Friday, July 30, 2010

July 18 Election Speech at Nigerian Institute of Management

I am out on the stump with some tough love messages on election reform, the election timetable, and the need to make a decision soonest on when an election will be held in Nigeria in 2011. I was asked to speak (click here for remarks) at the Nigerian Institute of Management which is a distinguished organization of management specialist in a number of fields. My remarks focus on the time table need to hold credible elections between now and early 2011. I have some illustrative example stating that every month from now Nigeria needs register or validate the registration of 13 million new voters. The election date is not set, but everyone believes it will either be January 2011, or April 2011. I have met with the new Chairman of INEC and he is committed to trying to do his utmost to ensure a credible election. I wish him well with his efforts to ensure a transparent election.

Amb. Sanders July 29, 2010 Remarks: My Wish for Nigeria @ 50

My Remarks to a Great Friend: @ 50, a Credible Election is in Your Hands!
(My @ 50 list for Nigeria)
By Dr. Robin Renee Sanders
Ambassador of the United States of America to Nigeria

Now this brings me to the tough part of this short program this evening where I begin my goodbyes to a country and a nation that has welcomed me -- almost as if I was a family member of this great nation --- the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
And as a family member, I have been with you through some challenging times . . . sad times . . . and some good times . . . over the last years, particularly the period between November 2009 and March 2010, but will say that I have never once waivered in encouraging support for Nigeria because I also never once waivered in my belief that everything would also turned out alright during that period and it did. You know there is a Nigerian way of doing things that must be appreciated and understood. My Team and I understood those things. We got it -- even when there was skepticism elsewhere -- we were confident that your young democracy would still steadfastly move forward and it has. I have had the opportunity to interact with the many strong and beautiful voices that blend together to make Nigeria the mosaic nation it is today.
As I thought about what I would say tonight a month out before my departure as I wanted to reflect and take a small journey with you this evening about the things I wish for my dear friend and what I wish for...the nation of Nigeria @ 50 years of age. So here is “My @ 50 list for Nigeria” as an ancestral sister of the soil, a family member, and a friend. You all know the things the U.S. Government is doing here to support Nigeria in so many ways, (in the health sector under PEPFAR and food security under feeding the future program and education, to name a few) so I won’t review everything here this evening.
You know life for me is always interesting and always incredibly amazing, it can be about moments that take your breath away and moments that change the paradigm of the future, but the goal should never be different. It is about: making a difference as a person, making a difference as a country, and making a difference as a nation. And, there is a difference between being a country and a nation and it is the latter that I wish for you as you build your democracy. So @ 50 this is what I hear Nigerians say Nigeria needs today as I have traveled to each of your 36 states. You are:
-- @ the point of making a difference not only in your future, but also on your past;
-- [You are] @ the point of embarking on the next century of your independence with a fundamental opportunity to change the social contract in your democracy
-- [You are] @ the point where social change is an imperative with your 2011 elections, the fight against corruption, and responsibility at all levels of government
-- [You are] @ the point where your road to change is paved with action to improve food security, education, the environment, your energy needs and development and self-help – these important sectoral elements I have cobbled together with friends to call the FEEEDS or change-pillars of your nation;
-- [You are] @ the point where speaking out for credible elections must turn into reality – and thoughtful consideration as to how you get there; what choices you make; what path you take to have a transparent elections so that that the conduct of your polls can secure your democratic destiny. And I know the new INEC is trying to do these things.
Tonight is about my personal message to a country on being an advocate for you at every turn, as a supporter of your democratic destiny and as a friend who wants you to do not only well, but very well. Every generation is a force of energy and the generations in Nigeria today must be a force for these changes.
You know I am going to fast forward and pretend like today . . . this evening . . . is actually July 29, 2011, and I have just laid down my Nigerian newspaper (not going to say which one I would be reading) and the headline reads: This is the Nation that Nigeria Built! But what follows behind this phrase will be the most important thing: Voter turnout High; Confidence in INEC restored; Voter Registry (not perfect but credible); Elections Free and Fair; the FEEEDS issues are being addressed. These are the things I wish for you. Remember democracies are messy as they are about a clash of ideas, they are not about violence, they are not about corruption, but they are about transparent and credible elections.
So this evening . . . these are the things I wish for my friend, the nation of Nigeria. I believe in you and your future and I will be watching as you move forward. You could have no stronger advocate in your corner. I am departing at the end of August, but I will always be here in spirit. As I take my leave I want to wish you well @ 50. So as one friend to another I want to say thank or:
“Me Yatti” to those who know me as GimbiyanMuri
“Ndalo” for my friends from Nri Kingdom who know me as “AdaNri”
“EseunModupe” to my friends who call me Yeye Oba of Ogidi
“Palang” to my Horom friends
“Imela” to those who greet me as NneOma, and;
“Ndewo” to those who welcomed me as AdaMazi
I close by saying to all Nigerians . . . .
Wishing You Well @ 50 and a Credible Election in 2011!

