Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Town Hall, Memorial, Farewell Lunch and International Meet and Greet

December 25, 2009: Tough. There is an attempted attack on a U.S. airliner.

December 22: Gave major USG policy speech on our concerns about the slow movement on election reform, the need to do more to fight corruption. Goal is to put markers down early about USG focus on these issues. Event held at NIIA and sponsored by former Humphrey fellows. Also expressed USG best wished for the recovery and health of the Nigerian President.

November 24: Ailing Nigeria President leaves Nigeria for medical treatment in Jeddah.

November 22: Abuja Marine Ball. Hosted a table of fellow Ambassadors and High Commissioners. Gave remarks on my respect for the Corps, their love of country, and that I never forget that detachment members are also the sons and daughters of our great nation. Spoke about my background as a daughter of a military man, and the importance that my parents instilled in me for love of service. Always make sure I stop by the Embassy to say happy birthday to the standard bearer Marine on watch that night.

November 20: MOU with Katsina signed. Had opportunity to sign MOU with the Governor of Katsina to solidify areas of focused outlined in the July 2009 visit. This includes he USG work on education with the University and building university level exchange programs and linkages. Right now looks like Lincoln University will move forward with both a student and teacher exchange program. In addition farmers from Katsina will be involved in the USG Foreign Agricultural Program exchanges, food storage and other programs. Three schools will be refurbished by humanitarian assistance through Africa Command, and help with irrigation and waste incineration.

November 7: Lagos Marine Ball. Hosted a table of friends. My remarks highlighted long relationship between the Marine Corps and the Department of State. Introducted all the members of the detachment and saluted their service and listed their home towns.

Oct 15-17: Finally making my official visit to the headquarters of Africa Command (aka Africom) in Stuttgart, Germany. Was hosted by the 4-star Commander and his components. Great visit, wonderful support for the U.S. Mission in Nigeria from Africa Partnership Stations training, mil-to-mil relationship.

Oct 5-7: At USG Ambassadorial conference called, Chief of Mission Conference in Washington, D.C. -- an opportunity to dialogue with all U.S. Ambassadors assigned to the Africa Continent -- sharing views, dialoging on policy, hearing goals on U.S.-Africa relationship

August 11: U.S. Sectary of State (SecState) Clinton visits Nigeria for 1st time as SecState. Held key bilateral mtgs, announced a Binational Commission with Nigeria, held a one of a kind town hall with key non-government players, fielding great questions from Nigerians on their concern about corruption and good governance. TownHall seen as best practice. For me had the opportunity to greet SecState on arrival, participate in bilats, and host her at the USG official residence with key political leaders, including several former Presidents of Nigeria. She also held an Interfaith Dialogue.

July 15: Took Interagency USG team Katsina as part of our Pilot Engagement with States Program (PES) which seeks to work with states who are doing positive social sector development in health, agriculture, and education. Katsina is the home state of the President of Nigeria. Visited the wonderful University there and my team did a presentation of what they can do to further help the goals and vision of the state. Our humanitarian assistance folks will help with refurbishing schools and clinics, and building waste incinerators for hospitals. On agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Service will expand exchange programs while USAID will look to focus on the health sector.

July 5: Had Birthday gathering with friends in Lagos. Nice day and good food

June 23, 2009: Today was a mix of several emotions as I held my second community-wide town hall meeting, said farewell to a colleague, remembered the life of a fallen member of our local guard force, and sought to provide a friendly venue for members of the expatriate community to come together to have a non-policy night in order to get to know each other better. As for the town hall meeting, it was an opportunity for me to thank the many staff members who are leaving this summer, welcome the newcomers, and highlight in broad terms the vision and focus of the U.S. Mission to Nigeria, and have my management, community liaison, and security officers brief the Mission community on efforts to improve customer service to residential homes, emphasize what is on tap for community activities for the summer, and reinforce the importance of personal security. The latter point on personal security was particularly noteworthy as we would all move after the town hall session to the outside grassy knoll area of the U.S. Embassy Compound to hold a memorial service for a fallen member of our broader community – the guard force – who had been shot and killed on June 11, 2009, in the execution of his duties. During the memorial service with all U.S. Mission community members present, I planted a tree on the grassy knoll after speaking to the guard's assembled family members noting that with every year of growth of the tree, may the life of the fallen guard be remembered. I then presented flowers to his niece who was representing the bereaved widow, followed by a moment of silence. It was a solemn occasion for all.

Later that evening, I hosted the Mission's first International Meet and Greet Reception at the official residence for nearly 200 people from various walks of life in the expatriate community, from NGOs to the private sector to the diplomatic community.

