Remarks by President Clinton and President Obasanjo in Exchange of Toasts at State Dinner (8/26/00)
                                THE WHITE HOUSE

                         Office of the Press Secretary
                                (Abuja, Nigeria)
                 For Immediate Release    August 26, 2000

                          REMARKS BY PRESIDENT CLINTON
                             AND PRESIDENT OBASANJO

                        International Conference Center
                                 Abuja, Nigeria

8:15 P.M. (L)

     PRESIDENT OBASANJO:  Your Excellency, President Clinton; your
Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen. It is, indeed, a matter
of joy and pride for any country and for any leader to play host to the
President of the United States of America, especially if that President is
as exceptional as Mr. William Jefferson Clinton.  (Applause.)

     Mr. President, it is my honor and privilege to welcome you once again
to my beloved country, Nigeria, and to this state banquet.  I do so on
behalf of every man, woman and child in this great country in Africa.  On a
very personal note, I am delighted to receive Mr. William Jefferson
Clinton, my friend, the friend of Nigeria, the friend of Africa, and
indeed, the acknowledged friend of peoples of African descent, wherever
they might be.  (Applause.)  I heartily welcome Mr. Clinton with the firmly
established reputation for believing in the cause of the underprivileged
and working tirelessly for that cause.

     About 22 years ago, I had the singular honor of hosting the first ever
visit of an American President to Nigeria.  Today, here we are, hosting
another American President, a man whose achievements are likely to place
him in the top league of successful leaders in recent world history.

     Mr. President, it is no secret that this visit is a fulfillment of the
promise you made to me during my own visit to your great country in October
last year.  You told me at the time that you would regard it as an
important aspect of your foreign policy to visit Nigeria before the end of
your final term.  Mr. President, I wish to express profound thanks to you
and to your dear daughter, Chelsea, for honoring my invitation to visit our

     I express my delight and appreciation personally, and on behalf of my
own family, as well as the government and the entire people of Nigeria, we
would have dearly loved to have Mrs. Hillary Clinton over here.
(Applause.)  But we fully appreciate the important preoccupation keeping
her at home at this time.  Mr. President, please convey our sincere
gratitude to her for sending you and Chelsea, her two beloved family
members to visit us.  We wish her success in the forthcoming elections.

     Our welcome and thanks must also go to all members of your government
who worked tirelessly to ensure that the visit took place.  Our
appreciation is gratefully extended particularly the to members of your
entourage.  Mr. President, we are delighted that they will be received here
at home by their Nigerian counterparts with whom they have worked so hard
to cement the relationship between our two countries.

     It is indeed a pleasure to also welcome here this evening my brother,
Mr. Tanja, the democratically elected President of Niger Republic, who in
this period of good neighborliness, has come all the way here to join us in
welcoming you and your party.

     Nigerians welcome you with heartfelt joy and singular happiness, with
a sincere wish and prayer that you will, on your all too short visit, find
our country warm, to savor, to admire, and attractive for another visit.
As you will have noticed since your arrival this morning, Nigerians in
Abuja are all excited to see you amongst them.  Your visit is, indeed, too
short and too restricted to Abuja, both for reasons beyond our control.
But, Mr. President, you will see enough in Abuja to convince you, and to
convince Chelsea and your party, that Nigerians sincerely and welcome you.

     The United States is now the only superpower in the world, enjoying
unprecedented prosperity.  That, notwithstanding, the spontaneous show of
admiration and affection to you, Mr. President, arises likely from your own
exceptional qualities.  (Applause.)  Nigerians admire and salute your very
high intellect, your genius in political strategy, your consummate
mastering of the practice of e-governance -- e for electronic governance --
your incredible success in inducing sustained economic prosperity in your
country and beyond, your image of the world's number one democrat, and your
deep preoccupation with improving the lot of ordinary working families
everywhere, especially in your beloved country, the United States.

     You were not born with a silver spoon in your mouth, but in these
eight years you worked hard to put a silver spoon in the hands and mouths
of most Americans.  (Applause.)  These are reasons why the American people
love you, especially combined with your personal charm and grace,
generously given with so much bonhomie.