Nigeria's Independence @ 50 Years: My Wish List for You @50

Nigeria will celebrate 50 years of independence on October 1, 2010. This both a landmark and a hallmark birthday for this nation of 150 million people as it reaches the half centruy mark. So I have put together a wish list for the nation of Nigeria @ 50 years of age. So here is “My @ 50 Wish List for Nigeria” as an ancestral sister of the soil, a family member, and a friend in addition to the things the U.S. Government is doing here to support Nigeria in so many ways in the health sector under PEPFAR, in food security under the feed the future program, and in education, under the African Education Initiative, or AEI).

There is a difference between being a country and a nation and it is the latter that I wish for you as you build your democracy. So @ 50 years this is what I hear Nigerians say they want for Nigeria as I have traveled to each of your 36 states. They say You Are:
-- @ the point of making a difference not only in your future, but also on your past;
-- @ the point of embarking on the next century of your independence with a fundamental opportunity to change the social contract in your democracy
-- @ the point where social change is an imperative with your 2011 elections, the fight against corruption, and responsibility at all levels of government
-- @ the point where your road to change is paved with action to improve food security, education, the environment, your economic & energy needs, democracy and build self-help.
-- @ the point where speaking out for credible elections must turn into reality – and thoughtful consideration as to how you get there; what choices you make; what path you take to have a transparent elections so that that the conduct of your polls can secure your democratic destiny. And I know the new INEC is trying to do these things.

These important sectoral elements I have cobbled together with friends to call the FEEEDS or change-pillars of your nation;

Every generation is a force of energy and the generations in Nigeria today must be a force for these changes. I am going to fast forward and pretend like today . . . this evening . . . is actually July 29, 2011, and I have just laid down my Nigerian newspaper (not going to say which one I would be reading) and the headline reads: This is the Nation that Nigeria Built! But what follows behind this phrase will be the most important thing: Voter turnout High; Confidence in INEC restored; Voter Registry (not perfect but credible); Elections Free and Fair; the FEEEDS issues are being addressed. These are the things I wish for you. Remember democracies are messy as they are about a clash of ideas, they are not about violence, they are not about corruption, but they are about transparent and credible elections.

For full remarks on Wish List for Nigeria see (

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Credible Elections! Credible Elections! Credible Elections - A Must-Do for Nigeria in 2011

