US embassy cable - 01ABUJA875

CODEL Hastert Meets Obasanjo, National Assembly

Identifier: 01ABUJA875
Wikileaks: View 01ABUJA875 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2001-04-25 15:11:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: OREP PREL EFIN BEXP MASS SNAR NI
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 000875 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
E.O. 12598: N/A 
TAGS: OREP, PREL, EFIN, BEXP, MASS, SNAR, NI 
SUBJECT: CODEL Hastert Meets Obasanjo, National Assembly 
 
 
1.  Summary.  In a six hour visit on April 17, CODEL 
Hastert met with President Obasanjo, and, separately, with 
Speaker of the House Ghali Na'Abba and other assembly 
members.  With Obasanjo Speaker Hastert emphasized USG 
commitment to AGOA, and to HIV/AIDS programming assistance 
and basic healthcare assistance for Nigeria. Obasanjo 
replied with praise for AGOA, and with recitations of both 
the Nigerian fight against HIV/AIDS, and Nigeria's 
extensive efforts to promote peace in the West African 
region and in other African countries., In a largely 
ceremonial meeting at the National Assembly Speaker Na'Abba 
called for a joint committee to explore areas of mutual 
interest between the National Assembly and the US Congress. 
Speaker Hastert indicated privately to the Ambassador that 
he would explore the idea but thought that annual meetings 
between the staff of the two legislatures was a better and 
more viable course of action.  End summary. 
 
 
2.  On Tuesday, April 17, in the course of a six hour visit 
to Abuja, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives 
Dennis Hastert and nine House colleagues met with President 
Olusegun Obasanjo at the Presidential Villa, and with 
Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives Ghali 
Na'Abba and several dozen of his fellow members at the 
National Assembly.  The Hastert CODEL also lunched with 
Speaker Na'Abba and approximately 75 members of the House. 
At the Presidential Villa, Speaker Hastert began the 
meeting by highlighting three areas in which the USG had 
undertaken particular efforts to strengthen its 
relationship with African nations generally and with 
Nigeria in particular.  With the African Growth and 
Opportunity Act (AGOA), said Hastert, the US Congress had 
"worked hard" to offer an avenue for enhanced economic 
growth and for mutually beneficial trade.  Speaker Hastert 
then noted that the U.S. Congress had doubled funds for 
HIV/AIDS programs in Africa.  He then emphasized the 
fundamental importance the USG placed on assistance with 
health care programs in Nigeria.  "We are trying to build 
on our already strong relationship with Nigeria," the 
Speaker said.  He then turned to his colleagues to add 
their comments. 
 
 
3.  Representative E.B. Johnson, ranking Democrat on the 
CODEL, and Chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus, 
noted this was her third visit to Nigeria, a sign of her 
personal commitment to Nigerian progress.  The USG, she 
went on, meant to encourage democracy both in Nigeria and 
on the continent as a whole.  Speaking of the multi-racial 
and multi-cultural society of the United States, she said 
that "we are a diverse people, but this does not divide us, 
it defines us."  Johnson offered this concept of 
cohesiveness-through-diversity as a proper formula for 
Nigeria as well, with its many language and ethnic groups, 
and its religious diversity.  "We will work with you, and 
help build democracy in Nigeria." 
 
 
4.  Representative Bobby Rush noted the great interest of 
the African-American community in events in Nigeria, given 
long-standing historical and cultural ties.  Further, Rush 
said he had many Nigerians living in his Chicago district. 
He expressed his personal regret at the CODEL's delayed 
arrival (the Hastert party came two days later than 
originally scheduled), and its resulting inability to 
worship with President Obasanjo on Easter Sunday at the 
Villa Chapel.  Rush emphasized the USG's keen interest in a 
more stable and democratic Nigeria, and he hoped that such 
continental efforts as the Millenium African Program (MAP), 
begun by President Mbeki of South Africa in consultation 
with President Obasanjo, would bear fruit and enhance 
African unity and progress. 
 
 
5.  President Obasanjo replied with a gracious welcome to 
Speaker Hastert and his colleagues.  He briefly observed 
that the GON had "copied" key sections of the U.S. 
Constitution and that its government styled itself on the 
U.S. model in many ways.  Taking up Speaker Hastert's three 
points in turn, Obasanjo said that "we are working hard" on 
AGOA, and good progress was being made.  On the HIV/AIDS 
front, Obasanjo said bluntly that HIV/AIDS was "a very 
serious problem," and that "we pretend it is not only at 
our peril."  He then elaborated on two major initiatives 
undertaken by his government.  President Obasanjo said that 
he had established a Cabinet-level body, composed of key 
Ministers (Health, Youth, Education), chaired by himself 
and co-chaired by the Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, to 
oversee the GON response to the crisis.  His government 
would also convoke an African HIV/AIDS Summit at the end of 
April, patterned after the African Malaria Summit convened 
in Abuja by the GON last year.  Obasanjo said that "the 
technical efforts" needed to combat HIV/AIDS were clear, 
and were well understood by his government, but that the 
crucial task was to "raise the political and social 
consciousness" of the Nigerian population. 
 
