An interview with the US Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle
The United States Government has said that there are no signs that Nigeria will disintegrate before, during or after the February general elections.
While explaining that Nigeria was indeed facing “big challenges,” the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. James Entwistle, stated that the problems at stake were surmountable.
According to the top American envoy, Nigerians should “throw out of the window” the idea from “some think-tank or somebody outside the (US) government” stating that Nigeria was going to fall apart in 2015.
Entwistle spoke in Lagos on Thursday, during an interactive session with select journalists on the recent donation of a US naval ship, christened, “NNS Okpabana” to the Nigerian Navy.
The US diplomat said, “I have been plagued by the question (on Nigeria’s 2015 disintegration) and I have gone back to look and I can’t find any government report that said Nigeria would disintegrate in 2015. Maybe some think-tank or somebody outside the government said it; I don’t know.
“But in my opinion as the US Ambassador to this country, I am not worried in the least that Nigeria is going to disintegrate in 2015. Regardless of what someone may have said, the question is that we are now here in 2015: Do we see signs that Nigeria is going to disintegrate or fall apart or something? I don’t know what you think. But I don’t see those signs.
“But I see signs of growth, optimism and I see that to minimise the challenges that you have, in this life, you have to keep on keeping on, and I think the future is quite bright.”
Entwistle added that if the Federal Government did what was needed to be done in the coming years, especially as pertaining to “security, corruption and all of these things,” the future of Nigeria would be “very bright.”
He debunked the insinuation that the President Barack Obama administration had imposed “an arms embargo” on Nigeria following the reported refusal of the American government to sell Cobra helicopters to the Federal Government to prosecute the ongoing war against terrorism.
Citing human rights considerations for the development, Entwistle hinted that the US Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria was “still talking about a number of other types of equipment and different types of helicopters that might be more appropriate” for the Nigerian military services.
Respecting human rights among the civilian population, he argued, should not be an impediment to fighting terrorism in the three north-eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.
He added, “Sometimes the criticism of us (the United States) is that we don’t care about fighting terrorism, but we care about human rights. My reaction is that I don’t believe that you have to choose between fighting terror and protecting the civilian population. I think you can do both at the same time.
“As you fight terror, you also have to protect the civilian population and keep them on your side. We have learnt the hard way in our own counter-terrorism experience that if you lose the trust and support of the civilian population, you have lost everything. We (Nigeria and America) have had that conversation and indeed much of the (military) training that we have done with the army over the years have focused on this kind of thing.”
BY TEMITAYO FAMUTIMI