Good evening everyone. It is truly a pleasure to welcome such a distinguished gathering of friends and colleagues to the Embassy. For those whom I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting, I am David Greene, the Chargé d’Affaires of the United States’ Mission in Nigeria, and I want to thank you all for joining us this evening to celebrate the 247th birthday of the United States of America. After a long wait thanks to COVID, I am honored to welcome you, on behalf of the entire Mission, to our first in-person Independence Day event since 2019!
Before I begin my brief remarks, I’d like to recognize some of our distinguished guests:
- Senate President His Excellency Senator Dr. Godswill Akpabio;
- the Deputy Speaker of the House the Honorable Benjamin Kalu;
- the Head of the Foreign Ministry’s International Organizations Department Ambassador Samson Itegboje;
- and all Governors; Deputy Governors; Members of the National Assembly; and Members of the Diplomatic Corps in attendance today, as well as any dignitaries I may be accidentally overlooking.
For citizens of the United States, our Independence Day – the 4th of July – is one of our most cherished holidays. We celebrate both the founding of our nation and the democratic principles that have guided that nation throughout its history.
So I am delighted to be spending this Independence Day in Nigeria. As large, diverse democracies, the United States of America and the Federal Republic of Nigeria share many principles: in the content of our constitutions, in the forms of our institutions, in citizens’ relationships to their governments, and in our daily lives. Our struggles for independence – while centuries and continents apart – shared the common vision of nations governed by their citizens, for the welfare of those citizens.
We can acknowledge that achieving that vision has been a bumpy road, for both our nations. We have had to work hard to preserve democratic principles and values, sometimes in the face of strong headwinds, or even storms. Yet we persevere. Nigeria’s recent elections showcased the contradictions inherent in any democracy, at once highlighting this nation’s commitment to the democratic system even as many voters were frustrated by the process. We in the United States know as well as any, that democracy is not a steady state, but a continuous process that requires focus, dedication, and determination.
So even as the United States works to ensure our own nation remains true to the ideals of its founding, we seek to partner with friends and allies in strengthening their democratic institutions as well. In recognition of this important, common task, President Biden hosted, on the margins of December’s African Leaders Summit, a session focused on elections – attended by former President Buhari – to highlight this critical moment when democracy needs to be renewed and defended globally.
Beyond the history and broad principles, I want to speak to our shared commitment to the practical work of any democracy – helping citizens live prosperous, secure, and healthy lives. As President Biden has said, “Elected leaders owe it to their people to show that democracy can deliver for their needs.” And the United States is Nigeria’s partner in making it possible to deliver.
Prosperity demands a stable economy in which businesses can succeed and in which citizens can aspire to leave their children better off. So the United States partners with Nigerian entrepreneurs in agriculture, health, information technology, and renewable energy – to name just a few sectors – to help expand small and medium-sized businesses. We know that the success of any enterprise is dependent on reliable energy infrastructure; so the United States has helped bring electricity to over three million homes and businesses – so far, with the number to grow in the future.
But economic opportunity by itself is not enough; citizens need security. In this area, too, the United States and Nigeria are working together closely. Through robust military-to-military ties, police training, and judicial cooperation, by way of examples, the United States is partnering with Nigeria to bolster its security capabilities—to combat terrorism, violent crime, human rights abuses, and corruption.
Let me take a moment here to note with gratitude how we saw this security partnership in full effect after the tragic attack in Anambra State in May, which took the lives of three U.S. Mission colleagues and four Nigeria Police Force officers. We especially appreciate the Nigerian authorities’ efforts, working closely with U.S. Mission personnel, to respond to and investigate the attack, and to recover our colleagues. We are eternally grateful. And I want to personally thank all of you who reached out to us with condolences and offers of support at one of the most difficult moments in the history of this Mission. I hope that even as we celebrate tonight, you will spare some thoughts for our colleagues and their families.
That being said, physical security itself isn’t enough, either, for the pursuit of happiness; citizens need good health, too. The United States and Nigeria understand this and have one of the world’s most productive health sector collaborations. Through our partnership, Nigeria achieved Wild-type Polio virus-free status in 2020. Our PEPFAR program – active in Nigeria for 20 years – is, incredibly, close to achieving HIV epidemic control. Together we delivered 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations, an accomplishment that makes it possible to once again hold gatherings like this one.
In short, across every sector you can think of, the great federal republics of the United States and Nigeria have long been working together to improve the lives of both of our peoples. And we look forward to partnering with President Tinubu’s Administration to ensure that the Nigerian people’s vision for their country is realized – by strengthening Nigerian institutions and helping, in the words of the Nigerian National anthem, “build a nation where peace and justice shall reign.” President Biden’s message, on the occasion of President Tinubu’s inauguration stated that, “As Africa’s largest democracy and economy, Nigeria’s success is the world’s success.” I, and my whole team here and in Lagos, look forward to working with all of you towards that success.
So, again, thank you Ambassador Itegboje for being here, thank you to all Nigerians for your friendship, and to our international partners for their collaboration. My deepest appreciation for my colleagues at the Embassy who worked so hard to pull this event off, especially the chair of our organizing committee, Ms. Sandra Spadoni, Assistant General Services Officer Nikki Edwards, and my Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Mr. Rolf Olson. And thanks to the many many sponsors who made this event possible, including especially:
- International Breweries, Flutterwave, Hewlett Packard, Flour Mills of Nigeria, Deloitte, GE, Ford, and Delta Airlines
- Huge thanks to the Hilton for food and drinks and servers, and also to Coca Cola, Pepsi, Cold Stone and Dominos, and Abuja’s newest, Burger King.
And our appreciation extends to all others that gave generously.
To all of our dear guests and friends, thank you again for celebrating with us.
I am pleased to now invite Ambassador Itegboje to say a few words.