Statement by Outgoing Nigerian Ambassador Obi-Nnadozie

15 January 2016, 12:24 pm Written by  H. E. Ambassador Chigozie F. Obi-Nnadozie
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[Protocol] Your Excellency, Madam President; Let me begin by thanking you for the rare honour and the great privilege of witnessing the very kind sentiments expressed on this special occasion in relation

to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, referencing both the government and people of Nigeria.  In choosing this venue, the Cecil Dennis Auditorium loaded with its great historic and symbolic value; the enunciations today have taken on added significance.  The endearing expressions from this great land of pioneers and visionaries naturally rub off on me as the principal representative of two Presidents of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in Liberia in the last three and a half years.  I am, therefore truly humbled to be here this evening in your presence and being appreciated and honoured by you, Madam President, a universally acclaimed phenomenal giant of our time.

The characteristic generosity of the Liberian national spirit that is also manifested in its endowments as a historically strong vanguard Africanist force, are eloquently personified in no less a persona than President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.  Because of you, Madam President, your very warm reception of me as the first female Nigerian Ambassador to Liberia, and your untiring engagements, the overall interactions between my dear country Nigeria and my now adopted home Liberia, have been elevated to a higher pedestal.  These have impacted sub-regional and Africa’s global vision all because of the sterling leadership and the quality of bilateral engagements that have been fostered between Aso Villa, the seat of the Federal Government of Nigeria, and the Executive Mansion on Capitol Hill. I have been naturally enthused by my historic responsibility as the humble human accessory to advance the worthy cause of the further strengthening of the bilateral relations of our two great countries in the period under reference.

The relationship between the Government and people of the Republic of Liberia, the oldest on the continent, and the people and Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the most populous on the continent, defies traditional or conventional institutional definitions. Their essences cannot be measured in two dimensional appreciations such as in terms of trade or political interactions as traditional observers are wont to do.  In my sojourn here, I have discovered the very deep roots of our filial affinities that go back to even the early decades of Liberia’s emergence as a sovereign State.  I have come to the realization that between the Republic of Liberia and the Federal Republic of Nigeria, formalities and protocols are just what they are.  The early appreciation of this concrete reality has been the axiomatic underpinning of my conduct, both in formal circumstances and also in less formal situations.  This has meant that the umbilical cord that ties us together as a people could not and should not be expressed in mere statistics.  Protocols then have not mattered so much.  The outcome has been the often spontaneous flurry of consultations on burning bilateral, sub-regional and continental issues between Aso Villa and the Executive Mansion.       

Your Excellency, the foregoing notwithstanding, we have pursued some traditional indicators of strong relations.  Although we have not reached the expected level of cooperation in certain anticipated areas of our relations, I am excitedly expectant of what should and will accrue from the formalization of our interface through the Nigeria-Liberia Joint Commission which was successfully inaugurated in Abuja during my tenure

The immense potential of our bilateral relations is represented by the beginnings of large scale joint ventures that I consider only pilot at this stage.  They signal the path of our common future as neighbors in a global system that is very much skewed against us.  Liberia’s agricultural potential is immense.  Nigeria has a huge market for agricultural products.  We are also endowed with a vibrant community of captains of industry that stands ready to invest in Liberia.  I am glad that buoyed by the very engaged enthusiasm of Madam President, and under my humble watch, we began to explore these potentials for enhanced collaboration.  I am confident that as we (Nigeria and Liberia) progress and begin to refine our experiences based on lessons emerging from this pilot stage, our economic relations would grow exponentially.

To oil this important dimension of our relations, the Federal Government has encouraged the private sector in Nigeria to explore opportunities to become catalysts of sub-regional integration.  Nigeria based airlines such as Arik Airlines, have become a predictable feature of the skies over the sub-region, including Liberia. Negotiations are on-going for a second airline, MedView, to provide an alternative and a further option to strengthen the air bridge between Nigeria and Liberia.  The crucial role of operations of these airlines to the survival of the many small scale businesses that traverse between our two countries cannot be overemphasized.  They constitute the vanguard of the informal integrative structures that cement our relations on a daily basis.

It is in this context that I would like to pay tribute to the memory of late General Suraj Abdulrahman, former Commanding Officer-in-Charge of the Armed Forces of Liberia, who has come to personify and symbolize the muscular texture of the bonds between the peoples of our two countries.  It goes well beyond the symbolic that in the aftermath of the tragedy of the destructive fraternal conflict in Liberia, the choice of interim leadership for the newly restructured Armed Forces of Liberia was conferred on Nigerian Generals. A nation’s military is responsible for the protection of its sovereignty.  The leadership of such an institution is not lightly conferred and its conferment is a major statement on the perception of the trust and integrity of the individual incumbent and of the State that offers his services.  Between States, it is an expression of the utmost confidence and credibility reposed in the sending State. 