     But we have many more reasons to salute you, President Clinton.  We
know that you wanted to, but could not bring yourself to visit Nigeria
during your first African tour of 1998, when we watched you under the heavy
yoke of pernicious dictatorship.  It is a caring friend to call and find
you hostile and unapproachable, leave only to call again later.  That is
typical of the care and concern you have for the whole of Africa and for
all peoples of African descent at home in the U.S. and elsewhere.

     The claim of being the first black President of the United States is
most endearing, and I dare say, quite befitting.  (Applause.)  For us, on
this visit you have come home.  We welcome you, and tonight we confer upon
you three Nigerian names in one, to reflect your love for the people, your
indomitable courage, and your glorious homecoming.  Mr. President, we name
you Sodangi, Okoro, Omowale.  (Applause.)

     You and your family will always be welcome to your home, Africa and
Nigeria, after you complete your term of office as President.  If you
should want to follow my footsteps and return to family at the end of your
term, land will be made available.  (Laughter.)  Furthermore, the road from
the International Airport to the Abuja Lokoja Highway will henceforth be
called President Clinton Drive.  (Applause.)

     These are all tokens of appreciation and gratitude by Nigeria, as a
country, and on behalf of Africa.  Nigerians will never forget the
assistance that you, together with many of your fellow countrymen and
women, gave us when you so sturdily stood by us in some of the most
perilous, uncertain and painful moments
in our recent history.

     Today, Mr. President, we thank Divine Providence that you are here to
celebrate with us the freedom that Nigerians, through the support of
friends like yourself, wrenched for themselves from the jaws of tyranny,
driven by personal ambition and moral delinquency, of a seemingly
interminable interregnum.
Democracy and freedom, which had both alluded us for too long, are with us
again.  (Applause.)  We are now ready to embark on the path of progress and
prosperity for all our people, in the spirit of unity, pride, discipline,
patriotism, accountability and good governance.

     Mr. President, we all know that the struggle for freedom, democracy
and prosperity is long and tortuous.  But we are determined in Nigeria to
assail any obstacle, go any distance, work any late hour, expend any energy
and call on any human resourcefulness to get there.  By the grace of God,
the support of genuine and understanding friends, the just, stable and
prosperous society we seek for our children and their children shall be
ours to the glory of God and the pride of future generations.  (Applause.)

     Since our return to civil democratic rule last year, we are learning a
lot about the practice of democracy -- and we like it.  I take advantage of
this rare opportunity to thank you, Mr. President, and all Americans, for
their unwavering commitment through advice and through technical and
material support to our quest for a stable democratic dispensation since
May last year.

     But right now we are preoccupied with the equally difficult task of
mending our society and our infrastructure, both severely damaged by
mismanagement, corruption and political abuse of the recent past.  Our
administration came in to find our people very much divided, with great
resentment and mistrust pervading in the society.

     We have also been faced, as everyone knows, with circumstances in
which everything from food to drinking water have become unaffordable
luxuries for our citizens.  Nothing at all seemed to function adequately.
Most of all, our cherished social institutions have virtually lost all

     Relative good news is that over the past year, through judicious
planning and physical discipline, and through targeted allocation of
resources, together with uncompromising moral and legal stands against
corruption, things are generally beginning to adapt markedly.

     Most of all, we are now sensing the restoration of trust in government
and leadership, the social asset in nation building that had previously
been wasted by greed and selfishness.  My countrymen and women are very
vibrant, teeming, articulate, upwardly mobile, and assertive.  That
vibrancy and effectiveness is the stuff of which Nigerians are made.  That
is why both our politics and our governors are sometimes loud.  But to
borrow a line from you on another occasion, there's no amount of this
verbal altercation or seeming provocation and apparent insults that will
deter me from working with all in the three arms of government --
(applause) -- indeed, with everyone in the country, to try to solve the
best interests of the Nigerian people.

     For me, the cause of Nigeria and the cause of democracy and good
governance is worth sacrificing everything for.  Except that I will not
compromise my integrity and I will not sacrifice my conscience.

