As a testament to Nigeria’s significance to the United States, both as a partner in fighting terrorism and as an ally in spreading democracy, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was in Washington, Monday, as a guest of U.S. President Barack Obama.
President Obama called Nigeria one of the most important countries in the world and the African continent, and hailed its recent election and peaceful transition to a new government, which he said was “an affirmation of Nigeria’s commitment to democracy,” and recognition of the fact that Nigerians, despite their religious and cultural differences, understand that change can only come as a result of a “peaceful, political process.”
President Buhari, who was inaugurated less than 2 months ago, after defeating incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, thanked the U.S. for ensuring a peaceful transition of power in his country.
"The maintenance of pressure by the United states, mainly, and Europe to make sure that the elections were free, fair and credible - led us to where we are now," Buhari said.
President Obama also expressed confidence in President Buhari’s ability to defeat the militant group Boko Haram, saying he has a “very clear agenda,” on how to address Boko Haram and extremism,” in his country. President Obama also said Mr. Buhari had a clear agenda on rooting out corruption, which he said has too often, “held back the economic growth and prosperity of his country.” He said the U.S. is committed to helping Nigerians stay competitive.
“We all recognize that some of the best business people are from Nigeria, and they thrive as they travel to other countries, and we want to make sure they also helping folks thrive in Nigeria.”
The White House said Buhari’s visit emphasizes U.S. "commitment to strengthening and expanding our partnership with Nigeria's new government" and supporting its people.
Earlier Monday, Mr. Buhari had breakfast with Vice President Joe Biden. Later in the day, he will meet with West African diplomats, World Bank executives, and members of the U.S. Congress. He is scheduled to hold a town hall meeting Tuesday with Nigerians.
The United States and Nigeria appear eager to improve relations. Nigerian officials had turned down some of the assistance the United States offered to combat Boko Haram under former president Goodluck Jonathan.
Managing editor Aliyu Mustapha of VOA’s Hausa Service, said Buhari’s visit establishes a fresh start for both countries.
“You know the relations between the U.S. and Nigeria under Goodluck Jonathan, wasn’t great really, to be honest about it,” said Mustapha.
Further signs that Buhari is well regarded in Washington, Mustapha said, was that the former military ruler stayed, “just next door in the Blair House, where heads of state that are extremely crucial to the United States, are accommodated or housed there.”
The four-day trip is Mr. Buhari's first to Washington since taking office in May.