Yet, in our fraternal relations the intangibles can be as more salient, more relevant, than the tangibles expressed in cold statistical numerals.  As important as trade figures are, and we cannot but continue to strive to build our bilateral trade and construct sub-regional platforms to transcend artificial impediments to trade; our ties are written in the pangs and pains that we together endure in our daily struggles that define our common humanity as one people. 

In the course of enjoying the privilege of your warm hospitality, in these past months, our two countries have braved challenges of nature culminating in a crisis that tested the character of our historic relationship.  In meeting this challenge, I can recall here the strenuous but seamless collaboration of Liberians and Nigerians acting in their individual capacities, as civil society groups in direct people to people links, institutions and our governments together marching arm in arm to defeat Ebola.  Individuals rose to the challenge.  In this connection, allow me Madam President, to salute the philanthropy of Nigeria’s Aliko Dangote and Tony Elumelu among others, who both through the instrumentality of the Africa Union and individually, funded efforts and donated items for the eradication of the Ebola Virus Disease in the sub-region and particularly in Liberia.  Armies of young goodwill healthcare volunteers were mobilized in Nigeria and deployed in Liberia to join the gallant fight against that scourge.

It is then a cardinal point when I assert that I soon realized in reporting to my principal, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, irrespective of whoever or the political hue of the incumbent of that office; that what touches Liberia instinctively touches Nigeria.  That is a profound point that must be registered today.  So, not even the horror of Ebola could undo the resilience of our historic fraternity.  In the final analysis, we again triumphed together and strengthened the foundations underpinning our togetherness as a people.  That explains why the Embassy converted its 2014 Independence Day celebration into a joint prayer rally for Nigeria and Liberia.  It was then very heartwarming as Liberians also expressed solidarity with Nigeria as we also battled the potential threat of the spread of Ebola and the evil of Boko Haram.

Further, in terms of people to people engagement, I want to note the important role of Nigeria’s Technical Aid Corps programme, under which auspices young Nigerians are deployed as instruments of constructive engagement in developmental processes across the black world.  I am happy that Liberia has continued to benefit from this programme.  During my tour, Liberia has been a recipient of two sets of Nigerian Technical Aid volunteers deployed to fill gaps in educational institutions. The current batch of TAC deployments consist of twenty seven volunteers, mainly mathematics and science teachers.  We are working to secure the deployment of a further group of volunteer healthcare practitioners, including doctors, to strengthen health service delivery in rural Liberia, as soon as their documentation is completed.  It is critical that these young Nigerians always serve in Counties where their services are pivotal in sustaining the integrity of institutions where they serve.  Their deployment in rural communities is consistent with the spirit of the plans of the Government of Liberia to de-concentrate service delivery away from Monrovia.

Nigeria stands ready to collaborate in the concretization of the de-concentration policy that may be central to the legacy of this Administration.  Having devolved powers and governance structures and institutions from three regions in the 1960s to the current 36-State structure, Nigeria has acquired significant expertise in managing the practical challenges of decentralization and administrative de-concentration that could be shared with Liberia.

Guided by the same people-to-people relations, the Embassy under my direction and working in concert with some like-minded Nigerians in Liberia, instituted a relationship with an orphanage here in Monrovia.  This has implied the renovation or rehabilitation of facilities in this orphanage and the provision of some essentials of life for the orphans. 

It is for these reasons that I have considered myself, as Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the Republic of Liberia, a beneficiary of a historic privilege that was afforded me by my President His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari and his predecessor in office, His Excellency Goodluck Jonathan, and that has also been expressed in the very special and unique placement that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has offered me.  As a direct result, the tasks of contributing to the strengthening of the formal side of our relations were made much easier.  But, more importantly has been the strengthened commitment of Liberians and Nigerians to our common challenges as a people and the determination to strengthen the bonds between us as the inevitable way forward in the search for holistic emancipation of ourselves and of Africa as a whole.

That in essence has been the great vision that has directed my humble engagements as the principal Envoy of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to this great land of liberty.  It is against this background that I want to express my most sincere gratitude to everyone here today and also to those who could not be here.  This begins from Madam President cascading to all members of her very able and motivated government who have been very supportive; to my colleagues in the diplomatic corps, directed by our gentle Doyen, Ambassador Dore of the Republic of Guinea, many of whom have now become my friends forever.

This would be incomplete without the expression of my heartfelt thanks to my extended authentic family of Liberians flung across the length and breadth of this national territory.  I also salute my Nigerian brothers and sisters including our military personnel here in Liberia, Nigerian businesses operating and contributing to the economic development of Liberia.  My gratitude also goes to my very capable staff in the Embassy who contributed in no small measure to all the successes I recorded.  I love you all and will miss you all.

Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria, long live the Republic of Liberia.

Madam President, I thank you.

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