     For all the boisterousness of our politics, the Nigerian is a very
generous spirit.  Our people care and they willingly share.  They may have
a hot head, but they have a soft heart -- particularly over any matter
affecting Africa.  You, yourself, Mr. President, spontaneously recalled
last February at the National Summit on Africa in Washington, how Nigeria
spent up to $10 billion Euro dollars on peacekeeping in Liberia and Sierra
Leone.  This has been typical of our knee-jerk response to the needs of
Africa's independence.  If something affects Africa, we do not look at our
pocketbook before entering headlong to give whatever assistance we can.

     But with our burgeoning population of Nigerians, the legitimate
aspirations and the acquired tastes of our people, Nigeria is hard-pressed
and needs relief if we are to deliver a democracy dividend to them who have
all been waiting long enough for it.

     We have a sufficient number of trained people and plenty of
undeveloped natural resources.  But we know that we cannot achieve our
desire for economic development if we continue to bleed from the gushing
wounds of an ever-penetrating debt repayment lance.  Debt burden will
frustrate our fresh approach to political and economic strategies.

     That is why we urge that we be relieved of that burden -- not because
we want to shirk responsibility, not because we want to abdicate from tough
choices, and not because we wish to obtain something for nothing.  No, Mr.
President and distinguished guests.  The reason is that we have followed
the trend of events and have done our sums.  We find that given the present
loan structure, with the oppressive force of compound interest, there is no
light at the end of the tunnel.  We shall perpetually remain in debt.  Our
development aspiration will be frustrated and we shall not wean ourselves
from the aid-receiving mentality -- and rise up to the trade and
cooperation pedestal.

     We shall not be in the position to help others, nor to contribute
regularly to world peace and prosperity.  This will be our fate, even with
petroleum exports, which draw undue world indignance when prices are
temporarily high, but with high cost of exploration and production are
sympathetically taken for granted when the prices, as often happens, fall.

     The reality of our plight can best be understood by a single
illustration.  The World Health Organization reckons that in order to
achieve minimal health standards in any country, at least $60 U.S. dollars
would need to be spent on every citizen annually.  In our last national
budget, with the best of intentions, we could only manage to allocate to
health the equivalent of less than one U.S. dollar for each Nigerian.

     This enormous financial gap and minimum provision of health care
speaks for itself, even if state and local government provisions are taken
into account.  One clear reason why we cannot advance anywhere near the
minimum requirement for health in this country is undoubtedly the debt
repayment burden.   Yet, these are debts whose principles repaid several
times over.  These are debts incurred during periods of reckless leadership
and mismanagement.  And these are debts whose substantial portions have
been stolen and remain corruptly lodged in the balance of some of the
creditor countries.  (Applause.)

     Mr. President, the world will bear witness to the fact that we are
doing everything to achieve economic reforms by assailing all the evils and
faulty strategies that wrecked our economy in the past.  We are willing to
improve the management of the oil industry, to cut out inefficiency and
waste.  The non-oil, particularly the agriculture and solid minerals
subsectors are being revitalized in a determined and serious fashion.

     The government overheads are being pruned and wastage will no longer
be accepted as inevitable.  The inefficiency inherent in the government
running of enterprises is being excised away through the systematic and
patriotic privatization of our public-owned enterprises.  Our people shall
be motivated and empowered by better governance and by assault on their
crippling poverty.

     Of course, we have engaged in an unrelenting war against corruption
and abuse of office.  We shall gladly work with anybody or institution that
has good advice to offer, recognizing our national sovereignty and dignity.

     Nigeria now has, for the first time in its history, a political party
that won a successful general election with a sweeping majority across the
entire nation -- (applause) -- half the leaders elected without any
dispute, and half a military determined to play only its constitutional
role.  We thus have these ingredients for taking all of our people along
the challenging, the exciting path of democracy and freedom, through
transparent leadership, good governance, political stability, social
advancement, economic prosperity and national greatness.

