President Barack Obama has renewed United States (U.S.) support for Nigeria’s fight against terrorism.
Obama spoke yesterday after hosting President Muhammadu Buhari at his Oval Office in Washington D.C., where he lauded his guest’s efforts at restoring “safety, security and peace” to Nigeria.
The U.S. President’s meeting with Buhari came less than eight weeks after Buhari assumed duty, underscoring the importance the U.S. attaches to good relations with Nigeria.
Obama had extended his invitation for a visit to Buhari almost immediately after he was declared the winner of the March 28 election.
Speaking after his meeting with Obama, President Buhari said Nigeria would be “ever grateful” to the U.S. for its support of free and credible elections in Nigeria, adding that the U.S.’s and the European Union’s (EU’s) pressure to ensure that the general elections on March 28 and April 11 were “fair and credible, led us to where we are now.”
Obama, who met with Buhari at the White House just days ahead of his trip to Kenya and Ethiopia, said Nigeria “is, obviously, one of the most important countries in the world.”
Speaking to reporters at the outset of the meeting, Obama said the U.S. hoped to partner with Nigeria “so that Nigeria ends up being not only an anchor of prosperity and stability in the western part of the continent, but can also be an outstanding role model for developing countries around the world.”
He said he would discuss with Buhari how the two nations can cooperate on counter-terrorism and how the U.S. “can be helpful in addressing some of the corruption issues that have held Nigeria back.”
Obama said Buhari, as President, has “a very clear agenda” to both contain the spread of militants and keep the Nigerian economy growing.
His words: “President Buhari comes into office with a reputation of integrity and a very clear agenda and that is to make sure that he is bringing safety, security and peace to this country.
“He (Buhari) is very concerned about the spread of Boko Haram and the violence that has taken place there and the atrocities that have taken place there and he has a very clear agenda of defeating Boko Haram and extremists of all sorts inside his country.
“And he has a very clear agenda with respect to rooting out the corruption that has too often held back the economic growth and prosperity of his country. On both these issues, we’re looking forward to hearing more about his plans and how the United States can partner with Nigeria.”
In what looked as an answer to some critics who felt the American President should have extended his tour of Kenya and Ethiopia scheduled for later this week, a U.S. official said President Buhari’ s U.S. trip was a better option.
The official, Grant Harris, a Senior Director for Africa for the National Security Council (NSC), said inviting President Buhari to the U.S. was a better option than a presidential trip to Nigeria, because it will allow the Nigerian president’s fledgling administration to meet with several top American officials.
Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser (NSA) Susan Rice were at Obama’s meeting with Buhari yesterday.
Besides, during his four-day visit, Buhari is scheduled to meet with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey, Attorney-General Loretta Lynch, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman among others.
“This feels to us like Nigeria is at an important moment in which there can be real reforms across the board,” Harris, had told reporters last week.
He added: “We’re looking forward to what we can do with a president who has staked out an agenda that we think is the right agenda at the right time.”