 
6. Obasanjo said that anti-malarial efforts, an effective 
HIV/AIDS campaign, and successful mass immunization efforts 
for Nigerian children and adults were three strategic 
components of his government's overall health program. 
"Achievable, measurable results," he said, were the aim of 
the GON in all three areas, and in the health sector as a 
whole.  He then segued to a broad and very personal vision 
of Nigeria's role in the region and in Africa.  "God allows 
things to happen for a purpose," he said, in an oblique 
comment on Nigeria's many problems and its many blessings. 
Nigeria had a huge population, he said, a rich resource 
base, and two of the five biggest rivers in Africa.  "God 
must intend," he said, for Nigerians to use these resources 
for the benefit of "ourselves and our neighbors."  Nigeria 
sought a stable, united and harmonious polity at home, and 
a dynamic and prosperous national economy. But, "if charity 
begins at home, it must not end at home," he said.  "We 
can't just be an oasis." 
7.  President Obasanjo then recited the many areas in which 
his government worked for peace in the region and in Africa 
as a whole, and the many trips he has or will make to 
further these goals: Nigeria's overall participation in 
peace-keeping, both within ECOWAS/ECOMOG and in the UN; the 
recent Extraordinary ECOWAS Summit on the Mano River 
countries; Cote d'Ivoire ("we are working to solidify 
democracy," he said); Burkina Faso ("I am going there in 
several weeks"); the DROC ("We will contribute troops, and 
look for solutions"); Burundi ("We will also contribute 
troops there as well,"); Sudan ("A slightly more 
complicated situation," with IGAD and Egypt involved); 
Zimbabwe ("Mbeki and I are urging restraint.  We both went 
to Harare, and are also talking to the British"). 
 
 
8.  President Obasanjo then summed up Nigeria's many 
efforts at furthering peaceful and stable relations on the 
continent.  "Nigeria," he said, "is almost at the center of 
everything in Africa."  But, "we do not act alone." 
Nigeria acted in concert with "people of like minds."  The 
MAP, he said, was a reflection of his desire to work with 
other leaders, such as Mbeki, to construct a new African 
architecture of peace, stability and growth. 
 
 
9.  Speaker Hastert responded with a "salute" to Nigerian 
democracy and Nigerian peace-keeping efforts.  "Your 
troops' efforts have been outstanding, and we will work 
with you," said the Speaker.  "Your walk back to democracy 
has been impressive."  Hastert also praised Nigeria's 
recent counter-narcotics efforts.  As a "great example" to 
the continent, Nigeria would continue to receive strong USG 
support. 
 
 
10.  President Obasanjo closed the meeting with several 
thoughts on his government's need to show results to the 
Nigerian people.  "Democracy needs real meaning," he said. 
"Freedom, yes, but also results."  Trade, investment, 
growth, industrialization, these were the concrete means to 
obtain those essential results.  In a brief and mild 
allusion to Nigeria's long-standing international campaign 
for debt relief and debt forgiveness, he said that the 
"genesis" of Nigeria's debt was largely "immoral" (Comment: 
meaning contracted my military governments and subsequently 
wasted or stolen).  But Nigeria must be "forward looking," 
he said.  "Let us make debt less important, and make trade 
and growth more important." 
 
 
11.  In an earlier and largely ceremonial meeting at the 
National Assembly, Speaker Hastert and his nine colleagues 
received a warm welcome from Nigerian Speaker Ghali Na'Abba 
and approximately seventy-five of his fellow House members. 
After several exchanges of legislative good-fellowship, and 
Na'Abba's bravura introduction by name of all attending 
House members in a crowded House conference room without 
hesitation and without notes or prompting, Na'Abba proposed 
a joint US House - Nigerian House committee to further 
mutual interests.  CODEL Hastert, Speaker Na'Abba and his 
colleagues then adjourned for a lunch, hosted by Na'Abba. 
 
 
12.  Comment.  The Nigerians, both executive and 
legislative branches, warmly welcomed CODEL Hastert and 
obligingly accommodated the two-day postponement of the 
visit.  President Obasanjo particularly emphasized his 
commitment to the struggle against HIV/AIDS, and Nigeria's 
regional role as a peacekeeper.  He only gently touched on 
debt relief, and made no great appeals for USG assistance. 
This was a very good visit, by every measure.   End 
comment. 

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