     That is our path and that is the path all our friends all over the
world should wish for us, pray for us, and assist us to remain on.  It is
not going to be easy.  There will always be both inevitable and wanton
destructions.  But while everything comes from God, no sustainable good
comes instantly or cheaply.

     Mr. President, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, what is true of
Nigeria is true of Africa.  After having the honor of sharing a fraternal
repast in this banquet, I shall not sour our moods by recounting the
succession of tragedies that brought Africa to its present unenviable
status among the continents of the world.  Besides, the United States of
America has shared the experience of colonialism, the struggle for
independence, and the pains of a civil war.  But while America has, in a
period of less than 200 years, grown to be the most powerful nation in the
world, Africa lapsed into stagnation, poverty, and strife.

     Mr. President, our dreams of the early independence years of the 1960s
have been replaced by disillusionment, disease, and despair.  It is
mercifully true that Africa has  rid itself of direct external colonialism
and has been able to produce leaders and defendants occupying positions of
power, reverence and admiration in the world.  Unfortunately, these
leaders, who would have been busy rebuilding Africa and restoring these
shattered dreams find themselves endlessly preoccupied with peacemaking
efforts among warring African nations and disputes that should never have
arisen in the first instance.

     These continuing continental cures cannot be expected to result in the
status quo.  The lost time and the missed opportunities result in
increasing poverty and environmental degradation with mass migration, brain
drain, and the failure to control disease.  It is, therefore, little wonder
that HIV/AIDS is now ravaging Africa and bringing in its trail the assault
by diseases once thought to be reasonable treatable, like malaria,
tuberculosis, and hepatitis.  Africa today is becoming the end states of
the manifestation of the injustice of slavery, colonialism, poor political
education, faulty transfer of power, and the economic exploitation of the
last few centuries.

     There is no way that the rest of world can plead innocence to the
plight of Africa.  It is certainly unthinkable that on top of all of its
seemingly endless tribulations, Africa will also be called upon to be at
the crushing bottom of debts arising from a conceptually unfair
international economic system.

     Mr. President, the world needs to acknowledge and accept the reality
of Africa.  No one is asking the rest of the world to stop while Africa
recovers and catches up.  The world simply needs to mobilize to save and
restore Africa to the path of growth, development, and hope.  The transfer
of wealth from the very poor to the very rich must stop.  (Applause.)

     A long-term master plan of technical assistance, technical
cooperation, and trade and investment is urgently needed.  We fully accept
that African nations themselves need to help themselves by getting their
act together, by being serious and by stopping their nations from being
turned into private systems of plundering, tyrannical and
undemocratically-elected rulers.

     African nations need to move from the position of being preys to their
own predator leaders, to becoming contractual societies where government
exists solely by the wishes of the people and for the people.  They should
also in their economic policies make their countries attractive to
investors in terms of security, facilities, and returns.  Fortunately, we
do not know of any African nations that disagrees with the need to woo

     But African nations also need to take a cue from Nigeria.  Here in
Nigeria, we have had examples of predator leadership.  By the grace of God,
we have rid ourselves of the worst of it for good --(applause)-- and wish
other sister African countries to do the same, if Africa is to have any
chance in the future.

     Mr. President, I realize that all this will not be easy.  But we do
take hope in the silver lining that your tenure of office as U.S. President
represented around this dark cloud of uncertainty about the future of
Africa.  In word and in deed, you live by your oft-repeated assertion that
Africa matters, and that the people of Africa work very hard, but reap very
little as a result of multiple factors.  You articulated the need to
support Africa in trade and economic assistance, in conquering poverty,
ignorance and disease, and in bringing about peace through democracy,
economic reforms and better leadership.  This vision has been elaborated in
your partnership with Africa policy.

     No greater evidence of your seriousness about Africa exists than the
Africa Growth and Opportunity Act -- (applause) -passed by the U.S.
Congress and signed by you into law.  It opened the U.S. market to all
African businesses to sell their wares.  We particularly appreciate the
efforts of members of the Congress who are here, and those that are not
here, and who in their different ways have contributed to improving
relations between the U.S. and Africa, particularly in the passage of the
African Growth and Opportunity Act.

