Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is off to the United States on a 4 day visit that will have him meet the United States President Barack Obama as well as a host of other top American officials. Buhari’s visit to the United States signifies a major foreign and perhaps economic policy shift for Nigeria and a major departure from ex President Goodluck Jonathan. So why is Buhari about to ‘go to bed’ with Obama? We think there are two major reasons for this;
Boko Haram War
Buhari basically campaigned on ending terrorism in Nigeria by “acting differently” and letting Boko Haram ” know the strength of our collective will and commitment to rid this nation of terror, and bring back peace and normalcy to all the affected areas.”
Buhari perhaps knows that to fight this war he will need the help of allies both regional and international which is why one of the first things he did on assumption of duty was to visit the presidents of Niger and Chad. He said this much in an Op-Ed that appeared on the New York Times back in April
My administration would welcome the resumption of a military training agreement with the United States, which was halted during the previous administration. We must, of course, have better coordination with the military campaigns our African allies, like Chad and Niger, are waging in the struggle against Boko Haram. But, in the end, the answer to this threat must come from within Nigeria.
Buhari, unlike Goodluck Jonathan will be relying on America’s intelligence, weaponry and training to fight the war against Boko Haram. He understands this is a war Nigeria can’t win alone and to end it as quickly as it wants will have to rely on the support of its allies. Unfortunately, the past Government could not get the right support from the US and its alliance with the Chinese failed improve our security situation.
For Obama this is perhaps an opportunity for them to reset ties with the Nigeria. According to United States officials, President Obama has recognised Nigeria “as arguably the most important strategic country in sub-Saharan Africa’.” They also see this as an opportunity to “deepen engagement” with Nigeria.
For the US having strong ties with Africa’s most populous country is strategic for security and economic reasons. America’s current greatest threat is ISIS and seeing that they are spreading across the Sahara and perhaps into Nigeria is a major security issue for them. To ensure ISIS is fully contained, Obama recognises the need to assist Nigeria in coming up with a response that will end the Boko Haram scourge.
The US has also seen its relationship with South Africa’s Jacob Zuma wane due to controversies surrounding his relationship with despotic African leaders as well as his handling of corruption cases particularly the Fifa world cup. This therefore leaves him with little option other than to ramp up his relationship with Buhari.
One of the major reasons attributed for the frosty relationship the US had with President Jonathan’s government was his handling of corruption cases as well as human rights abuses by the military. In Buhari, Obama has a reliable ally whose campaign mantra was to rid Nigeria of corruption. A Nigeria rid of corruption makes it easy for Americans to build trust and thus promot economies ties. Barack Obama promised to make the US economy stronger and one of the ways he planned to achieve that was to make American business and brands stronger and have them export their goods and services through international trade. To do this, he has to be on the same page with a President who shares the same objectives with him.
Buhari on the other hand has huge social welfare projects he promised he was going to introduce. Part of his source for funding this projects is earmarked to come from stolen monies recovered from banks in Western Countries. In addition to that, he also wants to make sure corruption is drastically reduced and as such will be needing the help of the US to ensure money can’t be siphoned as easily as it was in the past.