Friday, June 19, 2009

American Citizens Helping the Enugu Community

June 18 late evening: I had the opportunity to meet with a group of great American citizens living in Enugu, including our longest serving American warden. (Wardens help the U.S. Mission keep in touch with all Americans living in a particular community overseas, really providing a contribution to the American people.) . Most of them had attended or worked at a wide range of U.S universities -- from a couple who had taught at Clemson to those who went to the University of Maryland. Their professions ranged from a medical doctor working with our PEPFAR HIV/AIDS program, a retired librarian, and a businessman to a microbiologist and Catholic sister. We made sure that those who were not registered with us registered, and we had a good time. It was an interesting group and we talked about a variety of things including re-establishing an American Corner in Enugu with a Foundation of one of the couples at the gathering, with the possibility of the retired librarian serving as coordinator. We all got so excited we ran off to see the location in the middle of the night. It was great -- a perfect two-story modern building, computer and Wi-Fi ready, right in the center of town between all the Enugu universities. I am already dreaming of commissioning the Corner. Now I just have to convince my librarian. :)

Am Now the Mother of Ebonyi

June 18, 2009 afternoon: Late this afternoon, I was made a Chief today for the fourth time while serving in Nigeria. This time it was in Ebonyi State following my meeting with the Governor of the state, and during my meeting with his dynamic wife and the council of traditional rulers. I am now also Ndeoma of Ebonyi, mother of Ebonyi, in recognition of the support the American people have provided to the state in health. The USG, through USAID and an implementing partner, has provided resources, equipment and training to a clinic that was built and supplied by the First Lady of Ebonyi. I had an opportunity to visit the clinic and see the operating rooms for VVF repair. The First Lady has done a magnificent job as she allows women from other states to benefit from the clinic, and the head (and at one time only) surgeon should be commended for doing nearly 15 VVF surgeries a day. All in all it has been a busy couple of days covering all this while answering emails, clearing thank you letters for those who had participated in the June 9-10 agricultural event, and approving cables back to Washington on top of monitoring events in the Niger Delta. I must say the Blackberry (r) is a wonderful thing.

Trying to Preserve the Uli Cultural Practice

June 16-18, 2009: For the last two days I have been traveling in the southeast states of Enugu and Anambra to the villages of Enugwu-Inyi and Nkwelle-Ogidi to meet with the few traditional practitioners of an Igbo cultural practice called Uli who were being trained under a USG grant by a renowned Igbo professor, artist, and academic, who I consider an Uli activist, to preserve Uli designs through crafts from jewelry to pottery to clothes. I actually bought a set of placemats with Uli designs from CAD, hand painted pottery, and a pair of earrings. Traditionally Uli symbols were painted on the body in place of clothes or on huts (homes) or shrines, but modern times have put pressure to abandon these wonderful ways. I met and had the opportunity to have conversations with the most fantastic women in their 60s-80s who are the last of their kind trying to hold on to the ways of the past that their mothers and grandmothers taught regarding Uli. Although many of them no longer know what the individual Uli symbols mean, except to say that their spirits tell them what to paint, they were all beautiful women (one claimed she was old-age beautiful!), with wonderful spirits and full of life. They all told me they were renewed by the training and the possibility of the economic empowerment that selling crafts would bring them. With this grant, the USG has not only given these women hope, but also helped in transforming their lives. This means a lot and makes me not only pleased that the U.S. Mission is involved in projects like this, but that the giving nature of the American people can be seen through the eyes of these incredible women!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Self-Help Program helps Trains Young Entrepreneurs

June 13 - I had the opportunity to go to a creative self-help activity under the Ambassador's Self-Help Program. It is run by a wonderful young woman who had been a recipient of our International Visitors Leadership Program, better known as the IVLP program. Her project seeks to train unemployed youth in the greater Lagos area, particularly the mainland area of Maryland. Under the Ambassador's Self-Help program we provided resources to assist with the training of 31 unemployed youth for free for three months in the areas of carpentry, fashion design, and food catering. The training center -- called the Foundation for Skills Development -- is a wonderful place that provides employment opportunities for many young Nigerians. In addition, even young people from the neighboring states of Ondo and Ekiti are coming to the Center to learn new skills. Most of the recipients are young women, and I had an opportunity to talk to each and every one of them during my visit (there were about 35 trainees there who had either been trained at the Center before or are currently enrolled). I had a conversation with each trainee and asked how the Center had changed their lives and told them they were leaders in their own right -- just by reaching out and coming to the Center to find a way to provide for themselves and their families. "Economic empowerment and independence," I stressed, "was the first step for anyone to have a better life." One young woman told me how much she was making for food catering and that no one could pay her the salary she was earning now because of the training she received at the Center. This was a great visit as it showed the power and synergy of two USG programs -- the IVLP and the Ambassador's Self-Help program -- where the leadership of the Center's Director and the additional skills she learned during her IVLP visits were brought back to help the development of her nation. The Self-Help Program was a tool she used to further the development of the young people of Nigeria. The Director also started a "Smart Kids" book program, another idea she picked up from her IVLP visit to the U.S., where books are donated to area schools. I had an opportunity to meet many of the kids and teachers involved in the Director's "Smart Kids" program as well. I really enjoyed my visit and meeting not only the wonderful Director, but the marvelous young people at the Center. My hat goes off to the Director, she is great!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Signing A PPP Supporting Fulbright Program

