By Peter Babs Imade:
This is because there were conflicting signals from the U.S. Government about the expected meeting between the two leaders, as White House official listing of Obama’s bilateral meetings for next week did not include Nigeria.
White House Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, said yesterday: “As part of the Nuclear Security Summit, the President is currently planning to host a number of bilateral meetings.”
The meetings will hold alongside the Nuclear summit Obama is hosting next week.
But Gibbs did not indicate that Nigeria’s name was on the latest list.
The presidents, who will have a bilateral meeting with Obama, announced by Gibbs and the White House, are: “President Sargsian of Armenia; President Hu Jintao of China; Chancellor Merkel of Germany; Prime Minister Singh of India; King Abdullah II of Jordan; Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia; Prime Minister Gilani of Pakistan; President Zuma of South Africa and President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan.”
A bilateral is a one-on-one meeting of officials of two countries.
But authoritative sources in the Nigerian Government, and even some in the U.S. State Department, said Obama and Jonathan would meet on Sunday, although it could not be officially confirmed yesterday.
It is believed that the Obama administration is trying to send positive signals to Nigeria and the Jonathan presidency by making a presidential-level meeting possible this time between the two leaders.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Ben Chang said yesterday that only the Obama administration can formally announce the President’s schedule.
This was also confirmed by the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, Philip Crowley, who had earlier reacted to media speculations, regarding the Obama-Jonathan meeting.
Crowley said it is up to the White House, and not the State Department, to make such announcements.
Asked if the timing of the meeting on a Sunday explains why the bilateral is yet-to-be formally announced, Chang said that any U.S. President’s engagement will still be announced by the White House.
But he did not rule out the Obama-Jonathan meeting just because the White House is yet to formally announce it.
However, Gibbs at the same press briefing where he listed the bilateral that Obama will have alongside the nuclear summit, also mentioned the countries participating in the summit, including Nigeria.
According to him, “as you all know, the President will host, on April 12-13, the Nuclear Security Summit at the Washington Convention Centre here in D.C. I want to list for you all a couple of different things – first, the 47 countries, including the United States, that will participate in the summit.
“They include Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Switzerland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, and Vietnam.”
Gibbs added that the United Nations (UN), the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), and the European Union (EU) will also be represented at the meeting.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s 2011 general elections and its democratic project will benefit from the new U.S.-Nigeria Bi-national Commission, according to the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms. Robin Renee Sanders.
The U.S. and Nigerian diplomats shed more light in Washington D.C. on the recently endorsed commission on Wednesday, explaining its potential to foster greater cooperation between the two countries, especially in assisting Nigeria in governance, enhancing regional cooperation and development, among others.
Two other critical areas where the commission will be active are energy, including the Niger Delta issues, as well as food security and agricultural development.
Speaking on Wednesday afternoon (U.S. time), the Nigerian Ambassador to the U.S., Professor Adebowale Adefuye and Ms. Sanders detailed out the expectations from the new commission, which was signed on Tuesday between both countries.
According to Ms. Sanders, the commission will help strengthen democratic institutions essential to Nigeria’s election in 2011.
She said: “We will also support Nigeria’s efforts to strengthen its democracy, civil society and fight corruption.”
In his contribution, Adefuye said the commission and the four major areas it addresses coincide with Nigeria’s Vision 20-2020.
He explained that the Vision 20-2020 initiative is a drive by Nigeria to become one of the 20 most industrialised and advanced nations in the world by 2020.
According to him, “by signing the agreement, the United States Government has demonstrated its genuine concern with the aspirations of Nigerians at every level, both in the public and the private sectors. We are joint partners in the search for global peace and security.”
Earlier at the signing ceremony, held at the State Department, U.S. Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Clinton, said “today (Tuesday), we are taking a concrete step forward that will strengthen and deepen the partnership between our two nations. And we hope it will support the aspirations of the Nigerian people for a peaceful, prosperous, stable and democratic future.”
She praised Nigeria at the ceremony, observing that “Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation, its largest contributor of peace-keepers, a significant trading partner of the United States, its largest producer of oil and the largest recipient of direct investment by the American private sector in sub-Saharan Africa.”
Mrs. Clinton said Nigeria will soon celebrate 50 years of independence and will hold general elections in 2011.
“Nigeria, like many countries, must look to the future and how to create conditions that will protect the gains that independence brought (and) guard against ongoing and serious threats to its progress,” she counselled.
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