Interview With Umar Said Tudun Wada of Radio Freedom Kano

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

QUESTION: You just had a meeting with some religious leaders, and I want to know the message you brought to them.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I was very honored to meet today with a significant group of Muslim and Christian leaders from here in Nigeria. And I listened to each one very carefully talk about the challenges that they were facing and what they were attempting to do. I think there were three messages: one, the need for interfaith dialogue at all levels of society. As one of the Muslim women who runs an active group for Muslim women said, when she was growing up she lived with Christians, she lived with Muslims, everyone got along in Nigeria. They don’t want that to change. They want to keep the dialogue. There was an imam and a Christian pastor who worked together in interfaith work, and the Christian pastor said I grew up and I didn’t like Muslims at all, and then I had a change of heart and a change of mind, and now we’re working together. So it was very moving because there needs to be a lot of understanding and dialogue.

Secondly, the work they’re doing on development that runs from feeding the poor to running schools and madrasas to trying to find employment for people, really giving to the poor. In both faiths you are called upon to give to the poor, and they need help to do that. And they are seeking to figure out ways that they could get more people involved, and supporting (inaudible) from my government for the development work.

And finally, a concern that their – that the government doesn’t listen to them, that they want to be at the table with the Nigerian Government to talk about these issues and to work together. So it was a very impressive group and a lot of very insightful ideas were offered.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) thinking of a new way the United States can help (inaudible) in alleviating some of the problems (inaudible).

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, one of the people there was an imam whose school the United States helped support, along with others. Another person there was a Catholic woman whose program is helped by the United States. We can help to some extent, but of course, we can’t be everywhere and we can’t help everyone. It’s important that the people of Nigeria have a government that they believe will help them, will deliver services to them. And the faith community and civil society and the government and the private sector should all be working together for the betterment of the Nigerian people.

QUESTION: America is a melting pot of different religions, traditions, cultures from (inaudible) all parts of the world. Yet there is peace, there is stability. Is there any lesson people in Nigeria and Africa can learn from the experiences of America?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that’s a wonderful question. I mean, we are an old democracy; Nigeria is a young democracy. We had many problems along the way trying to improve our democracy. But what we believe is that you must have free, fair, credible elections. You must have an independent judiciary, a free press with many different voices protecting minority rights, a parliament that holds the executive department accountable, strong laws to punish financial corruption and abuse of power. Those are the ingredients that then give people in our country, even if they disagree with how an election came out, the belief that everything will turn out okay, that the institutions will do what’s right. And we argue all the time in America. You see us on TV. We’re always arguing.

But I ran for office against President Obama. I lost, then I supported him because I thought it was the best thing for the country. Then when he won, he asked me to become the Secretary of State. I think we understand there’s a difference between politics and governing, that we will be judged ultimately by whether we produce positive results for people. So if our example can be of help, we offer it gladly, as well as our hand in friendship and partnership. And President Obama, who considers himself a son of Africa as well as a son of America, wants very much to see Africa succeed. And I’m here with that message of both hope and responsibility.

QUESTION: Finally, Madame Secretary, from the way the Muslims and Christians (inaudible) dialogue and talked together with you, and at the town hall meeting, did you see any chance of Nigerians forging together in peace?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Absolutely. In fact, I think Nigerians are. I mean, the challenges in Nigeria today are relatively minor. It is regrettable that any extremist group or militia group or criminal group disrupts the peace, causes loss of life and property loss and the things that happen, unfortunately. But certainly from my meeting with the religious leaders, I am convinced that Nigeria can set an example for the rest of the world. A half-Muslim, half-Christian nation is a standing symbol of how we must get along. And it is my hope and my prayer that the Nigerian religious leaders and Nigerian political and economic leaders will all work together for the betterment of the people of this great country.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Secretary. Freedom Radio is highly honored to have you, and we thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, sir. It has been my honor.

PARTICIPANT: That has been an exclusive interview granted to Freedom Radio by U.S. Secretary of State Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Mrs. Clinton started (inaudible) Sub-Saharan African (inaudible) economic cooperation forum in Nairobi, Kenya. The Secretary of State continued her trip to South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Liberia, and Cape Verde. This visits highlights the Obama Administration’s commitment to making Africa a priority in U.S. foreign policy. On behalf of the entire management of Freedom Radio 99.5 FM, the group manager Umar Said Tudun Wada, who conducted the interview, the program producer (inaudible), saying God bless Nigeria and God bless the United States of America. Thank you.

PRN: 2009/T11-54