Ibrahim BabangidaMr. President, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.
May I first thank you very warmly, Mr. President for your generous hospitality to me and the members of my delegation on our brief visit to Nigeria. We very much appreciate the kindness and consideration which you and your [end p1] colleagues have shown us. All of us are delighted to be in Nigeria.
I am particularly pleased to have been able this evening to meet so many leading Nigerians from every walk of life; and I am looking forward enormously to my visit tomorrow to Kano. [end p2]
Nigeria is known and respected in Britain as a giant among African countries and an important voice in the Commonwealth. We recognise in you a country which has interests and influence far beyond its borders and indeed beyond its continent.
That is one reason why, Mr. President, we particularly missed you at the [end p3] Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Vancouver.
I am all the more pleased that we have been able today to have such a very full talk, covering all aspects of the relations between our countries.
You gave me a full account of Nigeria's demanding economic recovery programme, for [end p4] which I expressed full support. And we also discussed a number of wider African and international problems.
I believe—and I hope you will agree—that we have as a result taken an important step in removing any remaining misunderstandings between Nigeria and Britain, and in putting our relations on a thoroughly sound and friendly footing. [end p5]
One aspect of our relations which is particularly important to us, and, I believe, to you, is the military one. Our links are substantial and long-standing. You and I devoted some time to discussing them today, and I told you of our offer [end p6] to provide financial assistance for Nigeria's military training needs.
Nigeria's Economic Recovery Programme
Over the last two years, we have watched with interest and sympathy your efforts to relaunch Nigeria's economy on a sounder footing. [end p7]
Nigeria's prosperity will not be won without courage or without difficult decisions. The far-reaching adjustment programme you are undertaking goes to the very heart of the whole economic structure of your country. It will affect every single Nigerian in [end p8] his daily life. There will inevitably be difficulties and set-backs. There will be frustrations, too, arising from factors outside your control such as the movement of oil prices, which will make your task harder.
My admiration for your efforts is all the greater because I know just how difficult [end p9] that task can be.
When the government which I lead took office in 1979, we inherited an over-indebted, over-regulated, over-subsidised economy. Britain was being dubbed the sick man of Europe.
Now, almost nine years later, Britain can hold its head high again. [end p10] We can be proud of our achievements in generating growth, increasing productivity, regaining international confidence, and getting firmly to grips with inflation. Indeed we are now cited as an example of how to cure problems.
But this transformation was not easy. It took patience. [end p11] It took commitment. Above all, it took the courage to see the job through.
That is why I have nothing but praise for the way in which you are now tackling your problems, in that same spirit of determination.
Your programme provides your own solutions to [end p12] your own problems. But it is also winning the support of the international financial community. Britain, as your oldest friend in that community, has played a leading part in securing this support. We shall continue to support you and wish you every success. [end p13]
In particular I am pleased to announce that we intend to proceed speedily with negotiations to finance the completion of the major water supply project in Niger State. This is an important and worthwhile project which I know that you, Mr. President, are anxious to see completed. [end p14]
We are also giving very substantial help to other African countries facing economic difficulties. I have in mind, not just our very extensive aid programme, but the far-reaching initiative on African debt which has been put forward by our Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson. [end p15] This would be a major step towards reducing the crippling burden which such official debt represents for some of the world's poorest countries, giving them fresh hope and encouragement as they face up to the challenge of their economic development.
Nigeria's World Role
Mr. President, Nigeria and Britain both have [end p16] reason to know how small our world has become, how nowadays we are in a real sense a global village. Oil markets, currency markets, commodity markets operate round the clock. Television brings us instant images of faraway events. The pressure for instant reactions and decisions grows constantly, as do expectations that problems can have [end p17] quick solutions.
Responsible governments, Mr. President, know that there is no quick fix for every problem: they know that lasting solutions are the result of calm reflection, patient work and tough negotiation.
That was the case with the INF Agreement signed a month ago in Washington between [end p18] President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev: the first ever agreement to reduce the numbers of nuclear weapons. It was the best New Year's gift that the world could have.
Similar patience and persistence will be needed in tackling one of the most fundamental problems facing this continent and the [end p19] world, a problem which arouses intense feeling in Britain as well as in Nigeria: that of apartheid in South Africa. I know how strongly I would feel if I were discriminated against because of the colour of my skin, and I therefore understand the anger and the frustration felt by others.
Apartheid is a repulsive and a detestable [end p20] system; a deep affront to human dignity and basic human rights. In its place we want to see a just society with a non-racial, representative system of government, under which all South Africans enjoy full political rights.
There is no difference between us in wanting to see that achieved. [end p21]
But [Beginning of section checked against BBC Radio News Report 0700 8 January 1988] the idea that the collapse of apartheid can be achieved by a concerted push from outside to destroy the South African economy is, I believe, an illusion. [End of section checked against BBC Radio News Report 0700 8 January 1988.] Punitive pressures would make the problems worse and multiply beyond all recognition the hardships already suffered by black South Africans and their children. Further these pressures would do untold damage to the economies of South Africa's neighbouring states, and do corresponding harm to the well-being and hopes [end p22] of their peoples.
You can only build a good future for everyone on the basis of a flourishing economy. We all know that in our own countries.
I continue to believe that the concept devised by the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group offers the best prospect of progress towards negotiations between all the parties in South Africa, against [end p23] the background of the suspension of violence on all sides. I was deeply disappointed that it has not been followed.
As outside countries, we should urge all the groups in South Africa to start on that process.
That is what we in Britain are doing, and much more besides, in terms of practical and positive help. [end p24]
First, we shall spend an additional twenty million pounds over the next five years on help for black South Africans through education and training.
Second, we are helping the Front Line States to reduce their dependence on South Africa, contributing over one billion dollars in aid to them over the last five years. This is now being spent in particular to enable the Front Line States to diversify their [end p25] transport routes and outlets to the sea, for instance by upgrading the Nkala line and the Beira corridor.
Third, we are providing assistance with military training to Zimbabwe and Mozambique, to strengthen their capacity to defend themselves.
Fourth, we are helping Mozambique cope with its special problems, providing aid of over £35 million. [end p26]
Our positive and practical contribution is too little known and too little recognised. But I believe it is the right way forward.
Mr. President, change in South Africa will not be quick. But it must come. And it will come For our part, we shall persist until apartheid is no more. [end p27]
Mr. President, it only remains for me to thank you once again for this splendid dinner. And for the warm reception and hospitality [end p28] which you have shown me. In my brief visit to your country I have already come to understand that Nigerians fully deserve their reputation for warmth and friendliness.
I would ask you all to rise to drink a toast to the future strength and prosperity of the great country which is Nigeria, to the health of its most distinguished President [end p29] and to the good relations between Britain and Nigeria.