Ambassador Sanders with other dignitaries at the high table when I spoke at the Nigerian Institute of Management on "Managing the 2011 Election Process," (July 1, 2010)
I have spent the last few weeks in Nigeria stressing the importance of credible elections with a number of speeches in both Abuja and Lagos on the issue. I refer you to my speeches. I refer you to my speeches at the Nigerian Institute of Management and my recent remarks at the civil society gathering of CODER - both events focused on the road map for election reform and the future of the credibility of the Independent Election Commission, more commonly known here as INEC. INEC is the government body that oversees elections in Nigeria. In 2007, Nigeria and seriously flawed elections and there were rampant negative reports about the role of INEC during that time. There is now a reconstituted INEC with a new chairman who has stated his committment to transparent elections. There is not a single Nigerian who does not believe that the country's 2011 election are a marker for Nigeria's next 50 years. Yes, this is Nigeria's 50th independence celebration, but it is also more than that. Nigerians tell me it is a time for change, a time to move forward, and a time to have leadership that will be by the people and for the people. It does get any better than that when you talk about true democracy. Government must govern by the consent of the people. And, the people of Nigeria want credibility and transparency in their election processes. The U.S. Government is doing its part with help in certain areas of election assistance as are other donors. We have a unique partnership with the UK and are jointly coordinating and pooling our expertise and assistance and other donors are also doing their part. We are primarily focusing on parallel vote tabulation (or what is called SWIFT Vote Count here in Nigeria), which will seek to provide a secondary validation of polling results; training civil society monitors and observers; training INEC staff, encouraging more democratization in political party processes; and assisting with developing time lines for certain actions given what appears to be a short time line between now and when the elections may happen in early 2011 (right now it is unclear whether elections will be held in January or April 2011). This is the most important time in this wonderful nation of 150 million peole and a reported 65 million people eligible to vote. We hope that it will be handled in a way that all Nigerians are clamoring for - with credibility, with transparency, with a commitment at all levels (particularly as regards to political will to end fraud and vote rigging at the polls) of the elections process to make this an election -- the 2011 election -- one that all Nigerians can be proud of as it will certainly be a marker for the future of this great country.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Newspaper Clips on My Remarks at CODER

"The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Robin Sanders, challenged INEC, last week, to ensure that the 2011 poll produces the best leaders that would rule Nigeria. Speaking at a workshop organised by the Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reforms (CODER), the envoy expressed her opinion in a paper entitled “Agenda for a Credible Election: Road Map for New INEC.”

She charged INEC to stand up to the occasion, saying “the other challenge is time and time is not on your side; you have to register about 30 million eligible voters and if election is to take place between January and February next year, it means that you have to register at least 15,000 voters every hour, and it is expected that about 25,000 polling units must be provided before the election.”

She said further: “I have faith in Nigerian people that they will do everything possible to ensure a credible election. You must be on the driver’s seat on this roadmap for a credible election so that you can take your place in the comity of nations. United States has always assisted Nigeria in the area of technical assistance which was what your government asked. Technical assistance also includes capacity building not only to INEC but also to the civil society. If you are not adequately funded, you can’t have a credible election. By the records, it is estimated that Nigeria earns about $3.2 billion from excess crude oil. Also, the country has about $37 billion in foreign reserves; I believe that this is enough to fund the election, while the international community assists with technical support. Civil society organisations play a critical role in monitoring and observation during election period. They can be the voice of the voiceless and also the critical observer.”

According to her, the US government was supporting INEC so that it could achieve its goals within the shortest possible time, adding that the elections must be financed not just by the donors but by Nigerians because Nigerians are the biggest stakeholders in the poll. “This election can’t be more important to United States more than it is to you; this is your election. You are the major stakeholder; in fact, I won’t be wrong if I say that you are the only stakeholder in this election,” she remarked. "
INEC’s Struggle Over 2011 By Daniel Kanu Austin Oboh, Daily Independent Lagos

Monday, July 26, 2010

Media Clips on Dr. Sanders' Recent Activities in Nigeria

"THE United States of America has pledged to work in concert with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, to ensure the success of the energy sector reform as espoused in the Petroleum Industry Bill currently before the National Assembly.

The US Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms Robin Sanders, made this commitment on Tuesday during a courtesy visit to the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Engr. Austen Oniwon at the NNPC Towers.

Sanders who said the US considers itself as a friend and stakeholder in the Nigerian nation, stated that America would continue to support and remain committed to Nigeria through its international oil companies (IOCs) and would love to see the energy reform sail through.

She said the US has been playing very constructive role in the Nigerian energy sector which has culminated in the signing of five grants for the construction of Independent Power Projects (IPPs) in the country.

The Ambassador explained that her country”s interest in Nigeria was not just because of the strategic position it occupies in Africa and the international community, but because of the potential it has for the future, adding: ““We want to be partners in the journey to that future.””

Sanders who said the US looks forward to the consolidation of the amnesty program in order for Nigeria to realize its full production potential in both liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons, also expressed her appreciation to the Nigerian government for its willingness to accept input into the PIB."

