Former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Walter Carrington
By Tokunbo Adedoja
Former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Walter Carrington, has said Nigeria, with its largest population in Africa and all its potentials for greatness, must stop being "a crippled giant."
The former US envoy said this on Monday night during a "Conversation on Nigeria" by John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, Havard University Institute of Politics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he and Nigerian Ambassador to US, Prof. Adebowale Adefuye, served as panellists at the session on "the future of Nigeria".
Carrington said he hoped that Nigeria would get it right soon so that it could join the BRICS - an international political/economic organisation made up of leading emerging economies namely, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
The former US envoy said President Goodluck Jonathan had the opportunity to use the remaining part of his presidency to achieve that.
Carrington, who was US envoy to Nigeria between 1993 and 1997, also used the forum to recall his tour of duty in Nigeria with nostalgia saying he could not think of a more exciting or meaningful time in his life than the period he spent in Nigeria.
The US diplomat, who began his tour of duty in Nigeria during the June 12 presidential election crisis, said, "I think to be in a place where you can be able to make meaningful contribution is extremely rewarding."
Noting that he was to resume in Nigeria at a time a civilian would be President, he said the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election by the regime of General Ibrahim Banbangida altered that.
The former US envoy, while noting that he was proud of the pressure mounted by the US on the Nigerian military government, noted that he was the last envoy to present his letter of credence to the interim government of Chief Ernest Shonekan.
He, however, said looking back now and considering the sanctions imposed on other deviant nations like Iran, he felt the sanctions imposed on the military government in Nigeria then were mild.
Describing Nigeria as a unique country, Carrington said there was probably no country in the world where there is an even distribution of Christians and Muslims, which he put at almost 50-50.
He said in spite of this, there had not been a split, and even cited the regime of a military dictator from the North who was a Muslim, noting that his greatest opposition came from Yoruba Muslims.
He cited as an attribute of Yoruba Muslims, the fact that most of them have Yoruba names and not Arabic names.
Also in a nostalgic recollection of his stay in Nigeria, Carrington said he took home one of Nigeria’s beautiful daughters, Arese, as wife.
In his own contributions at the forum moderated by Havard Professor Monica Toft, Nigerian Ambassador, Adefuye said the future of Nigeria was very bright because "we have a committed and dedicated leadership and a vibrant population".
Adefuye also attested to the quality of people currently running the affairs of the nation, noting that President Jonathan, a PhD holder, and Vice President Namadi Sambo, a certified architect, are at the helm of affairs, while the manager of the nation's economy, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was adjudged a top candidate for World Bank Presidency.
On the issue of Boko Haram, Adefuye said like all other countries, Nigeria had his share of security challenges, but noted that there were also good news from Nigeria which western media ignored because bad news makes good copies.
Noting that Boko Haram negates everything Nigeria stands for, he said hydra-headed unemployment, cross-border migration, and political inspiration by frustrated election losers, and not religion, were the root causes.
He described Boko Haram as a reflection of past systemic failure and bad governance, adding that President Jonathan administration was working to address the problem through counter-terrorism measures, economic transformation, massive job creation, accountability and open government.