Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ambassador Sanders' Policy Speech at University of Benin

Remarks of Ambassador Robin Renée Sanders

Work to Be Done: Your Role As the Next Generation

University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria
February 26, 2009

  • Acting Vice Chancellor, Prof (Mrs.) Uche Gbenedio
  • University Librarian, Mr. Samuel Ogunrombi
  • Acting Registrar, Mrs. Ojomo
  • Bursar, Dr. (Mrs.) Nwoye
  • Faculty and Staff of the University of Benin; Students;
  • Distinguished ladies and gentlemen of the press
  • All protocols observed.

Thank you for welcoming me this afternoon to this historic university and this historical city. I have always wanted to come here and I am happy to be able to make my first visit not to long after returning from the U.S. following the historic transition of power that took place in my country with the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States of America, President Barack Obama.

With the ushering in of his administration, there is a new face and a new energy underscoring traditional American values. You may be asking what these values are, what should these mean to me and what does democracy really mean? I think if the new U.S. President was here today, he would tell you that democracy is what you want for your country based on the enduring principle that everyone has the right to life Liberty Justice, food to eat clean water education good health care faith in their government and the right to have better future.

Today more than at any other time in our modern history, Americans are harking back to these basics that we had walked away from for many, many years and in some cases forgot what made us strong, what made us respected, and what we needed to do to ensure that America’s tomorrow are not only bright for us in the short-term, but more importantly for the next generation of American leaders. He has said that the way for us to do this is through education, including rebuilding our educational structures, retraining our teachers, and focusing on science and technology to name just a few steps.

Our President has called "education the currency of the Information Age,” a “prerequisite" that we as the current leadership generation owe to the next generation, making sure a college education is within reach of every American – particularly those who volunteer for public service.

But before we get there or achieve these lofty goals that reconnects us to our enduring values, my leadership generation has a lot to do to correct the past mistakes in mismanagement of our financial and economic resources in order to pave a better path for our next generation. This applies to Nigeria as well. Just as my leadership generation must not further squander our wealth Respect financial and economic security neither must your current leaders do that to you.

Your leadership generation is responsible now to you to ensure you have a good education job opportunities better health care services end corruption and poverty and provide food to eat by developing your agricultural sector. My team and I have focused on all these issues through our Framework for Partnership with the people of Nigeria, particularly on poverty alleviation, educational exchanges, micro credit programs, and assisting farmers by helping them increase their crop yield and by providing them with partial loan guarantees from Nigerian banks.

For the people of Nigeria, it is about how you see your future. You must ask yourself do I like what I see? If not, why not? What do I need to change? What do I want to change in my country and how do I go about being a change agent for a better Nigeria. It is for you to choose act and decide to improve your economy and your democracy, have better election processes, end your pockets of ethno-religious tensions, and find peace and development for the Niger Delta.

President Obama has said in a renewed America that from the “grandest capitals of the world to the smallest villages of Africa” America is a friend of each and every nation man woman and child who seeks a future of peace dignity and prosperity. This means that the United States commitment to Nigeria will not change, but in fact will be stronger.

For example President Obama has been one of the strongest advocates for the Millennium Development Goals, which prior to his inauguration, the U.S. Government did not totally endorse. In his administration he has embraced the MDG’s and some of the particulars of his policy for my government to help the developing world achieve these Goals include:
-- Doubling our annual foreign assistance from $25 billion to $50 billion;
-- Lifting the 33% cap on US contributions to the Global HIV/AIDS Fund … ensuring that at least 4.5 million people are on Anti-retroviral treatment by 2013 … preventing 12 million new infections; and,
-- Focusing more on malaria treatment and prevention by
building on the USG‘s current $1 billion dollar per year commitment.
-- On education -- for Nigeria -- we have given 1,200 primary school scholarships, and trained 20,000 primary school teachers.

These additional tools by the Obama Administration will be used by my Mission to further enhance our partnership with you and your generation, and also continue to seek ways to assist the Nigerian government Nigerian businesses and Nigerian civil society.

