Meet and Greet With Embassy Personnel and Their Families

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Abuja, Nigeria
August 12, 2009

AMBASSADOR SANDERS: Good afternoon, team Nigeria.

EMBASSY PERSONNEL: Good afternoon.

AMBASSADOR SANDERS: It is my distinct pleasure to welcome the Secretary of State of the United States of America, Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Applause.) Welcome, Madame Secretary, to the home of the American people here in Nigeria. Madame Secretary, we are 960 members strong, American direct-hire, locally engaged staff, with our three dynamic summer interns that are right there in front of us, Michael, Wesley, and Taylour. We represent eight U.S. Government agencies in Abuja and Lagos, all working to support your framework on democracy and development to advance the U.S.-Nigeria bilateral relationship.

We are far from home, but we are very close as a community, representing the values and the principles that define America wherever we are. We here all believe that Nigeria is one of the most important countries on the continent for the United States. And we as team Nigeria, as we call ourselves, have been actively working on programs aimed at advancing your goal. It takes a team, Madame Secretary, to run the U.S. mission in Nigeria, and you have a superb team here that works very hard every day to make you proud.

Therefore, Madame Secretary, I would like to invite you to the podium to personally meet and welcome the Embassy staff and their family members, team Nigeria. Can I get a big team Nigeria welcome for the Secretary? (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: It is so great to be here with all of you. And I thank the ambassador for that warm introduction of me to team Nigeria. I am delighted to see all of you. I know how hard you work and what an essential post this is. And I want to be sure to pass on my greetings and appreciation to our team in Lagos as well.

The ambassador is absolutely right. Nigeria is one of the most important countries to the United States. It is a leader in Africa and it is a country that we want to deepen and broaden our relationship with going forward. I had some very productive and constructive meetings earlier today with government officials, of course with the foreign minister, but with others as well.

We just finished a meeting at the ambassador’s residence with former presidents, a former chief justice, a former president of the senate, talking about the challenges facing Nigeria. I’ve given the same message everywhere I’ve gone, that we think the best days of Nigeria can be ahead of this country. It has so much potential, unlimited promise. But there has to be a recognition of the challenges that stand in the way to Nigeria realizing that potential and promise. And so we have offered our assistance, and through you who provide support and assistance to our mission here every single day.

The foreign minister and I agreed to set up a bi-national commission so that we could pursue our discussions in-depth on all of the areas that we should be cooperating on and the support we can give to Nigeria to build up government capacity to take on corruption, to be more transparent and accountable, to deal with security issues in the Gulf of Guinea and the Niger Delta. So it’s an exciting time for me to be here, and I am looking forward to following up on this trip.

But I wanted to just say a few words of thanks to all of you and to congratulate you for the work you’ve done with PEPFAR, helping Nigeria confront the HIV/AIDS epidemic, working on election monitoring. And we’ve emphasized with the Nigerian Government they must have an election reform and an electoral commission so that the next election really works and has credibility and legitimacy for the people of this country.

We know that this team represents a lot of interagency cooperation, which is a model. But I think ultimately, as I have said throughout my trip in Africa, echoing the words of President Obama in Ghana, the future of Africa is up to the Africans. The future of Nigeria is up to the Nigerians. I would not be here if I did not believe that future could be positive, if I did not believe that we could, working together, realize the goals of development, electricity generation, food security, road construction, education, and health care that the Nigerian people are seeking and deserve.

So we view this relationship as very, very important, and I view you as our extension of our U.S. Government. I thank all of our Foreign Service officers, our Civil Service, our agency representatives from across our government, and particularly our locally engaged staff, without whom we could not run this mission or any other.

I also know, because I have traveled extensively on behalf of our country now for about 17 years, that when a visitor like me comes, it imposes extra work on all of you. In addition to having to do everything you do every day, then you’ve got to worry about my schedule and my delegation and all of the challenges that go into making up such a visit. Well, I think it’s a very successful visit. It’s about halfway through. We have more to do this afternoon and tonight, but I am very grateful for everything that you did to make it so successful.

But there is a custom, I understand – I’ve seen it in practice – that when finally tomorrow morning you see me take off – (laughter) – heading to be somebody else’s responsibility – in this case, Liberia – that you have earned a wheels-up party. (Laughter.) And I think that that certainly is the case, because this has been early on in the Administration a real goal that the President and I share. So I thank you so much for everything you’re doing, and I want to tell you how proud I am to be your Secretary of State and to work with you on behalf of a stronger, deeper relationship between the United States and Nigeria.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

PRN: 2009/T11-44