My sincere thanks to President Buhari for welcoming our delegation to Nigeria.
I am blessed to be accompanied by formidable Canadians, government officials, members of parliament and leaders of our society from the arts and culture community; business sector and health and development fields.
Since our arrival yesterday we have been greeted warmly, and witnessed the generous nature of the people of this country.
We are delighted to be here. Nigeria is home to such incredibly deep and varied histories and traditions, and beautiful landscapes. It is an important regional power: the most populous country in Africa; the largest economy; an influential centre of art, dance, literature, folklore, music.
Our two countries have been friends and partners for decades. We have many shared values. And we also have common interests in matters as diverse as education, innovation, trade, culture, and sport.
At the heart of our relationship are the ties between the people of our two countries. They are on the rise, with more than 10,000 Nigerian students studying in Canada last year—the most of any sub-Saharan African country.
Canada is enriched by the more than 50,000 people of Nigerian origin live in our country, contributing to the fabric of our society. They include our own delegation member - Chidi Oguamanam - professor of law at the University of Ottawa, an internationally renowned, multi-disciplinary scholar who specializes in the area of intellectual property, innovation and governance.
I am very pleased that during this visit, one of our priorities will be to meet with and celebrate the vibrancy of Nigeria’s youth.
I am also looking forward to visiting the National Space Research and Development Agency, and to highlighting the ways in which science, technology and innovation can help us address the challenges our world is facing.
Before becoming Governor General, I had the honour of representing my country as an astronaut and flew in space twice. The view of the Earth – from 350 km – is stunning.
Our blue planet displays its splendor in three dimensions and appears to us like a blue marble on a backdrop of darkness. We see mostly water – oceans, immense oceans – but also the land, colourful and diverse, where we live and thrive.
At this altitude, however, we do not see borders. Landscapes and contours beautifully mix up and we can’t tell where a country starts or where a country ends.
And the evidence strikes us so clearly – we share a home, all of us – and we are inextricably bound on the same planetary spaceship: Earth.
It is essential that we collaborate, that we work together to use and develop our world sustainably, and that we share its richness equitably and deliberately – so as to ensure the future of our communities and of our children.
We have a lot of work to do. Many opportunities exist for deeper cooperation between our two countries.
Fortunately, we already have a strong base to build upon: Nigeria is Canada’s largest trading partner in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the largest African investor in Canada. The number of Canadian companies doing business here has grown significantly in recent years.
Development assistance is another sphere of cooperation. Contributions from Canada are supporting the health and rights of those most in need, with a focus on women and girls.
We are also working together to strengthen the ability to respond to outbreaks of disease, improve primary health care delivery, and increase business opportunities for women and youth entrepreneurs.
Security and stability in Nigeria are vital for this entire region, and Canada is committed to cooperation on this front as well.
Nigeria’s motto is “Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress,” so let us work together for peace and progress among nations. For the global issues we face know no border, and no timeline.
And on a personal note, as a long-time Scrabble aficionado, allow me to commend you on having Scrabble as an official sport, and for being home to the first African player to become World Scrabble Champion!
On behalf of my fellow delegates and the superbly efficient team from our diplomatic mission and from the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General, I thank you for your welcome.
We are truly honoured to have this opportunity to play a role in strengthening the important relationship between Canada and Nigeria.
May our friendship thrive for years to come.