Let me also speak briefly on the topic of Peace and Security. President Obama has repeatedly and explicitly rejected the notion that security can be bought at the price of human rights. Only by defending our core values - respect for human dignity, diversity, equality, and freedom of conscience and expression - can the United States ever be secure.

Enduring peace and security can never be based on force and compulsion. It can only rest upon deep-seated mutual understanding. This is why the U.S. Mission in Nigeria is actively engaged in supporting development projects in the Niger Delta and seeks to encourage non-violent solutions to the conflict there. We believe that by addressing the causes of the unrest rather than the symptoms lasting peace can be created and spur development, like our programs to: promote cultivation of export quality cassava; our technical assistance to the Lift Above Poverty Organization our efforts to expand access to credit for small and medium-size enterprises in Rivers Bayelsa Delta and Edo States; and, our CALM project that develops non-violent solutions by raising cross-cultural and inter-religious awareness and sensitivity.

But these things alone will not solve all your challenges. Knowledge and creativity must be combined with hard work, teamwork and commitment to goals. We know that hard work courage and tolerance are all virtues which Nigerians have in abundance. I have seen this as I have traveled throughout Nigeria. These virtues can become the energy for growth here in Nigeria no less than they are in America. These attributes along with unity of the nation and a refusal to allow diversity of opinion to tear the fabric of the nation apart are the attributes of the common people of Nigeria. These are core values of the American people and we know these are also the core values of the Nigerian people. One of the key phrases from the U.S. Declaration of Independence is "all men were created equal." President Obama from his own experience knows how hard one has to work to achieve one's destiny and to ensure that equality.

I think this is an important message for Nigerian youth. I know that sometimes when you look at the environment around you it is easy to get discouraged. But that is no reason for not trying to change those things. You are responsible for your destiny. You are responsible for the legacy of your life and the legacy of your nation. But this journey, your journey cannot be for the faint-hearted or for those who prefer leisure over work or seek only riches and fame. Rather you of the next generation must be the risk-takers the change agents and the change makers for Nigeria ensuring that it is free of corruption improves its democratic base through free and open elections and provides the best enabling environment for the development and well being of all Nigerians

So that generations that follow you can look back and be proud of the foundations that you have laid and be able to turn around and say to you job well done!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ambassador Sanders' Remarks at the Island Club's Business Luncheon

Remarks of Ambassador Robin Renée Sanders

The Role and the Responsibility of the Nigerian Private Sector in the Current Global Financial Environment

Island Club's Business Luncheon
Lagos, February 24, 2009

  • Chairman, Island Club
  • Former Secretary General of the Commonwealth
  • Chairman, Island Club Board of Trustees
  • Distinguished ladies and gentlemen
  • Ladies and gentlemen of the press
  • All protocols duly observed.

Good afternoon! Let me start by thanking the Island Club for the invitation to be your Guest Speaker this afternoon.

As I looked at what I wanted my topic to be today, for a group of august, current and former business persons and business academics, it was not hard to determine what I wanted my message to be, or what I wanted you to leave here thinking about! We all recognize that we are in a new economic environment where the rules and regulatory frameworks that we all had become so accustom, are being reexamined, reviewed and redressed.

These are tough economic times for both the developed and the developing world and each and every segment of our societies has a responsibility to ensure that they examine what they can do for their nation, and that brings me to you.

As current or retired business people and business academics, you have a responsibility to help your government and help your fellow Nigerians figure out what Nigeria can do to weather this economic and financial storm. You cannot sit back and criticize, be concerned without action, or fail to step up and provide your expertise to policy makers at this time. Nigeria still has – even in these tough economic times – the potential to become a burgeoning emerging market. The question is, whether the global financial crisis is going to further derail this path, or are you going to tread water, or are you going to really survive with a paradigm shift, particularly in development.

