Nigeria has a lot to celebrate, says U.S. envoy

US-johnnie-carsonUnited States Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, said yesterday that Nigeria has a lot to celebrate, as the government rolls out the drums to herald the Golden Jubilee of the country’s independence.

Mr Carson, who arrives Abuja tomorrow at the head of a delegation from the U.S. government, spoke yesterday during a telephone conference from Washington with select Nigerian journalists in Abuja and Lagos.

According to the envoy, who said he would be accompanied on the trip by the Head, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Rajiv Shah, and the Executive Director, African Development Banks (ADB), Walter Jones, said he does not share the opinion that the country has nothing to celebrate.

He said: “Let me say that Nigeria has a lot to celebrate. Nigeria is not only the largest in Africa, but it comprises 36 states, that, in the last 50 years, have gone through a serious turbulent political history, in which a major civil war was fought between 1969 and 1971. The country not only came out of that united and stronger, but also worked its way back from successive military leaders into the democratic space it is presently.

“Equally, it has been a major contributor to the economic health and vitality of the West African sub-region; a major contributor to the world oil exploration and production that services the world’s major reservoirs as well as major contributor to the stability of crisis-torn areas, like Sierra Leone and Dafur.

Reasons to celebrate

These are all things that Nigeria should be proud to celebrate.

“The country should be proud of its contributions to arts and education in the society. Nigeria has some of the world’s greatest writers, who have been recognized by Nobel with prizes. We hope that the traumatic periods of the civil war and military leadership would be relegated to history for ever and a foundation on which Nigeria will build a much more successful society would be formed. It is important to look forward to have a vision of a future, which more democracy and economic opportunities as well as greater advantages for the entire citizenry.” He described the decision of the Obama administration to join in the celebrations was a reflection of the importance it attaches to the U.S.’ relationship with Nigeria, pointing out that the country is regarded as not only one of two or three most important partners in the continent, but also as the largest regional economy and most dynamic in commercial and business in West Africa.

On the importance of the 2011 elections, the envoy said it is not only extremely important to the people, as it would provide the opportunity to cast their votes for candidates of their choice, but also for Nigeria to solidify her commitment to democracy.

He said the desire of the U.S. government is to see that the forthcoming elections are free, fair, transparent and reflect the aspirations and will of the people, adding that as Africa’s largest democracy, the success of the exercise could be enormous paradigm shift and a signal to the world that Nigeria is firmly committed to democratic principles, where the democratic institutions are growing stronger and its commitment to democracy is growing deeper.

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