The outgoing British High Commissioner in Nigeria, Catriona Liang, yesterday urged Nigerians to be proud of the 2023 general election despite some setbacks in the presidential and National Assembly polls.
Liang spoke with reporters after he paid a farewell visit to the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, in Abuja.
She described Nigeria’s politics as “fascinating”, saying she was “impressed with Nigeria’s democratic journey so far.”
The diplomat, who also visited House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, was applauded by him for her selfless service and collaborative efforts.
Liang said: “It is obvious Nigerians are the most amazing people. I have traveled a lot across Nigeria, to all the geo-political zones.
“I have made very good friends everywhere I have gone. I love Nigerian music and dancing. The culture here is just so rich.
“Secondly, Nigeria’s politics is just so fascinating. I was here for the last election and I will finish with this election. I am true, impressed with Nigeria’s democratic journey.
“Yes, there have been some setbacks, but overall, I see this as positive and Nigerians should be proud.
“Nigeria’s politics is fascinating, just to watch it. What I really want to get across is that Nigeria is the biggest democracy in Africa. The world watches your progress to democracy.
“Although there were some disappointments in this election, I think overall, Nigerians should be proud.
“Since 1999, you have stuck with democracy and that should not be taken for granted because if you look at the region as a whole, some countries had coups, presidents who refuse to step down. Your elections might be a little different, you might have a three-party system or four. I think Nigerians should recognize that it does count.”
The British Envoy also lauded Nigerians for being resilient at times of difficulty.
She said: “There have been a marked difference from when I arrived in 2019. There have been some tough times. We had COVID-19, and obviously, insecurity has gone much much worse since I have been here, but Nigeria people are incredibly resilient and very entrepreneurial.
“I have seen their positions all over the world and I remain very optimistic to Nigeria’s future. It has been a wonderful time. I am very sad to be going, but because the UK’s partnership with Nigeria is very strong, within a short time, I am going to be coming back.”
Lawan commended the British envoy for her positive disposition to the country.
He urged her to help in strengthening bilateral relations between Nigeria and Britain.
He said: “Nigeria and Britain have come a long way very cordial and diplomatic relations over the years, the tradition we believe, high rated diplomat like you, can help to foster and strengthen.”
Gbajabiamila lauds Laing
Gbajabiamila commended Laing for her selfless service and collaborative efforts with the National Assembly during her five-year assignment in the country.
He said during her term, Laing provided a lot of support to the House.
The Speaker, who received Laing and her team during a farewell visit to his office at the National Assembly on Tuesday, described the meeting as “bittersweet”.
He said: “We will miss you, Nigeria will miss you, and the parliament will miss you.
It’s a bittersweet visit, I’ll call it sweet because it’’s always good to have you around, and bitter because you’re going. I personally enjoyed a great working relationship with you.
“You and I, over time, had robust and engaging interactions. It was a very enriching time for me. I think your passion was so evident in our discussions.
“My prayer is that whoever succeeds you on that trajectory will carry on with the good job.
“I thank you for the interest in the work that we do here. You played a very critical role in the mentorship programme that I launched. At your age, I believe you still have so much to offer your country. We are really glad to have you around.”
One of the bills that the High Commission contributed to was the Electoral Act (Amendment Bill 2022), which was passed and was eventually signed into law.
Ms. Laing said she witnessed two election cycles in Nigeria, having resumed as the British High Commissioner to Nigeria in 2018. She described her experience in the country as wonderful.
“I’m happy to have worked with Mr. Speaker on a number of issues, and a number of bills were passed during the period. I’m sure my successor will be glad to work with you.”
The outgoing British High Commissioner also lauded the Speaker for his support for women’s empowerment.