     But let me specially appeal to you to appropriate the funds needed for
the HIPC countries -- highly indebted poor countries -- to meet the U.S.
contribution to the decision of the G-8 at the Cologne summit of last year.
I make a special appeal to you also to appropriate funds to debt
cancellation for Nigeria.  It is a moral responsibility and a humane duty.

     For us in Nigeria, we know that there has been special treatment.  Mr.
President, your administration identified Nigeria as one of the four
countries around the globe for special treatment and support of an emerging
democracy.  The activities of our Joint Economic Partnership Committee, the
bold and wide-ranging activities of the USAID, the return of the U.S. Ex-Im
Bank, the program to assist in the rehabilitation of our defense
establishment, and the thrust of the Overseas Private Investment
Corporation -- OPIC -- through the establishment of AirLink and our mutual
agreement on Open Skies, all bear testimony to our intensified cooperation
as a result of your leadership and initiative.  In the not too distant
future, the fruits of this cooperation will yield dividends for all too
see.  I am confident of that.

     In the worldwide compass, the United States cooperates as the keen
advocate of our cause in all major international platforms, such as the
World Bank, the IMF, the Paris Club, the United Nations.  We thank you, Mr.
President, and your administration, as well as members of the U.S.

     You can feel it expand our cooperation and it is my particular hope
that the JEPC -- the Joint Economic Partnership Council -- will transform
into the U.S.-Nigeria Joint Commission.  It is also my hope that Mr.
President will support us to host the U.S.-Africa ministerial partnership
for the 21st century here in Abuja in March 2001.

     Mr. President, your legacy in Nigeria and in Africa is well laden.
And my prayer is that we shall all work so that even after your term of
office expires you will always look back with the satisfaction that you did
the best for us here in Nigeria and on the continent of Africa.  We wish
you and your family God's blessing.

     Mr. President, I must now thank the members of your party,
particularly the Cabinet Secretaries, among them Secretary Slater and
Secretary Richardson, the distinguished members of the U.S. Congress and
the leaders of corporate America and your distinguished entourage.  We hope
that they have the opportunity of meeting with their counterparts here.  I
particularly wish to assure the potential investors of the readiness of
this government and of this country to make Nigeria attractive to your
plans.  We know that nobody enters into any business in order to suffer or
lose.  You will find us worthy partners.

     Your visit, Mr. President, marks the dawn of a new epic in
U.S.-Nigerian relations.  This coming at the dawn of a new century and a
new millennium bears good portense.  Our outstretched hands of partnership
join in the spirit of our shared past experiences, our mutual understanding
of the present, and our brightest hopes for the future.  We are well aware
of the heavy responsibilities world relations places on America.  In the
spirit of our deep friendship and prized values, you can always count on
Nigerians as genuine and sincere partners.

     In conclusion, Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, may I now request
all present here to join me in a toast to our most distinguished guest and
statesman, Mr. William Jefferson Clinton -- you can rise up -- President of
the United States of America, and for his continued good health, personal
well-being, and to the friendly and unending relations between Nigeria and
the United States of America.

     (A toast is offered.)  (Applause.)

     * * * * *

     PRESIDENT CLINTON:  President Obasanjo; to the President of Niger; to
the distinguished leaders of the legislative and judicial branches of the
Nigerian government, and all our friends from Nigeria who are here.  I
believe I can speak for the entire American delegation when I say thank you
all for an unforgettable day.  (Applause.)

     And on a very personal basis, I want to thank you for enabling me to
say something no previous American President has been able to say -- it is
good to be back in Africa for the second time.  (Applause.)

     I will say, Mr. President, I was very moved by your generous remarks,
and I was very glad to have a Nigerian name. (Laughter.)  But now, you will
have to give me a copy of your remarks so that when we go out tomorrow, I
can introduce myself properly to the people of your country.  (Laughter and

     Mr. President, it's a great honor for all of us to be here.  I wish
that my wife could come, and your remarks indicated you understand why she
could not.  But I am grateful for her interest in Africa as well, and
especially in the Vital Voices program that so many Nigerian women have
been a part of.