As Nigerian business people, I would hope that you would choose the later option – surviving by developing the right macro economic policies that further insulate Nigeria, allowing it to still grow, even in these difficult times. This is where politics and regionalism need to be set aside so that the vast intellectual capacity that I have seen that exists in this country can be used for unity of purpose – unity of better economic management, unity of sacrifice, when sacrifice is needed. Although I am outside of your economic framework we follow the same signs that you do. So what are they for Nigeria: pressure on your currency; trade barriers that need to be revisited and changed; 70 per cent of your population living below poverty; endemic corruption; insufficient energy for your needs; red flags in certain banks; and the need to diversify your economy, particularly toward agriculture – not only so farmers can feed the nation, but so Nigeria can become a net exporter of key commodities. Today you are the second largest importer of foodstuffs.You are far behind this now, but the real kicker is – that with all your wealth, and all your creativity this should not be the case!

Yes, these are worrying signs, signs that have always been there, but become more exacerbated in tougher financial times. You in this room have the answers, even though you many not know it, but I would find that hard to believe. No one says that all the answers rest with policy makers, but the answers to all of these issues do rest with you as Nigerians and you must extend yourself in that direction.

You know, we just had a unique, historic transition of power in the United States of America with the election of the 44th president of the United States, President Barack Obama. His focus for America is on the same issues I have outlined above for Nigeria. President Obama came to office at a time when America as a nation faces enormous economic crises of such scale and magnitude not seen since the Great Depression in the 1930s. To address our myriad of issues, President Obama has reached out to all in America- political opposition, academics, legislators, and the average American through a website in an effort to have our best and our brightest, our hard working citizens, and their families, our creativity and our values- all helping us to find our way. You may want to do the same for Nigeria, but this is up to you.

As further examples, President Obama moved boldly and forthrightly to address our economic challenges by signing into law a comprehensive economic stimulus package called the Recovery and Reinvestment Plan designed to jumpstart the American economy, address issues in our financial framework, assist homebuyers with their mortgages, and support our banking sector. The Plan also will help save, or create, up to 3.5 million jobs and re-awaken American values on improving human development, taking care of our teachers and taking care of our future. As of yesterday, if you were watching the news as I was, you saw my President lead his first ever White House Fiscal Responsibility Summit with the nation's governors, legislators, and other eminent personalities, with a health care summit next week and a major address to the nation- all to address the issues on the minds of Americans.

In America, as in any democratic society, the people form and shape the fabric of democracy, and the ultimate success, or failure, of an initiative depends on the buy-in of the people. In your case, you must reach out to the Nigerian people to hear their plight and struggles, and then you and you alone are responsible as the private sector to work with your policy makers both in the executive and legislative branches to ensure that what is being done is not only being done in the name of the Nigerian people, but what the Nigerian people have said they want, they need and they desire.

President Obama had instilled a sense of hope in the American people for a better time ahead, and he succeeded in doing so by inspiring us around one goal – a goal for us to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, recognize the hard task ahead, and work even harder and longer to get it right, and change the past – all under the umbrella of the commitment to the Rule of Law and transparency. When he talks about transparency he is clear – it is the “end of deceit, and corruption,” and using the public good and wealth for personal gain. He reminds us that America's strength comes not just from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from our enduring values. I know and have seen the enduring values of Nigerians. And I know that these values are shared in so many ways between our two nations.

These are the questions you must answer as the elite of Nigeria. What is your role and what is your responsibility in these troubling financial times? I shared with you today what my President is doing, the outreach of my President across all spectrums of political and religious views.

What is Nigeria going to do? Do you want a Fiscal Responsibility Summit, and Development Summit, a War on Poverty Summit -- or all three? And what about the Niger Delta? What are you going to do for peace, security and development there? It is for you to use your leadership positions as members of the private sector in some way to change or improve Nigeria’s economic, political (especially election reform) and development outlook. We, the U.S. Government, can support your efforts but you must be in the lead on things like anti-corruption, fiscal transparency and an independent electoral commission.