NNPC, US synergize on PIB By Yemie Adeoye of Vanguard July 26, 2010

"Meanwhile, United States of America (USA) on Thursday called on President Goodluck Jonathan to deploy adequate funds from the excess crude account and the foreign reserves to enable the INEC to come up with a credible voters register, begin voters education as a way of demonstrating seriousness of purpose and dedication to democracy.

The US observed that since the nation’s reserves in the two accounts stood at US$3.2 billion and US$37 billion respectively, the country did not have an option but to use the enormous resources to fully fund the electoral process.

US Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms Robin Sanders, who made the remarks at a colloquium on electoral reform organised by Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reform (CODER), said the biggest challenge on the roadmap to 2011 elections was time, which she said was already running out if the polls must be held in January or February next year.

She said INEC would need to register nearly 13 million voters every month, which translate into 500,000 daily or 50,000 voters every hour, adding that the body would also need to ensure that nearly 25,000 polling booths were ready every month.

According to her, “The Nigerian voter wants a 2011 election that is fair, free, credible and most importantly, transparent. Voters with the right attitude are also necessary for a successful election. Your vote must reflect your desire to have leadership that can help Nigeria move forward on things like improving the education, health and agricultural sectors and addressing other challenges such as ending the culture of impunity against corruption or corrupt officials."
INEC needs N72bn for voters’ register –Jega: US charges Jonathan on adequate fund for electoral proces: Senate passes electoral bill, proposes order of election Written by Soji-Eze Fagbemi and Christian Okeke, Abuja Friday, 23 July 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

Women for Change Initiative, Nigerian Women on the Move

2000 Nigerian Women Strong said "Yes We Can" for Change at the July 16, 2010, launching of Nigeria's Women For Change Initiative opened by the First Lady of Nigeria Dame Patience Jonathan. I was asked to be the keynote speaker at the event to highlight the achievements of both Nigerian and African-American women -- both past and present. I mentioned pioneering Nigerian women like Kuti and Alele Williams and African-American standard bearers like Mary McLeod Bethune. I also called for women to be involved in Nigeria's cornerstone and transformative 2011 election as it is a "must-do" for Nigeria to get it right as regards to both election credibility and transparency. The event organized by the Minister of Women Affairs, Josephine Anenih underscored the commitment of First Lady Dame Patience to work with this NGO to stop violence against women as well as work to improve the overall lives of Nigerian women in the areas from health care to education. She also called for an increased in job opportunities -- particularly in government -- for women at all levels. It was wonderful to hear more than 2000 women shout "Yes We Can!" on all these points in the Abuja Women's Center. It was great and I am with them all the way (as I was deemed one of the Ambassadors For Change in addition to giving the keynote). It is time for a change and the Women For Change Initiative (WFCI) is a step in the right direction!! WFCI NGO will focus on economic development, health, education and self-help for women. WFCI is open to all Nigerian women and other elements of WFCI will be highlighted during Nigeria's 50 independence celebrations!

see link for full remarks http://http//
Labels: Education, Elections, Speeches, Women

Friday, July 16, 2010

Dr. Sanders Remarks: 50@50 Speech

Women For Change Initiative (WPCI)
Women’s Center
Abuja, Nigeria
July 16th 2010

Written as Delivered

I am honored to be here among such distinguished women. Let’s all applaud her Excellency First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan for asking all of us to come together to celebrate change… To celebrate the lives of women past and present that have made an impact on history… on the world and to celebrate 50 years of Nigerian Independence. So today because we are strong we always say YES WE CAN!

In fact, today what I am going to ask you to say with from time to time. Is Yes We Can! So as we women can we make a change in the world? Can we make a change for Nigeria?

Yes We Can!

Why can we be “Women For Change”? Because, we are giving like Ogun Leye, who once gave her month salary to a women’s rural empowerment group; we are organized, like Funmilayo Kuti, who brought together 20 thousand women that led to equal tax rights for women; and we are educators like African American Mary McLeod Bethune who founded the National Council of Negro Women and served on the cabinet under the U.S. President Roosevelt. [And Grace Alele Williams who was the first Nigerian women to earn a PhD and the first female vice chancellor of a Nigerian University]

In Nigeria today there are 75 million women; that’s the 9th highest female population in the world. Here today we are going to come together to take stock of the way forward as Nigeria turns 50 this year.

