The American University of Nigeria recently played host to the Swiss Ambassador to Nigeria, His Excellency Hans-Rudolph Hodel. He delivered his lecture on “Democracy in Switzerland: Federalism within the Swiss Confederation.” The Library Auditorium which was the venue of the event was filled with various people comprising students, faculty and staff of AUN, as well as some distinguished guests.
Ambassador Hodel also serves as the Ambassador to Chad and Niger. He holds a Doctoral degree from the University of St. Gallen with a very engaging diplomatic career. He has served in many positions of international repute which gave him the opportunity to explore much of Africa having worked as Ambassador and Head of Mission of Swiss Confederation to Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Outside Africa, he has served as Ambassador to Costa Rica, Panama, and Nicaragua.
AUN launched the Diplomatic Lecture Series in 2011 with the goal of strengthening AUN’s diplomatic outreach for community development. But the Hodel’s visit has particularly garnered a lot of interest with Nigeria being in an election year. It was therefore to the greatest pleasure of the university to receive the Swiss Ambassador who discussed democracy in his country.
He explained that direct democracy has been a historical corner stone to both the Swiss political organization and its culture. This has helped the nation to have a good conflict management system in a multicultural environment. The speaker added that the foundation of the pluralistic and real democratic society that the Swiss is, has helped in the establishment of a functioning economy.
Besides pluralism, he also emphasized the advantage of the Swiss federalism, based on its linguistic and cultural groups, direct democracy, solidarity and confederal constitution. Dr. Hodel commented on the crucial role education plays in the process of national development, citing education as one of Switzerland’s main resources.
According to him, “the most important thing in developing a country is education”. He commended AUN’s academic program and emphasized the importance of dialogue in conflict resolution in relation to the Boko Haram crises in Nigeria.
The speaker commented on the issue of corruption in the Nigerian government stating that “politics in Nigeria is more of a business than politics”. He regretted that seeming excessive spending on political campaigns is one of the causes of embezzlement of public funds in the Nigerian government.
According to him, Switzerland is a small country that has a major cultural diversity; Three of Europe's major languages are official in Switzerland. Swiss culture is portrayed by diversity, which is reflected in an extensive traditional customs.
Switzerland is home to many notable contributors to literature, art, architecture, music and sciences. “What makes us a nation is our will to come together to form our nation and not to be part of another” he stressed.
Hodel revealed that Switzerland's government, parliament and courts are organized on three levels: Federal, cantonal, communal. The presidents are normally elected by the parliament. “That’s why nobody knows the president of Swiss” he said with a tinge of humour.
Nigeria and Switzerland are good partners in exportation and importation. Both countries help each other in many ways possible. He concluded his speech by saying “Partnership means you give and you get. We help Nigeria and Nigeria helps us too”. The event witnessed a robust interactive session featuring several questions, bordering infrastructural development, taxation, crime, and communities in the Swiss Confederation.
The American university welcomes many ambassadors and diplomats to give speeches that would benefit both students and faculty members. Zainab Abubakar, a student in the Accounting department, welcomed the lecture: “I never thought this would be educative. I came into this Auditorium without knowing anything about Switzerland but now I know more than enough all thanks to Mr. Hans-Rudolph Hodel”. The AUN community looks forward to meeting more diplomats like him.
The ambassador’s visit was the latest in the AUN Diplomatic Lecture Series, which was initiated in 2011 and has since then brought several foreign diplomats to the school. The university hosted James Entwistle, US ambassador to Nigeria in October of 2014.
Other diplomatic guests of the university since then include Dr. Patrick Fay, former Irish Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Moshe Ram, Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. David MacRae, former EU ambassador to Nigeria, Christopher Cooter, Canadian Ambassador to Nigeria, and Terence McCulley, former US Ambassador to Nigeria. Dr. Fay and Dr. McCrae have since joined the AUN team as faculty member and Executive Vice President respectively.