Remarks in Abuja, Nigeria

Antony J. Blinken
Deputy Secretary of State
U.S. Embassy Abuja
Abuja, Nigeria
July 9, 2015

Thank you very much, and good morning to everyone.

I’m very pleased to be with you today in Abuja, and I want to thank the Nigerian government and the people of Nigeria for a very warm welcome.

As noted, I am joined by the Ambassador of the United States to Nigeria Jim Entwistle and the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Together with senior colleagues from the Department of Defense, Treasury Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, we had a very productive series of meetings with President Buhari, Vice President Osinbajo and the permanent secretaries of the departments; with State governors; and with a broad cross section of civil society.

In a practical sense, our presence here this week is to help prepare for President Buhari’s visit to Washington on July 20. But it also reflects the commitment of President Obama and the United States to strengthening the partnership between the United States and Nigeria and to advance a more secure, prosperous, and peaceful future for all of Nigeria’s citizens.

The partnership we are forging is based on mutual interests and mutual respect. And it is grounded in the proposition that our relationship is defined not by what the United States can do for Nigeria, but rather what the United States can do with Nigeria.

Nigeria’s historic elections and peaceful transfer of power sent a powerful message to the region, to the continent and indeed to the world that leaders are accountable to their people. We are proud to stand alongside the new government as it works to turn the promise of this moment into real progress for all the citizens of Nigeria.

Indeed, we know that democracy is more – much more -- than an election. It is the hard, painstaking work every day to build accountable, transparent institutions, a vibrant civil society, open political space, and a strong commitment to the rule-of-law. It requires those elected by the people to forge a government that reflects the values, advances the interests and protects the rights of all the citizens of the country.

In our meeting with President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo we focused on the President’s priorities for Nigeria, his plans to address them -- and how the United States can help. In particular we discussed practical ways to strengthen security – which is threatened by Boko Haram’s horrific acts of terror and violence – to develop the economy, to combat corruption and to make government more effective and transparent. .

The United States strongly condemns the recent attacks that have taken hundreds of lives—in some cases within the sanctuaries of churches and mosques — and our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who were murdered during this deeply painful time.

Defeating Boko Haram requires a comprehensive approach that involves the region and includes not only a strong military response, but also sustainable security for liberated areas, good governance, development, and opportunity for the civilian population. It also requires a strong commitment to human rights, the absence of which only alienates the people and drives them toward Boko Haram. As Nigeria develops this comprehensive approach, the United States will deepen our support.

We also had a very productive meeting with a number of Nigeria’s governors. Like the United States, Nigeria has a strong federal system with enormous responsibility vested with governors and state governments. We discussed the challenges they face and the importance of their leadership in setting the entire nation on the right course. And there was a very interesting emphasis, besides security, on questions of education, health care, different industries like agriculture and building strong value chains along the entire line of production.

We seek to engage all segments of Nigerian society and those that represent them. So we met with a dynamic group of civil society leaders, as well as members of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative, who are helping strengthen the foundation of democracy in Nigeria.

As the government makes transparency and anti-corruption a priority, there is a vital and unique role for citizens and civil society to play. They help develop solutions to problems that government alone cannot. They, together with other groups, community groups, NGOs, labor unions, charities, faith-based organizations, professional associations, and foundations drive innovation and spark new ideas that government can bring to a larger scale.

Just as important, they provide peaceful avenues to advance interests and express their convictions. And that is the best guarantor of progress and stability.

The hard challenges of this moment are matched by its promise – when Nigeria can advance important security, economic and governance reforms that will help unlock its vast potential as a regional and indeed global leader.

We look forward to welcoming President Buhari to Washington in just a week and a half as we continue to deepen a relationship that reflects the enduring commitment of the United States to Nigeria and its people.

Thank you.