Can I hear a Yes We Can! Yes we can, yes we can, be “Women for Change” and take stock of where women are in: finance, education, and health today.

We know we can change the development in Nigeria. Because, every women or young girl believes that they are the change. You are half of Nigeria. Because, every woman or young girl anywhere in the world can become and do whatever they want to do to make better lives for themselves. You are half the population of Nigeria. Therefore, you are the force for change in Nigeria. You are the movement for change.

Women must be the force behind economic growth. You know in the United States one of the first black millionaires was a woman. Her name was Madame C.J. Walker. She promoted herself into business by building her own factory from the ground up. So we must strive together we must support female ingenuity... We must support female creativity we must support female leadership. Can we do this! Yes We Can!

We must support the education and development of women! Can we do this! Yes we can! We must support the health and businesses of women. Can we do this? Yes We Can!

On education, we must take educating our daughters more seriously. Right now 21% percent of young girls in Nigeria from 10-16 year old are not in School. Education is directly related to income of women...

And we all know that economic independence is power for development… power for elections. And we all know you as women have an important and critical election coming up in 2011, and I hope you all go out and vote... So that you have more representation at all levels of government. If Nigeria is to progress and move forward we need change for women Can We Do this? Yes We Can!

You are about to celebrate 50 years of independence. This will be a tremendous marker of your future. And all Nigerian women must play a bigger role in the next 50 years. Can you do this? Yes We Can!

You know I have been welcomed here as a member of the family. Therefore, as a family member I want to do my part, this is what fuels my desire to help…. To care… and to want the best for Nigerian women everywhere. You are my friends, I am too a woman for change. I am with you every step of the way (see link for full remarks). http://http//

Friday, July 9, 2010

My Interview with THISDAY Newspaper

On Thursday, July 8, 2010, I was interviewed by THISDAY Editors when I was received at the Ikoyi residence of THISDAY Chairman Nduka Obaigbena. The story was titled: Sanders: 2011 is transformative for Nigeria with a rider Govt free to pursue legal case in NLNG bribery scam. The highlight of the interview was featured on the July 9th edition of the newspaper.

According the newspaper, "United States ambassador to Nigeria Ms Robin Renèe Sanders has urged the Nigerian government and Nigerians to muster enough political will to make democracy work by ensuring free and fair elections next year. She also said the Federal Government is free to initiate a legal case against companies such as Halliburton who have been heavily fined by the US for giving bribes to Nigerian public officials in order to secure contracts..."

Furthermore, I encouraged "the voters and politicians in Nigeria should do the right thing by choosing their candidates and show they are committed to democracy." I was quoted as saying that my "country's offer of technical assistance as no sufficient guarantee for free and fair elections, stressing the need for adequate political will from all participants in the process which 'must have to be enforced by someone down the line'.”

I told them ... “It is your election. It is your voice and your choice and all about voting for a change that would make Nigeria strong and vibrant... We provided technical assistance in 2007 and we’re providing a lot of technical assistance now…2011 is a transformative time for Nigeria. You’ve got to have the political will to get to a point where a lot of things would happen in a sustainable manner.”

On the visa revocation of the former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation Mr. Michael Aondoakaa, I was quoted by the paper that “Yes, we revoked the visa and that’s how it was, the rest is a privacy issue. I won’t go into the details of why there was a visa revocation."

On whether Nigeria should receive part of the $338 million fine which a US court ordered Technip to pay, in respect of the $180 million bribe allegedly paid to unnamed senior government officials by Halliburton, I said “The department of justice has executed the case and they were fined after criminal charges…Nigeria's attorney-general is at liberty to pursue his own case against the companies"

On the blacklisting of Nigeria by the US after the attempted downing of a Detroit-bound Delta Airliner by Umaru Farouk Abdulmutallab last December, I said that “the type of policy we had that time was not a nationality designated one. I and my staff had to go through the same security check as well. It was not a nationality designation and unfortunately that is how it is viewed here. It is a worldwide policy and we had a number of meetings with Nigerian aviation authorities to enforce safety regulations.”

