ANALYSIS by Stephen Onyeiwu, Allegheny College
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to the Obama White House three years ago, was ecstatic. By contrast, his visit this week to the Trump White House will be awkward. This time around, his host is a president who has referred to African states as ”shithole countries, and remarked that Nigerians would never want to leave the US to ”go back to their huts”
Given Trump’s unpalatable statements about Africans in general, and Nigerians in particular, it’s fair to wonder why Trump invited the leader of a country he despises so much for a state visit. And also why Buhari accepted the invitation.
One answer is that the meeting offers both leaders a platform to promote their various political goals. Trump could use the occasion to showcase his credentials as an indefatigable fighter against terrorism. And he could pledge to help Buhari defeat Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, much as he has done with ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
For his part, Buhari is headed for a tough re-election bid and may believe that a visit to the White House could boost his international profile. His prolonged absence from office last year due to illness led some observers to believe that Nigeria had abandoned its role as a leading voice for Africa.
It’s not inconceivable that Buhari’s visit to the White House has little to do with economic relations, but more about the political gains both leaders can make. Buhari’s US visit comes on the heels of a recent visit to Downing Street, and will soon be followed by another visit to the Elysee Palace.
What must not be forgotten is that US dependence on Nigerian oil has increased dramatically with imports jumping threefold in 2016 driven by uncertainties in Iran and Venezuela. This suggests that both countries have a common interest in maintaining a close relationship.
What will be on offer
One deal that’s likely to be consummated during the meeting is a planned sale of up to 12 Embraer A-29 Super Tucano attack planes to the Nigerian Air force for about USD$600 million to help fight Boko Haram. Trump is also likely to announce the deployment of more military advisers to assist Nigeria in fighting Boko Haram.
But fighting Boko Haram requires much more. As the commander of the US Africa Command, General Thomas D. Waldhauser, recently observed.
Unrest within West Africa is driven by local grievances, corruption and weak governance, human rights violations, and imported religious ideology.
Buhari could also do with substantial non-military assistance. In particular, he needs help to address two huge social problems in Nigeria: the fact that seventy per cent of Nigerians live in abject poverty, and that more than fifty per cent of the country’s young people are jobless.
But Buhari should not count on Trump to increase aid for the kind of economic transformation the country needs. In the 2017 financial year, the US budgeted a mere USD$608 million in aid to Nigeria a number which eerily echoes the price tag for the 12 fighter jets Nigeria wants to buy.
-culled from Allafrica.com