Saturday, July 18

Buhari goes to America

President Muhammed Buhari will go to Washington, DC 19 – 24 July, on a visit that is sure to positively reset the button of Nigeria – United States relationship.

This will be President Buhari’s first visit to the U.S. as the elected leader of the world’s largest black nation and Africa’s biggest economy.

In addition to several hours of engagement with President Obama and other key officials inside the White House, President Buhari will also engage with Vice President Joe Biden; Secretary of State, John Kerry; Congressional caucuses and leaders; the defense establishment; the private sector and Nigerians in the Diaspora.

The timing of the visit is quite auspicious. By tradition, the United States does not usually accord this type of welcome to new national leaders until they have settled properly in their jobs.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Bulus Paul Lolo who leads the Ministry in the absence of a substantive minister says the goal of the visit is to revitalize Nigeria – US relations which have bilateral, regional and global ramifications.

All issues will be on the table. Discussions will cover security, defense, economy, commerce, trade, agriculture, law, financial and other crimes, counter-terrorism, and immigration.

The Americans see Nigeria as the most strategic nation in Sub-Saharan Africa. They want to listen to President Buhari’s vision for Nigeria and see how they can key into it to forge a stronger bilateral partnership for mutual benefit and for the good of the African continent.

From the point of view of commerce and investment, the United States is seen world-wide as a great facilitator and President Buhari’s visit to the White House this early in the life of his administration will certainly boost the confidence of American investors in the Nigerian economy and assure them that they can safely do business with the country.

Human rights are a strong issue that governs or directs U.S. international relations. It is on account of this that the last Nigerian administration was denied military procurement and training. Happily for us at this time, we have a new government that has expressed its full commitments to the defense and promotion of human rights. President Buhari recognizes the abiding need to respect and protect the rights of our citizens.

The protection of the well-being of the citizen is the primary purpose of government. When it comes to human rights, the Buhari administration has made it clear that respect for the rule of law and human rights is non-negotiable.

The disagreement we have with those who accuse our military of all manner of atrocities is that they ignore the peculiarity and the sometimes extreme circumstances of the war against terror going on in the country. Soldiers or even their commanders respond to issues on the spur of the moment and sometimes, the exercise of control becomes a challenge. Even with the leading nations of the world, we have seen such challenges in Iraq, Iran, Libya and Syria. The important thing for the government is to draw lessons and learn from them.

To go back to the necessity of the visit, especially in view of doubts raised about it by Thisday Saturday Editor, Shaka Momodu, it is important to state that the dynamics of the world have since changed from his narrow and passionate standpoint. Nationalism cannot be outmoded. But it can be tampered by realism.

An important back-drop to this visit is the commitment of the G-7 industrialised states to support Nigeria’s war against terrorism and help General Buhari achieve his objective of giving the nation a new lease of life.
As the president said in his inaugural speech, never in the history of Nigeria have we ever seen such outpouring of goodwill and support from the international community.
The U.S. is the center of the world right now. This visit is sure to Nigeria and its new leader greater recognition by the world.
President Obama and indeed, all America leaders, agree to receive only a few leaders on this type of visit. This visit, coming so early in the life of the Buhari administration should be seen as an acceptance and recognition of how important we are as people and country.
Highlights of the visit will include President Buhari’s meetings with President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden; Secretary of State, John Kerry and bilateral meetings with the US Attorney-General, the Deputy Secretary of Defence and the U.S. military establishment.
President Buhari will have series of meetings with influential groups including the US Chamber of Commerce and the Corporate Council for Africa. The President will meet the Congressional Black caucus; leaders and committees of the U.S. Congress and the Nigerians in the Diaspora. He will also interact with other interests groups at the US Institute of Peace.
Garba Shehu is SSA to the President (Media & Publicity)

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