On whether US President Barrack Obama may likely visit Nigeria in the near future, I noted that that President Obama and President Goodluck Jonathan met in April and held fruitful discussions.

The following is quoted directly from the paper:

"She recalled the speech of the US president where he stated the importance of Nigeria on the world scene including the leadership role the country has to play on the African continent.
'They talked about credible election, development and moving forward. We have respect for the leadership role of Nigeria on the continent and you’re now a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. We want the best for Nigeria because you are one of our best friends,' Sanders said. On Nigeria’s quest to become a permanent member of the UN, she said that the US currently supports article 23 of the world body which outlines the steps to becoming a permanent member."

"The ambassador also spoke on the US-Nigeria Bi-National Commission, explaining that the working group on the Niger Delta would meet soon. On food security and agriculture, she stated that the 'US is doing a lot towards food security and Nigeria is one of the recipients of the largest food security programmes that we have and this year, $25 million will be worked out as the year goes forward,' she said."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Visit to the New ICT Hub for Nigeria: Main One

Ambassador Sanders at the site
Main One was a fabulous eye opener for me, and showcases the new ICT outlook for Nigeria, the West Africa Region, and the Continent. I was given a tour of the facilities on July 8, 2010. What is Main One then? It is the central hub of where the fiber optic submarine cable landed in Nigeria which will provide not only more Internet capacity and bandwidth to this country of 150 million people, but also leads the way for new IT platforms and applications from mobile banking, forex exchanges, education technologies and the like. Mostly importantly, it will reduce the cost to customers bringing the average cost down to $500 per mega bite month versus $2k for satellite use. The U.S. private sector contribution was in the submarine cable constructed by Tyco Electronics for $250 million. On ground as part of Main One there are 5 institutional investors. It is a fantastic new infrastructure and ICT development for Nigeria.

It is Your 2011 Election - Manage It Well!

I was honored to be invited by the Nigerian Institute of Management to speak on "Managing the 2011 Election Process," on July 1, 2010, to a crowd of management experts of nearly 250 guests, along with other lecturers. My remarks (the full text of my speech found here) focused on the importance of where Nigerians want Nigeria to be after the 2011 election. I began by celebrating the achievements of Nigeria as it approaches its 50 independence celebration and reflections of the achievements of this great nation. These are key milestones for this dynamic country. I noted challenges for Nigerians in their 51st year of independence in 2011 and what outcomes they want in leadership to better address and respond to the needs in social sector development from agriculture, education, health, and fighting corruption. I highlighted USG assistance in these areas as well as the election assistance we are providing to INEC, civil society and political parties to encourage more democratization in the electoral process. As of today -- possibly 6 months out from the elections -- in order for Nigeria to be ready logistically, every month from now until election 13 million voters would need to be registered or verified every month ... meaning everyday 500,000 voters would need to be registered or verified or 50,000 voters every hour. This is just an example of the tasks that lie ahead. The United States is behind Nigeria and we will do as much as possible to support credible elections, but in the end the political by all Nigerians in the political process must be there first and foremost.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

It is Your Election – Manage It Well! - Remarks By Dr. Sanders at NIM

It is Your Election – Manage It Well!

Address to
The Nigerian Institute of Management

Dr. Robin Renée Sanders, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria
On the Occasion of the Annual Distinguished Management Lecture, July 1, 2010 – Lagos

All other protocols duly observed

Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen and Members of the Press.

Thank you for inviting me to speak on the topic of “Management of the Electoral Process: An Imperative for Democratic Governance of the Nigerian State.” I want to congratulate the Nigerian Management Institute and its role in promoting multi-disciplinary discussion of the best ways to manage the challenges and opportunities that Nigeria will face, particularly as regards to elections. Certainly the topic I was asked to speak on is really the topic of discussion in the polity of this country today given that Nigeria has several key milestones approaching: The celebration of 50 years of independence as well as a pivotal point in your democratic experience as you seek to hold not only a free and fair election, but a credible one. Let’s take the first milestone first. Fifty years, that is big step for a mature nation. It is a time for both celebration and reflection. So let’s celebrate first. Let’s celebrate that . . . you are a dynamic country in both energy and force of resources and that your nation will shape the future of the region and of the continent.

