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Ambassador Leonard’s Welcome Remarks – Vice-Presidential Candidate Forum with the American Business Council
Friday, December 2, 2022 Residence of U.S. Consul General, Lagos
December 2, 2022

Good evening, everyone.  Thank you for being here at Consul General Will Stevens’s residence in Lagos.  Thank you, Will, for opening this lovely space tonight to share ideas and allow us to talk just a little about Nigeria’s future and about the future of U.S.-Nigerian relations.

What an exciting time to be here!  I cannot thank the political campaigns enough for finding time for the American business community to hear directly from you regarding the opportunities and challenges facing Nigeria.  We are so proud to partner with the Nigerian government in finding those opportunities, overcoming those challenges, as we seek to expand the security and prosperity of our peoples together.

I should also thank the American Business Council for your partnership and entrepreneurial spirit.  Your leadership in finding opportunities to expand bilateral trade and investment is simply stunning, and a demonstration that the U.S.-Nigerian partnership is about so much more than government-to-government ties.  The private sector ties that bind us are so very important for us to enable Americans and Nigerians alike to thrive despite current economic challenges.

In Nigeria, the challenges take many forms: from significant poverty and low energy production to high inflation and foreign exchange conundrums, the issues confronting the next government of Nigeria will require quick thinking and quick action.  The incoming government will need to adopt policies that can stabilize the economy in a way that can strengthen Nigeria’s “brand” as a destination for investment and trade.  One thing I do know:  You can count on the American government as a partner in the process of seeking solutions!  And I also know you can count on this dynamic group of U.S. businesses to share their experiences, aspirations, and honest assessments of key constraints.

Let me raise another important point.  Since we are in the middle of a presidential election campaign, I want to emphasize something I have said many times and is worth repeating:  the U.S. government does not play favorites in elections.  Our top interest in this election is that Nigeria be able to conduct free, fair, transparent, peaceful, and credible elections that reflect the will of the Nigerian people.  We are partners to INEC in that process, and we know that the Electoral Act of 2022 has paved the way for the freest and fairest election in the country’s history.  As in previous elections, based on concerns all of us in this room share for an orderly and peaceful result, we will not hesitate to deploy measures such as visa sanctions against those who would work against that goal.

Rest assured:  whomever the Nigerian people select as their next leaders will find an excellent partner in the United States.  We can and will work with the one of you selected as the country’s next vice president.  We can and will continue our bilateral and multilateral efforts to expand security, economic opportunity, and freedom for the Nigerian and American people.

Well, I know you did not come here to hear from me. And so I close as I began, with a thank you.  Thank you for being here.  Thank you for all you do to strengthen U.S.-Nigerian relations.  Thank you for all you do to expand prosperity for Americans and Nigerians.  I really look forward to the discussion this evening!