June 12 - This evening the CEO and Managing Director of Bank PHB held a dinner in my honor at the Medici restaurant in downtown Lagos on Victoria Island. The CEO invited his most celebrated clients and friends and it was a lovely evening attend by some 30 people in a lovely resturant. I tend to want these events to have a purpose besides just a good meal and a wonderful atmosphere, so I suggested that we use the evening to formally sign our next Public Private Partnership (PPP) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreement with Bank PHB. This MOU-PPP is the only one the U.S. Mission has with a Nigerian Bank that supports one of our premier education programs -- the Fulbright Program -- where Bank PHB funds one Fulbright Senior Scholar to study in the United States each year. The MOU was originally to be for three years, but during my remarks that evening, I highlighted President Obama's recent speech in Cairo on a new beginning for America. Thus, I suggested on the spot that as part of the President's new beginning and given that his inauguration was in January, 2009, we make the MOU-PPP for fours years to coincide with the inaugural year of the U.S President. This got a bit of a laugh by the esteemed group, and by the time I got back to my seat next to the PHB CEO he agreed to extend the MOU to four years. Now we can fund four instead of three Nigerian Senior Fulbrighters with the support of Bank PHB. We signed the MOU following my remarks and penned in the changes. It was a good night for the U.S. Mission, Bank PHB, and education in Nigeria!!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

AISA's First Senior Graduation Class

June 8: This evening I had the honor to be the keynote speaker for the first-ever graduation class -- all four of them! -- of the American International School of Abuja (AISA). It was a wonderful event. I highlighted for the grads that because of their time at AISA, and at the mid point of the 21st Century, they are global citizens, and as the next generation of leaders, they need to be humble, provide service to their nation and community, and think globally as they act locally.

Successful Agriculture Event with BOI

June 9-10: Over the last two days I chaired along with the Nigerian Bank of Industry T(BOI) Managing Director a joint U.S. Mission-BOI agricultural event where six USG agencies provided their expertise to help the Nigerian agriculture sector develop by providing information on access to financing, offering technical assistance on agro-processing, food labeling, and how to scale up exports using AGOA. Six of the 14 Nigerian bank that are partners on either EXIM or the Foreign Agricultural Service's (FAS) financing facilities also sponsored the practical two-day event where over 400 people attended. The financing and capital equipment segments were moderated by my staff assistant, Rob Anderson, while the interactive food labeling sessions were handled by a superb FAS consultant from Portland. The event received first class media coverage and I believe a good and productive time was had by all participants. We certainly moved U.S. policy forward over these last two days on agricultural development and AGOA.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Key Leaders Discuss President's Cairo Speech

June 4 – I was able to host today a substantive roundtable with key leaders at the U.S. Mission to Nigeria on President Obama's first major policy speech on the African Continent from Cairo, Egypt. We watched the speech together and had a lively discussion – Situation Room Style – following the speech, with a variety of views and takeaways as to the messages in the speech. The universal take away by many not only highlighted the President's "extraordinary delivery" of the speech but the content of the speech and its seven key points, not only were for the "Muslim world, but for the whole world," many said, adding that "what he said was applicable to Nigeria and that it was important for us all to work together to achieve these goals as brothers and sisters in humankind.” They all applauded the desire of America to have a "new beginning" with Islam and the global community. One participant noted that the President's speech "will go down as a defining moment in policy speeches and possibly one of the greatest speeches in history." I agree.

Related Story: Ambassador Sanders Takes Reactions on President Obama's Speech in Cairo

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Joining General Powell in a Democracy Event

June 3: I spent the morning with the renowned global citizen and former Secretary of State - General Colin Powell - in a breakfast session organized by Tell Magazine to explore Nigeria's ten years of uninterrupted democracy. This followed an afternoon session of both formal presentation on Nigeria's democratic experiences by General Powell, former Nigerian Head of State Gowan, the current Nigeria Vice President, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. For me the most interesting points that General Powell made is the importance of a government being of the people and by the people, and that Nigeria's democracy, and any democracy, had to include the voices of all -- including civil society and the press --to truly be representative of the people.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

U.S. Company Lands Hallamrk Agreement

May 28: Was a great day for U.S.-Nigeria relations as a U.S. Company signed the first-ever company-to-country agreement in Sub-Saharan Africa with Nigeria. I was proud to be there with the VP of the U.S. Company and with the President of Nigeria, along with my staff members Bob and Carolyn as we all worked hard to make this happen over the last year. I look forward to more U.S. companies believing in Nigeria as a place to invest and build strong ties.