Let’s celebrate that you as Nigerians embrace democracy . . . … and the principles of democracy and have had two peaceful transitions of power from one head of state to another.

And, let’s celebrate your respect and presence on the world stage as your nation assumes its rightful place as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. These are things to marvel at . . . These are things to celebrate!

So now let’s talk about the things you may want to reflect on as you reach 50 years of the life of a nation . . . looking back on where you have come from . . . where you are going . . . and what challenges lay ahead. I have been here a long time now . . . and truly feel that I am at home and . . . a family member . . . and as a member of the family these are the things I wonder about as Nigeria moves forward and begins its 51st year in 2011. I want to start with the challenges that I have heard Nigerians talk about in the agriculture, health, and education sectors, and the need to fight corruption. So let’s talk about these issues a bit before we move on to the next milestone – elections -- because for me all of these things are legs of the same democracy stool. Strong democracies are not just about election but a number of things – particularly in development.

I just wanted to share some information with you as food for thought today…food for reflection as you collectively think about where you want your nation to be, your home to be given that you are management specialists and taking stock of your nation at this pivotal time. So I just want to provide you with some statistics to consider as regards to these three key sectors.

Let’s begin with agriculture. Nigeria hosts the largest population in Sub-Saharan Africa of 150 million people . . . with a growth rate of 2.2 per cent . . . Feeding this many people can prove to be a daunting task... The agricultural sector contributes 42% to this nation's GDP . . . and accounts for 80% of the jobs in Nigeria. But currently you import . . . 1.4 million tons of rice a year more than any . . .other . . . country in the world and you are one of the largest importers of wheat in the world as well. Why? You have the talent, and both the human and natural resources to be self-sufficient in any stable crop you choose, particularly these two. The United States Government has pledge 37 million dollars to help Nigeria become more food secure… working to make subsistence farmers more commercial; developing drought-resistance crops; and, aiding farmers in developing markets.

In education, teachers are critical to quality education. At present only 59% of the 600,000 primary school teachers have the minimum required qualification, the National Certificate in Education, as stated in your Ministry of Education’s Statistics of Education in Nigeria (1999-2005). We do applaud the Ministry's current approach to reforms of teacher education. However, according to the Nigeria EdData Survey 2004, conducted by Nigeria’s National Population Commission, over 72% of Nigeria's children aged 4 to 12 lack basic functional numeracy and literacy skills. Girl child education lags behind that of boys, with some reports having 51 per cent of girls not attending primary school. The United States Government provides technical assistance in the development of the revised National Teacher Education Policy . . . and the Ambassadors Girls Scholarship Program provides text books, uniforms and shoes, and scholarships to over 9,000 girls and boys attending schools in 13 states throughout Nigeria. . . . a literate and numerate citizenry is the foundation of any democratic society.

Nigerians also tell me they want a strong health care system that can provide basic health care. The United States Government and the American people worked hand-in-hand with Nigeria's health care professionals to care and treat – and more importantly prevent – some of the major diseases many Nigerians face: polio . . . malaria . . . tuberculosis . . . and HIV/AIDS. The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (better known as PEPFAR) alone has committed nearly $400 million a year for Nigeria. On malaria we will be increasing resources in this area under President Obama’s Malaria Initiative in the tune of $51 million dollars, including a campaign to provide bed-nets to every household in Nigeria. As management leaders I just want to highlight one statistic that I think you will find interesting. Nigerian Government expenditures towards HIV/AIDS programs in 2008 according to a recent report by your own National AIDS Coordination Agency or NACA and UNAIDS stated that only 4.5 billion naira is spent on preventing and fighting HIV/AIDS yearly, so it is interesting to read in the press the proposed budget of somewhere between 10-62 billion naira on Nigeria’s 50th anniversary celebrations ... remember we are in the reflection stage of our discussion this morning. A more realistic beginning figure for Nigeria to truly start combating HIV/AIDs is at least 27 billion or 15% of the funding noted by the goals set in your 2010 National HIV/AIDS Strategic Framework.

