As prepared for delivery
Good evening! My name is David Greene, I am the Chargé d’Affaires or Acting Ambassador at the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria. I am pleased to welcome everyone tonight.
You all – the 80 alumni assembled here tonight – are some of our most active, and I am happy to join you after what I hope has been a productive conference. I am so glad we have representatives from all 36 states here today. And I am especially gratified that this is once again a national alumni conference – the first since 2018 – that is exactly what we mean by “Leading Together: Bridging Boundaries for Change.”
I’d like to read out all of the programs represented here tonight. It is a long list, but it shows the incredible extent of our exchanges.
We have alumni here from: American Music Abroad, the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs, the Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative, the Community Engagement Exchange, the Fulbright Program, the Global Sports Mentoring Program, the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship, the Iowa Writing Program, the International Visitor Leadership Program, the Kennedy Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (better known as YES) Program, the Mandela Washington Fellowship, the Pan African Youth Leadership Program, TechGirls, TechWomen, and the Young African Leaders Initiative Regional Leadership Center. Quite a list! And if somehow we have missed naming your program, please let us know!
Let’s think for a moment how you all got here. Each year, the U.S. Mission selects outstanding Nigerians for these programs., We are proud of the efforts we have made in recruiting some of Nigeria’s best over the years. Nigeria now has over 12,000 alumni, working in different sectors – from academia to government to civil society NGOs to Tech to music and other arts.
And now let’s think for a moment about the impact you have made. Alumni have made a profound impact in strengthening relations between our two nations, our citizens, and our cultures. There are too many examples to list, but I did want to highlight a few:
First, the founder of an organization that shares our embassy’s goal to promote democracy and transparent government. Samson Itodo founded Yiaga Africa, an influential NGO dedicated to advancing democracy across the continent. Samson’s commitment to getting young people involved in politics led him to develop the #NotTooYoungToRun campaign – a groundbreaking initiative that played a pivotal role in effecting a reduction in the age threshold for running for elective office in Nigeria.
Indeed, one of the alumni here today is Sanusi Ohiare, who exemplifies what #NotTooYoungToRun is all about: Sanusi is a dynamic young leader who aimed to bring fresh ideas and energy to Kogi State by running for governor. His courage, leadership, and dedication to public service exemplify the values we admire in our alumni.
Another area in which our alumni are constantly making an impact is in the arts and culture. Nike Davies-Okundaye (better known as “Mama Nike”) is the founder of the Nike art galleries in Lagos and Abuja. She never tires of describing her IVLP experience and the impact of her time in the United States. Mama Nike is not here today, but she knows how much our embassy and consulate general staff love to visit her galleries. And, over the years, some of our most senior Washington colleagues have purchased beautiful Nike pieces to display in their homes. To me, that is a great example of what cultural exchange is about.
Finally, let’s think about the goals of this conference: The primary one of course was to create a national alumni association. We think that our alumni can accomplish the most when they work together in a unified way, Nigeria-wide.
Moreover, a national association will simplify the process for us in the embassy to grant financial support to alumni projects. We have already seen the impact you can make, and we think the national model is the best way for us to maximize our collaboration.
So, what comes next? I defer to you on that, but for now I would love to hear from you tonight – about your activities, the challenges you face, the areas where you’ve collaborated with my team, and the ways your exchange experience has improved you personally or professionally. I honestly love learning about your efforts. And of course we love highlighting successful alumni on our social media and we will continue to do that.
With that, I will close with a big thank you to taking time out of your busy schedules to work on advancing the U.S.-Nigeria bilateral relationship. Thank you!