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Lagos, Nigeria Remarks of the President and Lt. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo at the Welcoming Ceremony.

April 01, 1978

GENERAL OBASANJO. President and Mrs. Carter, on behalf of the people and Government of Nigeria, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you to Nigeria and, indeed, to Africa on this historic visit.

In the interest of peace and stability in Africa, in particular, and in the world in general, and for the mutual benefit of our two countries, contact and consultation between our countries, especially since your arrival in the White House, has been on the increase. We welcome this development.

I fondly remember my visit to your great country only last October and the warm and generous reception accorded me. That visit afforded us an opportunity for frank and cordial exchange of views and ideas on contemporary issues of interest to our two countries. I hope this visit, the first of its kind and so timely, will be as rewarding and as fruitful as my memorable visit last October.

The whole of Africa, and indeed the whole world, will be interested in your visit to our country as marking a significant redirection in American policy towards black Africa.

This visit will afford you, Mr. President, and Mrs. Carter and, through you, the majority of American people a closer understanding of Africa today and African aspirations.

We as leaders cannot afford to disappoint our two peoples, in particular, who have great expectations from this exchange of visits. There are present issues which must engage our attention during this visit. Your personal commitment to human values, rights, and dignity, based on the principles and ideals of the Founding Fathers of your great country, have given us some hope in our joint endeavor to eradicate racialism on this continent and to ensure improvement of peace, justice, and fairness on our continent and in the world.

We believe that world economies are complementary and interdependent, and we hope this visit will afford us the opportunity of exploring the areas of cooperation and collaboration between our two countries for our mutual benefits, and finding ways and means of bringing about a more equitable world economic order.

May I especially once again welcome Mrs. Carter to Nigeria and wish you, President and Mrs. Carter, and all the members of your entourage, a pleasant stay in Nigeria and a safe journey back home at the end of what we expect to be a rewarding visit and experience. You are welcome.

THE PRESIDENT. Your Excellency, General Obasanjo, distinguished officials of the Military Government of Nigeria, and the people who are friends of the people of my country, the United States:

It is a personal privilege for me to begin this first state visit of a President of the United States to the sub-Saharan region of Africa. It also reflects the increasing role which so many nations of this diverse continent are now playing in international affairs.

I am pleased to come to Nigeria, where the vision of your own government in meeting African challenges has been an inspiration far beyond the borders of your own great country.

Quite apart from the great political events which are shaping our times, the American people have a longstanding but growing interest in the continent of Africa—its history, its cultural richness, its increasingly developed economic potential.

During the past years, we in the United States have been enriched—and particularly the last few months—by significant visits of Nigerian painters, sculptors, musicians, and other artists. Our awareness of your 2,000-year-old artistic tradition is being enhanced even now, by such events as the exhibit this month, in Washington, of regional arts of the Nigerian people.

As I told General Obasanjo earlier on his visit to Washington, I, myself, and my family are avid readers of the fine literary works of Chinua Achebe and others who write of the past and present life in your great country.

It is in this context of growing awareness about African culture that so many people in the United States are looking back with increased interest to their family origins here. But the relationship between the United States and Nigeria is based on current realities and common hopes, as well as ancestral ties. We share with you a desire to see all the people of Africa at peace with each other, preserving their diversity and their national character, living in mutual respect, and enjoying the fruits of development and of democracy.

The presence of more than 15,000 Nigerian students in the United States and many Americans here underlines the depth of our cooperation in the field of education. We are also bound by economic interests, and we are learning from each other about trade and about industrial and agricultural development.

Our relationship with you is one of mutual dependence, and our goals should always be to find ways of making this relationship even more beneficial to both our peoples. And we share the hope of achieving peace with justice in southern Africa.

I am particularly happy to renew my close acquaintance with General Obasanjo. We first met last October, when he paid an official visit to the United States. Since then, I have benefited from his counsel in many ways.

I am especially pleased that the Nigerian people and Government, your leaders, are so deeply committed to democratic principles. A freely elected assembly is even now debating the draft of your nation's new constitution. This demonstration of faith in the judgment of Nigerian citizens is heartening to all of us in America who care so deeply about self-determination, majority rule, and human rights.

I'm looking forward to even closer cooperation with Nigeria and with other nations in Africa. And during this visit, I expect to learn firsthand about some of Africa's problems and opportunities from your distinguished leaders.

General Obasanjo, thank you for your welcome. It is a great pleasure for me, for my wife, for my daughter, and other American officials, to be with you in your great and growing country.
Thank you very much.

Note: The exchange began at 10:12 a.m. at Dodan Barracks.

The President had arrived in Lagos on the evening of March 31. He was met at Murtala Muhammed Airport by General Obasanjo, Head of State of Nigeria, and then went to the State House Marina where he stayed during his visit to Lagos.

Following the welcoming ceremony, the President and General Obasanjo went to the VIP Room at Dodan Barracks for meetings. The President then proceeded to Tafawa Balewa Square, where he placed a wreath at the memorial cenotaph, dedicated to the memory of Nigerian soldiers who died in the two World Wars and the Nigerian civil war.

Jimmy Carter, Lagos, Nigeria Remarks of the President and Lt. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo at the Welcoming Ceremony. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244822

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