Then there is Power. Development depends on adequate, reliable supplies of power ... to run factories, light offices and homes, process foods, power computers in schools and run diagnostic equipment in clinics… But we no longer notice the steady noise from standby generators . . . the fact that we no longer notice is not a good thing. Nigeria struggles with the power it needs to grow and it doesn't have the transmission capacity to move the power it has to where it needs to be. Our countries agree that reform of the energy sector is crucial to attracting investment and promoting development. The United States provides technical assistance through USAID . . . USTDA, and the Department of Energy… to help in the power sector, especially on independent power projects. I have signed at least five of these grants since I have been here. On corruption, you must make stemming corruption the order of the day as it will under cut development at every turn, including affecting your electoral process. Our assistance supports the development of hydro-electric power, regulatory frameworks, and renewable energy.

So with this backdrop of where you are, where do you want to go with your next election in 2011? You hold the power to ensure that your 2011 elections . . . are elections all Nigerians can be proud of . . . can respect and that can . . . move the country forward.

Your friends like America want that too, and we are committed to working with you. So what are we doing? We are supporting civil society organizations, providing technical assistance to INEC to encourage a more transparent voter registry, and training political parties so they can play a more transparent and effective role in the 2011 electoral process. We also are helping INEC review its overall operational planning for the upcoming elections; providing training to 7,000 domestic and 100 international observers, and training 8,000 civil society members to conduct quick vote counts in key states to validate voting at the polls and advocate against election fraud and violence.

We see the appointment of the new INEC leadership .… as a positive step toward the management of credible elections. There appears right now to be insufficient time to create a new voter registration list; however, INEC must do all it can in the time remaining to ensure that the current list is as accurate as possible…. The National Assembly has appropriated funding for INEC … but reports are that funds are yet to be disbursed into INEC election account in order for it to truly begin the hard work of operationalizing its plan, updating the registry, and addressing logistics, and distribution of materials.

Constitutional amendments put forth by the national assembly are pending with the thirty-six state legislatures. Among the issues addressed, these amendments will determine the date of the election, a decision that must be made soon.

Remember . . . democracy is about government by the consent of the governed…. Elections matter because it is through elections that you as Nigerians will choose the people who will lead you, represent your interests, and address the issues that we already noted in the reflection of your 50 years of independence. Again, as management leaders I want to leave you with some stark statistics to think about because time is running out on getting many things done . . . and done in time. Consider this example. If your elections are in early 2011, say in January or February, every month from now until then you would need to either register or verify the registry of nearly 13 million voters…meaning everyday (every day) you would need to register or verify the registry of 500,000 voters, or 50,000 voters every hour in order to be ready on election day. For polling places, we understand that your need is approximately 120 thousand polling sites with 20-40,000 satellite locations. What this may mean is every month you need to establish 25,000 polling sites, 1000 per day, 100 per hour. This is a daunting task, but I have faith in you. I was asked to speak today about the management of the election processes . . . and these are the tasks that are before you . . . these are the management issues before you . . . to get you to . . . at process . . . that is transparent . . . and a credible election.

Then of course there is political will. That is always the variable. All of the technical assistance in the world cannot overcome a lack of commitment by every single player in the political process to do right by the voter – from the ruling party to the polling site manager. That has always been the challenge. And, we hope that in your 50th year . . . as a maturing democracy that this is no longer the case.

As your friend, we want you to succeed. But we can't want it more than every single Nigeria does -- from the elite to the farmer. This is your country. . . These are your choices. As you approach the 2011 elections, choose your leaders wisely. Expect more of them. Hold them accountable. Remember, the essence of democracy is the power of the people . . . and each and every voter.

I remember being taken to register to vote as soon as I turned 18 years of age. My parents – who grew up in a segregated South of the United States, whose parents and grandparents, faced challenges to their right to vote . . . instilled in me the importance and the power of the vote. Since that time . . . I have never missed voting for the President of my nation because I knew that my single vote can and did make a difference. I have heard that desire from every single Nigerian I meet. I wish you well in 2011! But time is of the essence. Be wise and know that the people of the United States stand with you, as one of your best friends, and we want the very best for our best friend – credible, transparent elections in 2011. Thank you.