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On the eve of my return to base after the successful US Trade Delegation to Nigeria on Infrastructure PROF. ADE ADEFUYEDevelopment, I had cause to respond to media reports on the purported souring of relations between Nigeria and the United States.  I thought that my explanation would satisfy our friends in the media that the Alamieyeseigha issue is not enough to weaken the bonds between the two countries.  While in Nigeria, I made contacts with US authorities.  And this morning, I discussed with the relevant authorities on the reaction of the host government to the Alamieyeseigha issue.  I am pleased to report that there has been nothing beyond the statement made by the American Embassy in Abuja and that the relations between the two countries remain as they have always been since 2010.  I was therefore surprised to read in some of our media that Bill Gates has cancelled his planned trip to Nigeria and that Nigeria has been excluded from the list of four African Heads of State invited for a meeting with President Obama.

To ascribe the Alamieyeseigha factor as the reason for Bill Gates’ cancellation of his trip to Nigeria to further his campaign against polio, malaria and other diseases is to demonstrate an acute lack of understanding of the motives behind Bill Gates’ activities in Africa.  Here is a philanthropist who had decided to reduce poverty and diseases in the third world.  His passion in these areas is unparalleled.  Bill Gates is not completely apolitical.  He will obviously applaud good governance, respect for rule of law, justice and fair play.  But to imagine that he would cancel a trip designed to carry out the fight against the deadly diseases because of a dispute over the exercise of the prerogative of mercy which is provided for in the constitution, is to underestimate the extent of Bill Gates’ personal commitment to the humanitarian cause which he has voluntarily chosen to champion.  For starters, the State Department was not initially aware of planned travel by Bill Gates and its alleged subsequent cancellation. Suggestions that it was because of the Alamieyeseigha’s issue was flatly denied.  Contacts with Bill Gates’ office revealed a postponement of the trip because of a clash of schedules of officials and not a cancellation.

The visit of the Presidents Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, Macky Sall of Senegal, Joyce Banda of Malawi and Prime Minister José Maria Pereira Neves of Cape Verde to President Obama had been planned and agreed months ago.  The four countries have one thing in common – they had just concluded elections and processes involving smooth transfer of power – all these happened within the last four months.  In the case of Cape Verde and Senegal, it involved defeat of the ruling party.  It will be recalled that when President Goodluck Jonathan won the election in 2011, and before he constituted his cabinet, he was received at the White House by President Obama.  It was then the commitment to visit Nigeria was made.   American officials insist that the commitment will be honoured.

On July 29, 2011, President Obama received at the White House the Presidents of Benin, Niger, Guinea, and Ivory Coast.  The Presidents now being received in a group by President Obama and those received last year also in a group, are all participants and members of the American Government established Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).  Created by the U.S. Congress in January 2004 with strong bipartisan support, MCC is a prime example of smart U.S. Government assistance in action, benefitting both developing countries and U.S. taxpayers through competitive selection, country-led solutions and country-led implementation.  MCC forms partnership with some of the world’s poorest countries but which are committed to good governance, economic freedom and investments in their citizens. MCC provides these well-performing countries with large-scale grants to fund country-led solutions for reducing poverty through sustainable economic growth.  MCC grants complement other U.S. and international development programmes.

Among members of the MCC are Albania, Armenia, El Salvador, Georgia, Guyana, Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova and Mongolia.  In Africa the members, among others, are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Malawi and Liberia.  All the four African Presidents invited to see Obama belong to the MCC group and the discussions are likely to centre on MCC projects and other issues.  Nigeria is not a member of MCC and was never in consideration for the meeting.    Furthermore, the announcement of the pardon to Alamieyeseigha was made three days after the official White House announcement of the visit of the four African Presidents.

We are continuing discussions on the exchange of visits by the two Presidents.  And we are hopeful that the promise made by President Obama to visit Nigeria will be fulfilled.

Thursday, March 21,  2013


Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United States

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