Picture:US Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador James F. Entwistle flanked by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar (Left) and President of American University of Nigeria Yola (AUN), Prof. Margee Ensign during the ambassador’s visit to AUN Yola on Tuesday
The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, His Excellency James F. Entwistle, who addressed a press conference at AUN on October 9, at the end of a three-day visit with his wife, Dr. Pamela Schmoll, acknowledged AUN’s academic excellence and development initiatives as a solution to Africa’s many development challenges.
“I’ve been very impressed with AUN, not just what you’re doing in terms of education, but what you’re doing to make the world around you a better place. For the many activities that you engage in off-campus, I have to give AUN pretty high marks.”
The ambassador extolled AUN’s contributions to deepening US-Nigerian partnership and for bringing change to the educational sector. “The US and Nigeria have been doing fantastic things together for decades. Look at this University. That stands as a testimony to the American-Nigeria relationship”.
Ambassador Entwistle, reflecting further, said: “One of the things that has changed in my time as a US diplomat”, he said, “is that when I started years ago almost anything of substance between two countries took place in the government to government channel. One of the most positive developments I’ve seen in the past 35 years is the growth of contacts in nations in non-governmental channels. It is relationships between academic institutions which lead to fantastic things like AUN. So, I’m delighted to be here today at AUN and to have a chance to see and celebrate what this institution represents”.
He also identified AUN’s community service as being of great interest to the US government. “The US government is very interested in the many activities that you engage in off-campus. I had a spectacular session yesterday morning with the AUN-Adamawa Peace Initiative as they talked to me about what they are doing to support Internally Displaced Persons. We are looking at supporting their efforts through the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Different activities like that might be appropriate for US government involvement”.
During his three-day visit to AUN, the US top diplomat had an interactive session with the larger AUN community, and interacted with students, faculty and staff, before addressing a press conference on Thursday.
The Ambassador also used the opportunity to invite emerging Africans to tap into the ongoing Young African Leadership Initiative, a program aimed at empowering African youths.
President Ensign, who introduced the Ambassador, traced the history of AUN to the life-changing encounter the Founder and former Nigeria’s Vice President Atiku Abubakar had with US Peace Corps volunteers who taught him when he was a young boy. They encouraged him to think independently and helped him imbibe the self-discipline and intellectual curiosity, which in turn informed his passion for establishing and funding the best private university anywhere in Nigeria. Coming full circle, she stated that the “US Peace Corps Association had awarded the Global Citizenship Award to His Excellency for his unparalleled generosity to higher education on the continent.”
She added that in support of AUN’s development initiative in the recently launched hash tag campaign #EducateOurGirls in honor of the kidnapped Chibok students and other vulnerable children, the United States Peace Corps Association donated $15,000 as well as two scholarships for female students from Northern Nigeria.