[TR News] Nigeria has no better friend than U.S – Entwistle, outgoing envoy

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Over time, the July 4th anniversary celebration for the United States of America independence has become one of the major events in Nigeria’s social calendar.
This year was no different as the outgoing US Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, hosted a classy cocktail at the sprawling embassy of the world’s super power. On the night, the envoy and his wife, Pam, along with top level civilian and military representatives of the embassy stood at the entrance of the well-decorated ground foyer of the embassy to welcome guests such as former governors, ministers, members of the National Assembly, businessmen, members of the diplomatic corps, Nigeria’s top military brass, the Acting Inspector-General of the Police, Ibrahim Idris, popular socialites and activists, to the anniversary cocktail.
As soon as guests walked into the arena draped in the colours of the stars and stripes, American flag, they were received by waiters from the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja each armed with trays of assorted drinks. Guests also had an array of foods to pick from. Music was supplied by the Rythm and Sax jazz band.
The event proper kicked off with the rendition of the American and Nigerian National anthems. In his welcome address, Entwistle said Nigeria’s relationship with the US has never been closer and effective.
He said: “As I told president (Goodluck) Jonathan when I presented my credentials to him in November of 2013 and Secretary of State John Kerry to President (Muhammadu) Buhari when they met here in Abuja and as President (Barak) Obama told President Buhari, directly in the White House, last July, the people of Nigeria have no better friend than the United States.
“In my country, the commitment to democracy is right there in the declaration of independence. In Nigeria, you demonstrated to the world, your commitment to democracy with your historical elections last year. We all remember the euphoria surrounding that ground breaking event. Both of our countries commitment to democracy is deeply woven into our status as free and independent people.
“Indeed, I often describe our relationship and two great democracies working together to make the world a better place.”
Speaking further on useful collaborations, he said: “The United States has maintained a robust relationship with Nigeria over the years. And our partnership with your great nation runs deep. We have collaborated with Nigeria on a host of issues- elections, security, fighting infectious diseases and steering broad-based inclusive economic growth. It seems like, at least once a week, I stumble on some Nigeria-US, area of co-operation that has been going on for decades. It’s truly remarkable”.
Entwistle, who is leaving the country this month, had a lot of commendations for Nigeria, saying with the 2014 presidential elections which saw the incumbent, former President Goodluck Jonathan concede defeat to President Buhari, candidate of the main opposition party, Nigeria, demonstrated its commitment to democracy.
“In Nigeria, you demonstrated to the world, your commitment to democracy with your historical elections last year. We all remember the euphoria surrounding that ground breaking event”, he said.
He also reiterated his country’s commitment to assisting Nigeria curtail corruption, saying the US government will ensure that banks in America aren’t used to stash money stolen from the country.
He said: “As you continue to fight Boko Haram and secure and rebuild the North-East and as you strive for harmony in the Niger Delta, and across this marvelous land, we will continue to help in every appropriate way. Indeed, let us all redouble our efforts in humanitarian projects in the North-East.
“The people dying of starvation in the North-East are Nigerians, how can that be? As you fight corruption, we offer technical assistance-training for investigators, prosecutors and the commitment to ensure that no stolen fund is laundered through our banking system.
“As you improve the business climate and encourage expansion in trade and in investment, as you continue with the privatisation of your power sector, we stand ready with President Obama’s Power Africa Initiative, to among other things, help economies invest more in electricity infrastructure especially in environmental friendly power generation. As you increase in your commitment in education and health care, we will support you in every way we can”.
Predicting Nigeria’s future the envoy said:  “As I said in my speech, I will leave this country with great sense of hope and optimism. That hope and optimism especially comes from when I meet young Nigerians. Their energy and dynamism is truly inspiring. I will leave tremendously inspired by the future of Nigeria”.
The US independence declaration anniversary soiree was also an opportunity for the media to gauge the feelings of dignitaries on the upcoming US presidential elections.
Speaking to a fleet of reporters, former Abia State governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, who was accompanied to the event with his wife, Dr. Ifunaya, pitched  tent with Democratic Party’s candidate and ex-Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Walking away from fellow billionaire and Republican Party nominee, Donald Trump, Kalu based his choice on experience.
“Based on experience, I choose Clinton. She is the candidate with prerequisite experience”, he said.
On how Nigeria in Diaspora, especially those in America can contribute to development back home, the former governor stressed the importance of thinking Nigeria. “There is a need to think Nigeria first. I always think Nigeria first. They (Nigerians in the Diaspora) should also come back to invest in industrialising Nigeria”, he added.
Other dignitries at the event include the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), John Odigie-Oyegun, former governor of Ogun State, Chief. Segun Osoba, Senator Chuka Utazi, former Minister of Education, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili,  ex-minister of Transport Dr. Abiye Sekibo and Hon. Johnson Agbonayinma.

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