     We meet at a pivotal moment in your history.  The long deferred dreams
of your people finally can, and must, be realized.  I spoke about it in
detail to the members of the Senate and House today.  I will only repeat
that it is a daunting challenge, requiring both rigorous effort and
realistic patience.

     Nigeria is poised to do great things for its own people, and for
Africa's democratic destiny.  We in the United States have long known
Nigeria as an economic partner and an important supplier of energy.  But
now, more than ever, we and others throughout the world will know and honor
Nigeria for its greatest energy resource -- the people of this great
nation.  (Applause.)

     We have come to appreciate it in many ways -- the musical genius of
King Sunny Ade; the brilliant writing of Chinua Achebe; and your Nobel
laureate, Wole Soyinka.  (Applause.)  We also think rather highly of the
basketball feats of Hakeem Olajuwon.  (Applause.)  And we're coming more
and more to appreciate the football brilliance of the Super Eagles.
(Applause.)  Indeed, every four years a growing number of people in the
United States actually cheer for the Super Eagles in the World Cup -- after
all, the eagle is America's national bird, too.  (Laughter and applause.)
And, more importantly, tens of thousands of Nigerians work and study in the
United States, and we are honored to have them.  (Applause.)

     I was quite interested, Mr. President, in the presentation before your
remarks, showing all the similarities between you and me.  I would also
like a copy of that.  (Laughter.)  I don't know if I could persuade people
back home with a case without all that evidence.

     For all our differences, even in a larger sense, we are not so
different after all.  Our capital, Washington, D.C., like yours here, was
created as a compromise between north and south.  (Applause.)  Though I
must say, ours took much longer to become a respectable city.  And as I saw
today when I addressed your legislative branch, your government, like ours,
often displays what might charitably be called a creative tension between
its different branches.  (Laughter and applause.)  Finally, our greatest
strength, like yours, comes from the fact that we are many peoples striving
to work as one.

     Mr. President, the hope we celebrate this evening owes much to you,
for you have twice answered the call to restore civilian government.  The
United States will stand by a nation, any nation, and especially Nigeria,
that faces its responsibility as bravely as the people of this nation have
in the last few years.  (Applause.)

     We outlined today our commitments and we will keep them, to help you
economically, educationally, in the struggles against AIDS and other public
health problems, and the struggle to rebuild your infrastructure in our
common cause to restore peace in Sierra Leone, and to support Nigeria as a
leader for peace throughout the continent.  And we look forward to
fulfilling those commitments.

     I listened again to the case you made tonight, a case that I also
heard from your legislative leaders this afternoon, and first in our
meeting this morning, and of course, even earlier when you and I first met.
I will do my best to help Nigeria succeed economically.  You must do so.

     When Nigeria became independent in late 1960, almost 40 years ago now,
the American people were also quite happy, because it was a time of great
hope for us at home and around the world.  We felt it in the new beginnings
of President Kennedy's election and the progress of the civil rights
struggle in our own country, and with the crumbling of colonialism here and
around the world.

     We were proud that some of your early independence leaders, like
Nnamdi Azikiwe studied in America.  In 1959, this is what he told an
American audience.  He said, "We struggle toward the same ultimate
objective:  to revive the stature of man so that man's inhumanity to man
shall cease.  Your success shall be our success.  And your failure shall be
our failure."

     Since he said those words to Americans, there have been great
achievements and profound setbacks in both our nations.  But those words
are as true today as they were when they were spoken.  And today, we have
the best chance since the early 1960s to make them come true.

     And so tonight, Mr. President, and all our distinguished Nigerian
friends, let me repeat your hero's words back to you:  Now and forever,
your success shall be our success.  (Applause.)

     I ask you to join me in a toast to the President of Nigeria and to the
people of Nigeria, to the success of the democratic experiment here, to the
friendship between our peoples, and to our common commitment to seize the
future together.

     (A toast is offered.)  (Applause.)

END  9:05 P.M. (L)

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