On Monday, the United States government, through its Assistant Secretary on African Affairs, Ambassador Johnnie Carson, held a forum where the issues of security and democracy in Nigeria were discussed among other issues. After the event, the Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, Professor Adebowale Ibidapo Adefuye speaks with ABIODUN OLUWAROTIMI on some of these vital issues.
What can you say about the security challenges we face in Nigeria presently?
Well, I want to state that every country has its own security challenges and I am sure that Nigeria will soon overcome its own security problems. The issue of Boko Haram will become a thing of the past very soon. Like the President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan rightly said, that his administration will soon overcome the problems pose by the Islamic sect.
I will also want to note that we are using all our resources and efforts to combat the security troubles we have in Nigeria. Many powerful countries in the world have been working with the federal government to combat terrorism in Nigeria and that is an indication that the problem will soon be over.
Just recently, the United Kingdom promised to support Nigeria in reforming its anti-terrorism security. I mean during a recent bilateral talks at State House Marina, Lagos, which involved President Goodluck Jonathan and Prime Minister David Cameron, the British Prime Minister revealed that both countries had agreed to a significant new partnership on counter- terrorism.
It was disclosed after the meeting that Britain is to help Nigeria establish the equivalent of ‘Cobra’, a security initiative used in Britain during national emergencies. The same support comes from our dear friend, the United States of America. The Obama-led administration has been there for Nigeria in the area of support to combat terrorism.
Don’t you think that the present bombings and security threats in Nigeria can ruin our relationship with the United States government?
Not at all. Like I earlier said, every country has its own security challenges. I am sure that the United States will not seize from being our partner because of the security troubles. Rather, the government of the United States has promised to assist Nigeria get out of the stress, and Nigerian government is also receiving supports from other countries as well. We all heard the assessment of Ambassador Johnnie Carson on the 2011 elections.
This is an indication that Nigeria’s democracy is rapidly growing. We are all familiar with the damage which Boko Haram has been doing to our image and the threat it poses to our unity and security. The origin of Boko Haram as we all know is shrouded in mystery.
Even though, the acknowledged leader, Yusuf, hasd been killed, the group like a hydra-headed monster has continued to attack innocent civilians of all persuasions in the northern part of the country thereby disrupting the lives of the people.
Apart from the attack on the United Nations building in Abuja, which was a serious diplomatic embarrassment to Nigeria, the recent Christmas attack on churches in Suleja and the unfortunate reprisal attacks on mosques and the Hausa community in the Delta State, constituted serious threat to our country’s unity.
I am prepared to concede that not all the threats purported to have been issued by Boko Haram came from the group. Some criminal elements have seized on the activities of the Boko Haram to commit atrocities allegedly on behalf of the group.
Nigeria can and will deal with whatever security problems Boko Haram or any group will present. We dealt successfully with militants in the Niger Delta.
Some of our friends, especially, in our host country have been suggesting that we should adopt a multi-faceted approach to Boko Haram and that force alone would not bring an end to the problem. So, I believe that Nigerian-United States relationship will remain intact despite the security challenge.
Sir, what are your assessment of the US-Nigerian relationship now?
Thank you. The relationship between Nigeria and the United States has rapidly developed. Nigeria-United States relationship has come a long way . We have had many twists and torns and our relationship has been affected by the ever changing and dynamic global situation .
The cold war situation and the post cold war environment as a result of which America has virtually become the pre-eminent country, has affected and dictated the nature and content of our relations. America now sees Nigeria as strategically in its effort to promote an essentially democratic , nuclear free world in which the principles of human rights, rule of law and democratic governance prevail.
This perhaps explains America’s decision to sign a Bi-national Commission agreement with us . We now operate the American type of constitution. This has been a point of attraction between our two countries. Nigeria and America share the same objectives in global scene. We are both committed to a strong United Nations Peacekeeping.
Nigeria is one of the largest contributors to the United Nations Peacekeeping efforts.We have been active in many international organisations to ensure a peaceful and secured world. Between Nigeria and the US, there are lots of similarities in terms of global objectives. The American government has been actively supporting our developmental objectives.
America is one of our major trading partners . We are the fourth largest supplier of crude oil to America and our efforts to diversify our economy by promoting non-oil trade especially agriculture is receiving support from the United States. The United States government has given us millions of dollars to support the Presidential programme on AIDS.
The relationship with the United States has improved in all the four major areas of the agreement which are Transparency, Integrity and Anti-corruption. These aspects had opened assistance to the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct credible elections in 2011.
Another one is on Niger Delta and regional security. We have held some meetings now and there has been a lot of international interaction between Nigeria and the United States. So, US-Nigeria relations as of now is cordial, peaceful and mutually beneficial.
The commission will help us work together on issues of common concern and shared responsibility. And we hope it will support the aspirations of the Nigerian people for a peaceful, prosperous, stable, democratic future.
What are the changes you have been able to effect since assuming the post as the Ambassador of Nigeria to the United States?
Immediately I got here, the country of interest list by which Nigerians were experiencing special search at the airports was changed to the one that now emphasizes individual profile rather that citizenship. Now, Nigerians are no longer subjected to any special scrutiny at the airports.
It was when I came that we signed the Bi-national agreement with the United States and this has become the highest level of strategic co-operation.
This agreement has helped and will continue to help Nigeria in so many areas. The United States signing this agreement with us means that they are fully ready to co-operate with us to achieve our goals on Mission 2020. We have changed all the negative impression that people have about the country.
We have eradicated everything that was having negative impacts on the good image of Nigeria in the past. Nigerians living in the United States now have the new ECOWAS Passport. Also, Wal-Mart, one of the world’s largest stores will be investing in Nigeria and this will create thousands of jobs and strengthen the Nigerian economy.
My job is to make sure that the interests and rights of all Nigerians resident in the United States are protected to the fullest. We will not stand by, while the rights of law abiding Nigerians are violated or trampled upon.
A Nigerian Citizen was recently killed during a mass shooting in California and up till now, we have not got any reactions from the Embassy. What can you say about this?
I heard about the issue and I think that has been taken care of. I have sent some officials of the Nigerian Embassy to go there and investigate the matter and I am still waiting for a report from them. The Embassy will decide on what to do about it immediately I receive the report from my officers that are investigating the matter.
Let us talk about foreign investment. What are the efforts of your administration to woo foreign investors to Nigeria?
Many thanks. We have been wooing foreign investors to come and invest in Nigeria because our country is very safe for them now. Nigeria will recapture its former status as West Africa’s breadbasket. We have been holding series of investors forum on agriculture in America and all these are yielding positive results.
Our exhibitions had showcased Nigeria’s Agriculture Transformation Agenda and they had as well revealed several opportunities in the agriculture sector. The Nigerian government is prioritizing agricultural development with an infusion of 3 billion dollars in funding and the creation of incentivized Staple Crop Processing Zones.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation, boasting an estimated 10 million people in its rapidly growing middle class. We have been able to establish meaningful contacts with the US EXIM Bank whose President and Vice President visited Nigeria and had discussions with our government and had provided Nigeria with some billions of dollars support for our power project.