As the May 29 inauguration of Nigeria’s President-elect and the Vice President-elect draws closer, pressure is mounting on the White House on who to represent the United States at the event.
While the immediate past U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Johnnie Carson, is asking President Barack Obama to send his deputy, Vice President Joe Biden, to lead the American delegation to the event, a pro-Africa U.S. lobby group in Washington DC and the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans, CANAN are requesting President Obama to attend the event himself.
In a press statement over the weekend Mr. Carson, who had advised Obama as the most senior government official on Africa (after the Secretary of State) until late 2013, however, requested that the U.S. President visit Nigeria in July while heading out to East Africa as already announced.
The U.S. President is not ready yet to announce a delegation to the Nigeria’s presidential swearing-in ceremony on May 29. according to Natalie Wozniak, a White House spokesperson.
But such an announcement is expected in the forthcoming week based on traditional practices by the White House. There has been news reports and claims that Mr. Obama is planning to send a high-powered, presidential scale delegation possibly led by his wife, the VP or the U.S. Secretary of State.
Specifically regarding the Buhari-Osinbajo inauguration, Ambassador Carson noted that “President Obama should send a high level delegation to President Buhari’s inauguration in Abuja on May 29.
According to him, “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.”
Continuing, the former U.S. official said if Mr. Biden “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 cabinets departments, including the Department of Defense.”
In a similar vein, CANAN and another leading U.S. group released separate statements outrightly asking the US President to be personally present at the May 29 event in Abuja.
The group-Constituency for Africa- is considered one of the leading organizations in the US “committed to educating and mobilizing the US public on matters pertaining to Africa.”
Its president, Melvin Foote, in the statement argued that “last month, Nigeria completed its election process in a peaceful and transparent manner. While the U.S. applauded this positive feat, our involvement cannot conclude just yet. In fact, in some ways, it is only just beginning — which is why I strongly urge President Barack Obama to attend the inauguration of President-Elect Mohammadu Buhari on May 29.”
He stated that “President Obama’s presence at this historic inauguration would send the right signal at the right time. This election was a landmark victory for democracy in Africa and for struggling people elsewhere around the world, and his participation would make a powerful statement of hope and renewal. Nigeria is in the balance. While it is dealing with a brutal terrorism campaign in the north, and multiple other development challenges elsewhere across the country — still it is the largest economy in a very important part of the world and – is poised to achieve much more in the years ahead.”
CANAN, in its own statement asked Mr. Obama to consider attending the Buhari-Osinbajo inauguration as a means of further spurring the democratic fervour and ferment which is currently at play in the country.
According to the National Secretariat of CANAN, “while with the help of the LORD, Nigerians take the lead in the credit for the successful elections, the role of the US President and government cannot be over-emphasized.
“We remember how President Barack Obama took time to personally record and send an official White House video message to Nigerians ahead of the presidential elections, saying all the right things.
By attending the inauguration personally, Obama will cap the whole affair graciously and end the controversial fallouts of the exclusion of Nigeria in his prior visits to Africa. CANAN wishes the President take a very deep reflection on this matter and add a great spur to the ferment of change that is ongoing in Nigeria by being personally present at the Buhari-Osinbajo inauguration on May 29. It will set a new tone not only in US-Nigeria relations, but in US relationship with Africa as a whole.”
In his statement urging Mr. Obama to visit Nigeria in July when he is scheduled to visit Kenya and Ethiopia, Mr, Carson said “it would be deeply troubling for many Nigerians to see Africa’s largest democracy snubbed at this important moment in its history.
Mr. Carson who advised Obama on Africa all through his first term in office and beyond conceded that “relations between Abuja and Washington have frayed over the past two years, largely over security issues and differences over the handling of Boko Haram.”
He suggested that by sending a high powered delegation to the presidential inauguration in Nigeria and then dropping by in Nigeria on his way to East Africa in July, President Obama can bring about a new beginning between Nigeria and the U.S. with the emergence of the Buhari-Osinbajo presidency.