I have been told by Nigerians that Nigeria has a long road to travel on these issues. Democratic institutions need to be strengthened, democratic principles and values need to percolate through every level of government, federal, state, and local. Economic growth, fiscal transparency and pro-human development go in tandem. But there is no real growth, no real change for the Nigerian people that can come at the expense of development for the Nigerian people. As the elite you need to roll up your sleeves and develop ways to reach a hand back and help out in whatever way your expertise will allow. In the end it is about leadership, your role and your responsibility as citizens of Nigeria to ensure, that this wonderful county, on the cusp of being an emerging market, weathers through the financial clouds, and comes through this period with all Nigerians being better off.

As I conclude, I want to go back to something President Obama said recently, invoking the words of another famous American President who himself was seen as a change maker: "Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men [and women]. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. [but] Pray for powers equal to your tasks." These words were originally those of President John F. Kennedy but can aptly be applied to both our nations today. Our tasks in today‘s environment, both for the American people and the Nigerian people are great. And it will take all of our powers to ensure that both our countries enter out of the financial storms stronger than ever with a secured future for the next generation. These will be the tasks that your powers will face!

Thank you.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ambassador Sanders' Remarks at the U.S. National Day Reception, Abuja 2009


U.S. Ambassador Robin Renée Sanders

U.S. National Day Reception, Abuja
“My Country that Is!”

(As prepared for delivery)
For Immediate Release Abuja, Nigeria February 20, 2009

“My Country Tis of Thee.” My Country that is! I chose this song -- that was so wonderfully song by Nigeria’s incomparable Onyeka Onwenu, and our fabulous American Grammy award-winning artist Chris Thomas King -- to highlight this American national day because it not only speaks to our shared values with our friends in Nigeria, but it is a phrase that can be and should be on the minds, reflective of the spirit, of all global citizens who care about what their country does, whether it is respected internationally and how each and every one of us feels about our nation, our values, our home.

One needs to be able to follow the phrase "my country that is," with "it is fair," "it is generous," "it is diverse" -- all while striving to improve democracy with every step, with every generation, with every person.

We all know that it is our values as people that define us as a nation … freedom … liberty … justice and democratic principles. These are the values that are core to the American people, values that inspire us, that emotionally move us. They are also universal values as they go to the essence of the rights in a democracy. We must never forget this.

America must continue to reaffirm “the greatness of our nation,” by also understanding “that greatness is not a given” but that it must be earned. We want to encourage our friends here in Nigeria to reaffirm their enduring spirit for democracy, choosing a history free of corruption with the noble ideas that I have heard and seen as I travel through this great nation. We want, as Americans, to be partners with you on this voyage.

Together, we can reach all Nigerians yearning to be free of hunger and of want; helping those who desire education, jobs, and a better future for their children, peace and dignity for their families.

We are here to support, not to lead, YOUR efforts to move Nigeria forward -- not backward -- but forward in having peace and development in the Niger Delta, better fighting corruption and improving governance, instituting electoral reform and balancing political differences with the more humble values of respect for diversity and humankind.

On the 20th of January 2009, America and the world witnessed a unique transition; not only a transition of power, but a rebirth, once again, in American values -- emulated by and in the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States of America. We are as our President said on that day and in that moment a nation (and I would add a world) of “Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus,” and so many other religions. Today, I would like to say that we must remember that the world is shaped by every language and every culture, drawn from every corner of this Earth. And, in this regard “As the world grows smaller,” said President Obama, “. . . America must play its role in [ensuring a] new era of peace.”

America and Nigeria -- we are old, old friends. And, these are the messages that we share with our old friend this evening. The partnership between the American people and the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will remain high even through these cloudy financial times.
Our American National activities in northern Nigeria this week and in southern Nigeria next week underscore what we are doing to help in sectors from agriculture, to HIV/AIDS, to community development, capacity building, and humanitarian projects, to spurring more two-way trade between our two great nations.

To my dedicated staff at the U.S. Mission to Nigeria and their families, proud Americans today on this Two Hundred and Thirty-Third celebration of America’s independence, I want to thank you as Team Nigeria for helping me build mutual understanding with our old, old friend.

