Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives both my wife and myself the most enormous pleasure to be with all of you this evening and to be here in Nigeria – in my case, to return once again for my fourth visit to this remarkable country and, in my wife’s case, for the very first time. I first came to Nigeria very nearly thirty years ago and retain particularly special memories of the welcome we received and the places that were visited. It is therefore a great joy to have this opportunity to return.
Once again, today, I have been reminded of the breadth and strength of the modern and dynamic partnership between our two countries. Ours is a relationship that makes a profound difference to both our economies and our societies and, indeed, to our shared security. I know that the British Prime Minister, during her recent visit to Nigeria, made clear just how much the United Kingdom values its partnership with Nigeria, a point which, for my own part, I was pleased to emphasise in my discussions with His Excellency President Buhari earlier this afternoon, and with the Traditional Rulers who so kindly travelled from across Nigeria to meet me in the High Commission residence.
I know that many of you here this evening play a vital role in strengthening the U.K.-Nigeria relationship, whether through business or government, through N.G.O.s or the voluntary sector. I therefore wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for the tremendous difference that each of you makes in strengthening the ties between our countries, and to say just how greatly your efforts are appreciated.
As so often before, I have once again been struck by the remarkable role that Nigeria – with its economic might and extraordinary intellectual capital - can, and does, play in this region and in the world. Nigeria also occupies an essential place within our Commonwealth family of Nations, and can perform an invaluable role in helping the Commonwealth address some of the most pressing challenges of our time, such as climate change, youth unemployment, burgeoning population growth and rapid urbanization.
For all these reasons, it was of particular importance to my wife and to myself that we should conclude our Tour of West Africa by coming here to Nigeria, and to experience, however briefly, something of the extraordinary nature of this immense country.
I might also add, Ladies and Gentlemen, that having also visited The Gambia and Ghana over the past week, our visit to Nigeria may perhaps provide an invaluable opportunity to compare – if one ever dares do such a thing! – the relative merits of each country’s Jollof Rice… however, for fear of sparking a diplomatic incident, I suspect I shall have to let you draw your own conclusions about which country’s Jollof we found to be the most delicious!
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, my wife and I have greatly enjoyed the chance to speak to many of you this evening and I much look forward over these next two days to renewing my acquaintance with one of the most important countries in Africa and the Commonwealth.
Naija No Dey Carry Last! (Nigeria always wins)