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Visit of President Alhaji Shehu Shagari of Nigeria Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony.

October 07, 1980

PRESIDENT CARTER. It is a distinct honor for me this morning to be able to welcome to our country President Shagari of the great nation of Nigeria. Mr. President, we are delighted to have you here. We appreciate your patience in opening the automobile door. [Laughter] We hope that this delay in getting out of the car will be matched by your delay in leaving our country.

We are very pleased, particularly at the distinguished nature of the delegation traveling with you. President Shagari has brought to our country experts on trade, agriculture, foreign affairs, science, technology, development, and our consultations during this day and subsequently will be extremely useful to both countries.

President Shagari is the first freely elected leader of one of the greatest democracies on Earth, a nation which celebrated its independence 20 years ago on the 1st of October, and this is the first anniversary, on the I st of October, of the inauguration of this great new President.

We share a great deal with Nigeria. We have enormous trade relationships with that great country. The political cooperation that exists, the sharing of concepts of freedom, the concepts of equality of opportunity, the concepts of the elimination of racial discrimination in our own nations and throughout the world, the basic concepts of human rights have been exemplified by the orderly development during this last 20 years of this great nation.

President Shagari exemplifies the finest aspects of his own country. He's a teacher, a poet, an historian, statesman, and I'm also glad to say, a farmer. He comes from one of the great ground-nut producing areas of the world, known in south Georgia as peanuts— [laughter] but we also share that in common.

When I became President it was my resolve that we should open up a new and ambitious diplomatic and trade effort in the continent of Africa, an area too long neglected by my predecessors in this office. We recognize that among the 150 nations of the world that there is a great diversity and also a need for each nation to be treated as an individual people, even though the diverse nature of its own people might be quite exemplary. We have made visits now to the continent of Africa and to its nations, myself and the Vice President. As a matter of fact, in 1978 I made the first official visit by an American President to that great continent. And of course, I was honored to visit the people of Nigeria on that occasion.

This is President Shagari's first official visit outside the continent of Africa, and we are extremely honored that he chose Washington and our great country for the place of his first visit. The relationships between our two nations are growing. Our trade increases every year enormously. Our commitment to democracy is now being studied very carefully by other nations in Africa, and the recent development of freely elected democratic governments in Zimbabwe, Niger, Chad, the Upper Volta, has also been of great benefit to us all. This example which has been established is an exemplification of what our two nations espouse as concepts and practice in practical politics, government, and statesmanship.

We were particularly gratified to cooperate with Nigeria in helping to see established the new democracy in Zimbabwe. This must be followed by a sustained commitment to see the same development of a government based on majority rule and an end to racial discrimination in Namibia. We are cooperating not only with this great country but also through the United Nations, and we hope to see the consummation of our efforts in the early future. The elimination of apartheid, the elimination of racial discrimination, is a goal that we share with deep commitment and with fervent effort.

And finally, I'd like to say that the meetings today will indeed be beneficial to both countries. We are honored to share these concepts and ultimate goals with the great nation of Nigeria. And in my meetings this morning with President Shagari and his distinguished delegation, followed by other meetings between the delegation members and the members of my Cabinet, there is no doubt in my mind that both nations will continue the benefits derived from the close friendship and common concepts about the present and the future.

Mr. President, welcome to our Nation. You have honored us with this visit.

PRESIDENT SHAGARI. President Carter and Mrs. Carter, Secretary of State Muskie, distinguished ladies and gentlemen:

I thank you on behalf of my delegation, in the name of the people of Nigeria, and on my own behalf for the wonderful reception and warm welcome which you and your Government has accorded us since we arrived on the soil of this great country. I'm highly honored to have been invited to visit your beautiful capital at the conclusion of my participation at this year's session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Mr. President, your invitation, extended to me, even at this very busy time for you, when the affairs of state are pressing and indeed demanding, is a confirmation of the high esteem and honor in which you and your Government hold me and my country. It mirrors the friendship and generosity of your people towards Nigeria.

One visible evidence of this bond of friendship is the presence among us here today of a number of Nigerians resident in your country. The traditional American hospitality continues to be enjoyed by these Nigerians who, in their scores of thousands, come to your schools, colleges, and universities to acquire skills and knowledge most urgently needed in our task of nation-building and of development. I thank you and the American people for making our people welcome among you.

This friendship between our two countries, which is born out of shared values of democratic principles, of our common respect for peace and freedom and for basic human rights and dignity everywhere, has been demonstrated with the increasing cordiality many times within the life of your administration.

We also recall with pleasure the warm hospitality which you and your friendly people accorded my predecessor, General Olusegun Obasanjo, the then Nigerian Chief of State in the autumn of 1977, when he visited you here at your invitation.

Your own state visit to our country in the spring of 1978, the first by any President of the United States, remains for us in Nigeria an historic landmark in our bilateral relations. And for Africa it demonstrated the beginning of a welcome change in American policy towards our continent. More recently, only last July, we were very happy to receive your dynamic Vice President and Mrs. Mondale in Lagos during those successful economic talks between our two Governments.

This close friendship has been beneficial beyond the ideas of our bilateral relations. It has permitted very close cooperation between our two Governments on the international scene. We have been able, when necessary, to share our concern and anxiety, and at other times when our views and interests have been close, we have moved forward on issues of vital international importance. For example, I'm sure that your Government and mine derived tremendous satisfaction and a sense of relief from the final liberation of Zimbabwe and the installation of a government representative of true aspirations of the people of that country.

We both had worked very hard toward such an outcome. And I hope that we will dedicate our best efforts towards the achievement of similar solutions in Namibia and elsewhere in the area of the African Continent. I hope also that we can cooperate and bring about peace and stability wherever they are needed in other parts of our one world.

Mr. President, we have taken the occasion of our presence in New York these past few days to familiarize ourselves with various groups in your society with whom we Nigerians share common interest—cultural, ethnic, and economic. I'm encouraged by their general enthusiasm with a bold experiment in democratic government upon which Nigeria has embarked and most modest success which we have achieved since my administration peacefully succeeded a military regime a year ago. We are confident in the knowledge that the atmosphere of real and lasting stability which we're endeavoring to create in our country seems to them a conducive one in which to cooperate with us in our national development to the mutual advantage of our two countries.

Mr. President, in the next few hours, we will be holding discussions with your good self and your officials, seeking ways of further consolidating and enhancing the very friendly relations which so happily exist between our two Governments and peoples. We will explore new possibilities and, I hope, set ourselves new goals in order that we may achieve that ultimate objective of happiness: peace with justice and dignity for all mankind.
Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Carter spoke at 10:41 a.m. on the South Lawn of the White House.

Jimmy Carter, Visit of President Alhaji Shehu Shagari of Nigeria Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/250735

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