So I close this evening by noting that I believe that at last, we as a global family are on the right path at the right time and for the right reasons -- At last. I Thank You.
# # #

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ambassador Sanders' Remarks at The Handover Ceremony of Bicycles to Nigeria Police Force at Police College, Kaduna

Remarks of Ambassador Robin Renée Sanders

Handover Ceremony of Bicycles to Nigeria Police Force at Police College, Kaduna

(As prepared for delivery)
February 18, 2009
Abuja, Nigeria

All other protocols duly observed

We are here today as part of our two week American National activities supporting Nigeria and Nigerians in many ways including this community policing project which began more than four years ago. As demonstrated by our investment in this community policing project the people and government of the United States are committed to partnering with the government of Nigeria in its efforts to strengthen the capacity of the Nation's law enforcement agencies for the benefit of its citizens.

The police force exists to serve and protect its citizens and it must therefore be a good friend to its citizens. While trends and patterns of crime may change over time the need for strong cooperation between the police and citizens in catching and prosecuting criminals does not change. Bicycle patrols as part of community policing are one such way in which police and citizens can effectively work together. Police bicycling community patrols have been used in other parts of the world including the United States with huge success. We anticipate similar success in Nigeria particularly in rural areas where communities are often hindered by a lack of resources to purchase fuel for vehicles.

As you know high crime rates in certain communities can be curbed if illicit activities are properly recorded and handled to develop the required intelligence needed to apprehend the perpetrators. This intelligence can also be used to prevent larger crises such as communal clashes by providing swift and accurate response and intelligence on suspected friction before it escalates. The United States Government through the U.S. Mission in Nigeria hopes that this community policing program can be of assistance to Nigerians in this area.

I commend the Nigerian Police force and the people of Kaduna State for partnering with my government on this project. By handing over this equipment we are showing our faith in the Nigerian Police Force to continue working as our partner to achieve our shared goals of peace and security for the citizens of Nigeria a fundamental component of a true democracy.
Thank you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ambassador Sanders' Goodwill Message Delivered during the People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) Support Day

Goodwill Message

Ambassador Sanders participation in
“People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) Support Day at Defense Health Club”

Abuja, Nigeria
February 17, 2009, 10-11:00 a.m.

All Other Protocols Duly Observed

It is my pleasure to be here today and present the Defense Health Club with this equipment purchased by the people and government of the United States. As we celebrate our two-week activities to underscore the U.S.-Nigeria partnership, we are also proud to celebrate the fact that our close partnership with the Nigerian Ministry of Defense has increased access to HIV/AIDS services for thousands of Nigerians, both military and civilian. Over the past three years and in partnership with the Nigerian Ministry of Defense, the U.S. Government's Department of Defense HIV Program has provided over $33 million dollars to combat HIV/AIDS in Nigeria as part of the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, also known as PEPFAR.

Until recently, many of our friends living with HIV/AIDS wondered whether prevention or treatment could ever succeed in environments where resources, assistance, and care were limited, and where having HIV was considered a death sentence. For the past three years, the partnership has provided renovations, equipment, training, and HIV/AIDS treatment through the staff of the Defense Headquarters Medical Centre.

Here at the Defense Health Club, you are providing psycho-social support and prevention efforts which are so critical to the “complete” approach to treatment. You are reaching out to those who are vulnerable to this terrible disease. With the equipment donated by the American people, those living with HIV/AIDS are now empowered to generate income. With an emphasis on emotional, physical, and financial support, you are helping vulnerable people transition back into society. While the Military partnership can provide funds, only the people can turn these funds into results. At the Defense Health Club, you are leading that effort with the strength of your members.

I commend the leadership of the Ministry of Defense, the Commander of Mogadishu Barracks, Commander Defense Headquarters Medical Centre, members of the Defense Health Club and all members of the community for your efforts in supporting this joint program. Activities like this transcend individual nations and people and turn the world into a single community.

Thank you