|Wikileaks:||View 01ABUJA875 at Wikileaks.org|
|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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