United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington

Olufemi Atoyebi, Ibadan

The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Stuart Symington, has called on Nigerians to take away their focus from what will happen in 2019 and rather concentrate on how to make the country better before the next general elections.

The US envoy, who spoke at an event organised to mark the 2018 World Earth Day in Ibadan on Monday, called on Nigerians, whom he described as the ship, to find solutions to their problems from within, saying that the people should place themselves above their leaders, who were only at the helm of affairs for a while.

He said, “Many Nigerians will spend much of this year thinking about what will happen in 2019. My mind says that it is extraordinary important for every Nigerian to spend this year thinking about what to do to make Nigeria more secure, peaceful, prosperous and united.

“I don’t think Nigeria can lose a day or a year in its history by sitting down to find solutions to its problems and employment to that person looking for a job. We have a group called the Young African Leaders Initiative. Members of this movement exchange ideas about questions on development. The most important thing of all is each Nigerian.

“In the first year of my stay in Nigeria, I travelled to all the 36 states of the country. Everywhere I reached, people said they have leadership challenge at the local, state and national levels. My first reaction to push back the question is that the nation is in a democracy, the people are the leaders, they are the government. You did it in 2015.

“Two weeks ago, I was in Kaduna and I suddenly realised that there is a challenge because there are two sides to leadership; the leader and the ship. In a democracy, the people are the ship, the pilot is only there for a time but the ship remains. The most important thing is not what Nigerians will do in 2019 but what they will do now because they are the ship.

“At the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, there is a project to combine entrepreneurship and agriculture with some of the forest products; 2018 is the year that the ship of Nigeria must move itself forward. It is not about politics alone but about the people.

“I have been to the Wikki Warm Spring in Yankari Reserves. I have travelled through the lagoon from Lagos to Badagry. I have been to the forest of Obudu and the spot where the River Niger and River Benue meet. They are amazing. This country is beautiful, amazing but a lot of Nigerians do not know it.”

Symington also called on the people to review their interaction with the environment in the face of the diverse environmental problems threatening the continued existence of humanity, saying that practices that had the potential to wipe out the forest, including animal smuggling, must be discouraged.

“I want you to think of the forest not as a forest but as a future. You must learn to use the existence of the forest to make money and life. Discourage those who sell bush meats by not buying, and use social media to expose those who smuggle animals that are endangered species,” he said.

The Punch     17/04/2018