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The Washington, D.C. Visit: A Win Or Waste

 

By Tama Peter

This was one visit meant to strengthen the ties Nigeria has with the U.S; it was also a visit meant to seek the U.S assistance in fighting Boko Haram, tackling insecurity and to also sell our Economic plans to President Obama and seek for support from him and the U.S. These and many others were the ideas the people of Nigeria had of Mr. President’s visit to Washington DC to meet President Barack Obama when the news of their meeting broke out to Nigerians. Before the President and his delegates embarked on the trip to the U.S, much was made of it, expectations were raised within Nigeria and outside the shores of this country as PMB’s visit to the state was celebrated and almost likened to one who was meeting up with his/her maker. Almost everyone anticipated the good such a visit would do to Nigeria, her dwindling economy, her struggles and challenges. The Economy analysts were not left out of the excitement of Mr. President’s visit to Washington DC as they saw the visit as a welcome development and one that would bolster Nigeria’s image in the comity of Nations. Now, let me brush aside all what Nigerians, Economy analysts and the world expected of the trip by going with what President Buhari expected from the visit. In a statement released by the Presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina, He said Mr. President proposed talks with Mr Obama would centre on security, war against terrorism, as well as trade and economic relations. Finally, the number of delegates to accompany PMB in such exhorted, well publicized Washington DC visit to hold high-level talks with President Obama was pegged at 33, this inclusive of the President’s first son, Yusuf. This got Nigerians talking as some wondered if there was an office for the first son and questioned the rationale behind Yusuf being part of the delegates. As expected, the Presidential spokesperson released a statement to quell it and said there was nothing wrong with Yusuf being part of the delegates and urged Nigerians to accept him being part of the delegates. People accepted this and moved on.

On Sunday the 19th of July, Mr. President and his acclaimed competent and progressive-economy driven delegates left for Washington DC to engage the U.S in high level talks and a lot of Nigerians felt their hope for a better US-Nigeria tie was almost realized. But before this, prior the trip, a lot was said and for the fact that it is normally said that Mr. President only works with competent individuals made people see the U.S visit as the start of something new and great. You just cannot blame citizens for expecting so much of this government, can you? Not at all! President Buhari and his delegates finally arrived Washington DC that evening just in time for the official four day visit. It’s important you know that from the inception of this visit, one thing that was certain was the fact that President Obama and his cabinet were ready and much prepared for the visit of Mr. President and his high profiled and economy-growth oriented delegates. But it was really not certain if Mr. President and his 33-man delegate were ready to let the U.S understand the reforms the President has for Nigeria and also if they would be able to table a good proposal to gain the U.S support. If it was certain that they were, how prepared and ready they were for the visit was definitely not certain. To highlight the U.S readiness in supporting and partnering Nigeria, President Obama said that they were looking forward to hearing more about Mr President’s plans and how the United States could partner with Nigeria so that Nigeria ends up being an anchor not only of prosperity and stability in the eastern part of the continent, but can also be an outstanding role model for developing countries around the world. This was a clear message of intent from President Obama that all he needed from Mr. President was to be let in on the plans he has for Nigeria and also for Buhari to tell him HOW the United State would be of help. A well-articulated proposal! It is same as me saying you should tell me your plans and also tell me how I can support them. Before I continue, it is vital I remind you that Mr. President’s visit to the U.S was not one that was suddenly planned; no, not at all. The media had it all over for weeks if not month and as such there was reasonable amount of time for the President to put all his reforms into perspective and develop a good proposal in order for him to be able to relate them with President Obama. Did he do this?

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The President and his delegates are back in the country, and before I begin to ask questions of what his visit to the U.S has brought and if the visit met expectations, let me remind you that Mr President’s visit to the U.S cost Nigeria the sum of ₦2.2billion. Having said this, from all what was spoken by the Presidential spokesperson about Mr. President’s plans/agenda for the U.S visit prior that visit, how many were achieved? Can we beat our chest and tell the world that our President’s visit to the U.S wasn’t just a ceremonial meeting but indeed achieved some of, if not all of its aim? And if we are asked about some of the aims it achieved, what answers do we have to give? Mr. Femi Adesina told the watching, listening and reading world what was expected from the President’s visit. He said talks would centre on security, war against terrorism, trade and economic relations. If these were in Mr. President’s agenda/plan for the visit and if he effectively tabled a good proposal to President Obama and was clear and purposeful in relating them, then we should have had more answers than questions already; we should by now be seeing the signs of a purposeful visit. The people of Nigeria should by now know how the U.S intends assisting Nigeria in tackling insecurity, fighting terrorism and how they would partner our economy to grow. If the “How” has been answered, then the people of Nigeria also need to know the “When.” When the U.S intends assisting Nigeria in tackling insecurity, fighting against terrorism and when they would partner our economy to grow! The President and his media team should stop faffing around and let Nigerians understand that the ₦2.2Billion spent for the US visit wasn’t spent for sightseeing, hand shakings, delicacies, press briefings, reunion and having pictures for billboards. It is only normal Nigerians in clear terms know how, in what capacity and when the U.S would support Nigeria. Did Mr. President only visit the US to seek for her support in recovery of stolen loots? One would begin to wonder because all the Presidential media team talked about and all we still hear is that the U.S would assist Nigeria in loot recovery. Nothing more concrete! Loot recovery seems like the top most priority for that visit and sincerely it is still the only plausible information they have given out during and after the visit. Let me remind Mr. President and his media team that Nigerians deserve more than waking up to the information of loot recovery! We want to wake up to the news of the U.S partnering our economy and engaging Nigeria in fighting Boko Haram. The state of the economy is so alarming that there isn’t time for petty talks. That Senator Patrick Leahy called the Nigerian soldiers rapist and murderers in response to Mr. President telling the world that the U.S law is aiding and abetting Boko Haram only buttress the fact that Mr. President didn’t quite do much or any better in strengthening the already fragile Nigeria relations with the U.S and I don’t know if it is safe to say more damage was done. I hope Mr. President heard Senator Patrick Leahy clearly when he said that he should face up to his own responsibility to effectively counter Boko Haram and that Mr. President should direct his attention to the Nigerian military, and the Nigerian courts, and clean up the units implicated in such atrocities. In other words, as long as he is concerned, Mr. President’s visit to the U.S is a failed one in terms of fighting Boko Haram. Mr. President was duly reminded that fighting Boko Haram is his responsibility and as such he should give all his attention to the Nigerian military and not looking at some other country for direction.

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Mr. President is back from the visit, and our economy needs urgent attention and direction. If the visit was a plus or minus or none, time would surely tell! A prosperous and transparent Nigeria is all we pray for.

About Tama Peter:

He is a political commentator and is very passionate about football. Connect with him on Twitter via @ItzGreatPet.

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