AGENCY REPORTS, Segun Adeleye
Former United States’ Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson has implored President Barrack Obama to prioritise repairing relations with Nigeria by stopping over in Abuja when he visits East Africa in July.
Carson, who served in the first cabinet of Obama, said the visit will help to sooth the frayed relationship between the two countries. He also suggested that the US President formally invite Nigeria’s President-elect to the White House to iron issues out.
According to Carson who was a former ambassador to Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe, Nigeria is the sixth largest democracy in the world and that “the success of the elections has also raised Nigeria’s political profile”.
President Obama is slated to visit Kenya, a longstanding economic, democratic and security partner, and Ethiopia, an important security partner whose democratic and human rights performance has been strongly criticized in the international community.
Carson said, “It would be deeply troubling for many Nigerians to see Africa’s largest democracy snubbed at this important moment in its history.”
“An economically vibrant and democratically robust Nigeria is in the interests of Africa, the United States and the broader global community”.
Carson listed 10 ceremonial and substantive actions that the Obama government should take to appreciate the paradigm shift in the manner the country conducted its general elections and the resolve of the incoming Muhammadu Buhari administration to establish a better relationship between Abuja and Washington, especially in the security arena.
The actions, besides the visit to Abuja in July, listed by Carson, in his article titled “Top 10 Ways to Repair U.S.-Nigeria Ties” and published in by AllAfrica, an online news platform yesterday he said Obama must send a high-powered delegation for Buhari’s inauguration on May 29.
“Ideally, this delegation should be led by Vice President Joe Biden, who engaged with both President Jonathan and with president-elect Buhari in the run-up to the presidential election. If he is unable to go, Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson or Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack should lead the delegation, which should include senior officials from several cabinet departments, including the Department of Defence”, he wrote.
The former US under-secretary of state for Africa also said Obama should “formally invite President Buhari for an official visit soon”
“If the White House does not send an appropriately high delegation to the inauguration in Abuja, an official visit takes on greater urgency”, Carson noted.
The other actions, he said should be to reinvigorate and elevate US-Nigeria strategic dialogue as established by former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
Carson called for the deepening of commercial and trade ties between the two countries and re-establishment of the broken military relationship between Abuja and Washington.
The rest are that the US should as a matter of urgency revisit the issue of having a Consulate in Kano to service Northern Nigeria. He would also want the revamping of the Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to support state governments in Nigeria.
Furthermore, he said “Lack of power is the most serious impediment to growing Nigeria’s economy. A country of 180 million people produces less power than New York City and its surrounding suburbs. President Jonathan’s inability to improve the situation is one the reasons he was thrown out of office. Power Africa has been one of the Obama administration’s most significant initiatives and it needs to double down on its efforts to assist Nigeria in addressing its energy needs by bringing together major American power producers to work with, partner and invest in Nigeria’s power sector,” he notedObama-Buhari2
Added to these, he said “Leading American agro industry companies and the deans of some of America’s leading agricultural colleges should travel with him to help Nigeria revitalize and grow its agricultural sector. Once self-sufficient in food and one of Africa’s largest exporters of groundnuts, cocoa, cotton and palm oil, Nigeria is now a major food importer. Support for its agricultural sector offers another opportunity for serious and sustained engagement with a country whose population is expected to grow from 180 to more than 400 million by 2035.”
The top diplomat noted that over the past two years, largely over security issues and differences over the handling of Boko Haram.
Nigeria, he said, is so important, and the US “should not miss this opportunity to engage with Nigeria’s new government. Strong support for Nigeria will help strengthen its democracy, support its economic growth and enhance its security and stability.
This comes as the White House and senior Obama team are debating the composition of the American delegation to the Inauguration and the scheduling of an.
In an editorial page article in the New York Times on April 14, President-elect Muhammadu Buhari promised that: “My administration would welcome the resumption of a military training agreement with the United States, which was halted during the previous (Jonathan) administration.”
There has been no love lost between Nigeria and the US in recent times.
Nigerian officials were deeply upset when Washington refused to permit the sale of American-built Cobra helicopters from Israel to the Nigerian military. They also complained about lack of intelligence sharing and U.S. reluctance to supply training and equipment. Earlier, the Nigerians felt snubbed by President Obama’s decision not to visit Nigeria during his July 2013 swing through Africa.
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