Muhammadu Buhari & ‘Open’ Global Invitations: New Nigeria, Fresh Opportunities

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In what can be described as an unprecedented diplomatic largesse for Nigeria, developed nations around the world have continued to offer President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) a blanket invitation to request for assistance, support and collaboration in order to fulfil the vision of restoring Nigeria’s lost glory.

Ironically, Nigeria’s new vista of opportunities began with President Buhari’s visit to Nigeria’s erstwhile colonial masters (United Kingdom) just before he was sworn in as the president. During the visit, Mr David Cameron (The British Prime Minister) promised to work with President Buhari for a stable, prosperous and secure Nigeria. The British PM then went on to pledge his support for Buhari’s fight against terrorism, and corruption.

This obviously opened the floodgate of global invitations for Nigeria. The first major invitation came from the Group of 7 industrialised countries (G7) which include Germany, Italy, Canada, France, Great Britain, Russia and United States. The G7 had immediately after the general election in Nigeria requested for Buhari’s shopping list, and asked him to bring it to Munich, Germany (venue of the G7 meeting) for their consideration in what was considered as goodwill gesture towards Buhari’s presidency. PMB gladly obliged by presenting a 9-point demand which was accepted by the G7 nations.

Other nations that have offered invitations (to which President Buhari may embark upon as state visits in the near future) include France, United Kingdom and India. Of course, the United Nations is also looking forward to Nigeria’s participation at the 70th anniversary of the world body in New York this September, where the Nigerian delegation might be one of the major attractions amongst over 100 heads of state that are expected alongside Buhari at the yearly global summit in New York.

 “Support that are coming towards Nigeria is due to the personality of President Buhari himself; as an anticorruption leader”

Besides the open global invitations to Buhari, the global community has been generally celebrating Nigeria, and most prominent is the Time Magazine, which published a very positive review on the country recently, titled “Here Are 3 Good Things That Happened in the World This Week” (following the smooth presidential transition), it listed Nigeria among the three, saying Nigeria is one of the very few things that is currently positive in a world described by the publication as depressing.

In all these, the importance of Nigeria in the new world order, and the strongest indication of the kind of support the world is offering Nigeria is evident in the outcome of President Buhari’s recent historic state visit to the United States of America. While Nigeria and the U.S. enjoyed good diplomatic relations during Jonathan’s administration (although this turned sour towards the tail end of that administration), Buhari’s emergence as the president has restored relations to its warmest in a long time. This new improved relations provide an explanation to why the U.S. President, Barack Obama, invited President Buhari to the White House soon after his inauguration – a gesture that the US government had never made before – to invite a newly sworn-in head of state for a state visit, within three months of a presidency!

After meeting with President Obama, and holding series of other consultations with other American stakeholders and members of the Nigerian community at the Nigerian Embassy, Washington D.C, the success of Buhari’s trip to the United States covers five major areas: Investment, Gay marriage, Abducted Girls, Security, and Corruption

Investment

Some of the immediate quantifiable benefits of the President’s trip to the U.S includes the proposed $2.1 billion fund from the World Bank for the re-development of the northeast battered by Boko Haram, $5 billion from US investors in Nigeria’s agriculture sector, $1.5 billion investment in the Nigerian health sector, and ¬another $5 billion investment from the U.S. in Nigeria’s power sector. President Buhari also used the visit to challenge American investors to avail themselves of the liberal trade and investment environment in Nigeria, to engage in profitable   businesses in the country.

Speaking at the business dinner organised by the US Chamber of Commerce and the Corporate Council on Africa, Buhari noted that his administration would stop at nothing in forging ahead with the ongoing privatisation programme ‘but with improved moral architecture and cleaner processes’. The president hinted that the privatisation exercise will be extended to include Nigeria’s aviation, telecommunication, energy, gas, solid minerals, health and infrastructural development. “It is my intention to create the necessary environment for future investments in Nigeria. We are the most populous nation with the largest market in Africa, with vast human and natural resources and blessed with abundant young and skilled workforce,” the president said. “Let me repeat, Nigeria will partner with genuine investors who are willing to join us to achieve our economic objective and at the same time realise handsome returns to recoup their investments. There is more to Nigeria than oil’’. He continued “In this regard, I want to use this platform to encourage United States foreign investors and funding agencies such as Overseas Investment Corporation and the United States Export-Import Bank to increase access to capital and funding of such businesses on favourable terms. Nigeria potentialities are already being explored,” he added. On his part, the chairman of the Corporate Council on Africa, Mr Paul Hinks, announced that American investors were ready to do business with the new government in Nigeria and invited President Buhari to chair the Council’s summit slated for Ethiopia in November.

