their useful contributions to the economic development, social development, political development of the United States of America. It is only in America that we have the largest concentration of Nigerians outside Nigeria. And America is a super power … is the more… is the country most concerned with peace and security in the world. And if there has to be peace and security in the world, there has to be peace and security in Africa. And if there has to be peace and security in Africa, it must start from Nigeria for the simple reason that once ummm… Nigeria…. because of the leverage can afford… can … is … can afford and execute to ensure that all African countries towing the line of democracy, good governance, anti-corruption and… and ummm… accountability. So it is in the interest of America and ourselves that we get it right. And its something we have both uhhh… both realized and we are working towards getting it right. So we… we are committed to… to doing that. And also Nigeria is the uhhh… America is the… we… uhhh…
Nigeria is the uhhh… 6th largest producer of oil in the world. And we've… we are the 3rd largest importer of oil… exporter of oil to America. So it is very important we are… so we hold ourselves in strategic importance. We know we are both of strategic importance to each other and we are… and with the kind of government we have, a government that is responsive and responsible, a government that is committed to removing the fundamental weakness in the body politic, a government that is headed for the FIRST time, headed by an academic, with a PH.D from the university of Port Harcourt, somebody who.. as you always say, a [inaudible] of those of us who always congregate in university staff clothes and be criticizing government, saying this is what they should do, this is what they should do. But with all the best ideas in the world you… you have no power to do it. But now we have somebody who has the right ideas and now has the power. There is no way we are not going to make it. And sure we shall make it and in a big way ummm… to the glory of Nigeria, Africa and the black world.
Thank you very much. (Applause)