Gay marriage

Discussing at the joint session of the US Senate and House Committee on foreign affairs, and not in a direct meeting with President Obama, President Buhari rejected the gay marriage suggestion made by the United States, maintaining that it was against the law in Nigeria.

Some leading global leaders have been pushing the adoption of same sex marriage as a condition for assisting developing nations, but when the issue came up, President Buhari was point blank to explain that sodomy is against the law in Nigeria and abhorrent to Nigeria’s culture.

Abducted schoolgirls

Considering the trauma the families and concerned Nigerians are going through, PMB while in the US, also stated that the Federal Government is ready to negotiate for the release of Chibok girls with Boko Haram, if and when the leadership of the group can be ascertained as credible. The president insisted that the leadership, which the government is willing to negotiate with must be authentic. It may be recalled that Boko Haram kidnapped about 276 schoolgirls from the school hostel in Chibok town, Borno State in April 2004, but few of them managed to escape, leaving 219 still in captivity.

Security

One of the key expectations of Buhari’s visit to America hinged on Obama’s assistance in tackling insecurity. Evidently, activities of the terrorist group have crippled economic and social activities in Nigeria’s North East with over 20,000 dead.

After having a closed-door meeting, the two presidents held a joint press conference at the Oval  Office in Washington D.C., and Obama declared that President Buhari had “a very clear agenda in defeating Boko Haram and extremists of all sorts inside his country.” Buhari noted that one of the focal points of his visit to the United States was based on President Obama’s promise during the G7 summit to assist in the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria. He said Nigeria had presented the requirements in terms of training and intelligence gathering to defeat Boko Haram. Buhari emphasised that tackling the Boko Haram insurgency and militancy in the Niger Delta region was the top priority of the country for now, as nothing will work if the country is not stabilised. “My people want the security in the country to be stabilised so that normal life can return even in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria where the militants are still sabotaging oil installations and kidnappers demanding ransoms, and the North East of the country where Boko Haram is still active. This is the main occupation of the present Nigeria government as nothing will work until the country is stabilised”, he said.

Corruption

The need for President Buhari to fight corruption cannot be overstated. Transparency International recently ranked Nigeria the 136th most corrupt country in the world, and the 3rd most corrupt country in West Africa – after Guinea and Guinea Bissau. As part of Americas support for Nigeria, Obama told Buhari that the US “can be helpful in addressing some of the corruption issues’’. The United States government sealed a deal with Nigeria to help recover all identified ill-gotten wealth belonging to the two nations in countries where they have jurisdiction, including the US itself. Nigeria and the US agreed that “the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty signed between the two countries in 1985, which came into effect in 2003, will be given some teeth. Buhari has called the fight against corruption a matter of the country’s survival, and he also pledged that his measures to combat graft would be “fair, just and scrupulously follow due process and the rule of law, as enshrined in our constitution’’.“We must win and sustain the trust of the people we govern,” Buhari said.

Considering the number of nations that have continued to offer support and assistance to Nigeria, there are two fundamental underlying facts: Firstly, most (if not all) of the support that are coming towards Nigeria is due to the personality of President Buhari himself; as an anti-corruption leader, a disciplinarian, and a dependable ally with impeccable integrity.

Secondly, the task before PMB is huge and should not be underrated by any means. After years of deprived visible economic development, lack of genuine infrastructural investment, and culture of impunity, Nigeria was at the brink of total economic and political collapse… until President Buhari won the fateful election that brought him into power.

Quite rightly so, Buhari’s Presidency has opened a new vista of opportunity for Nigeria to have a fresh start and restore her position amongst the comity of nations. This has generated unprecedented excitement within Nigeria, and amongst international communities. It remains to be seen how and when the gains of the President’s visit to America will begin to materialise and translate into economic prosperity. However on the evidence of what United States and various other countries are offering PMB in recent times, Nigeria is now on a positive pathway to restoring stability and credibility back to the Nigerian government, and Nigeria can only hope for a positive change that will propel a safe, stable, and more prosperous future.

 

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