World leaders line up offers of presidential state visits for Buhari at their capitals
In what is an unusual diplomatic largesse for his country and presidency, leading nations around the world are offering President Muhammadu Buhari state visits this year.
This is just as the United Nations is also looking forward to his participation at the 70th anniversary of the world body in New York this September.
In the past recent weeks, the global community has been generally celebrating Nigeria, including the leading international news weekly, Time Magazine, which published a very positive review on the country recently, saying Nigeria is one of the very few things that is currently positive in a world described by the publication as depressing.
As such sentiments spread in the international community, there are now at least three major countries known to have invited Buhari to visit their executive heads of government in what promises to be fairly elaborate state visits sooner or later this year. These nations are the United Kingdom, the United States and India.
A senior UN official also confirmed Monday that the world body is hoping that President Buhari attends the next General Assembly summit which marks 70 years of the United Nations.
The official said more than 100 heads of state are expected alongside Buhari at the yearly global summit in New York, where the Nigerian delegation might be one of the major attractions.
Although a visit to the UN by a nation is more of the discretion of a country, since the UN is open to all its member-states especially during the annual General Assembly summits, it is believed that the gathering offers unique opportunities to celebrate nations, their presidents and leaders around the world whose public record or global goodwill are rising, just like what is happening to Nigeria currently.
On the other hand, invitations for state visits from one nation to the other, and one president to the other is considered more nuanced and signifies a celebration of warm ties between nations and their leaders.
Of the three major nations being mentioned so far, that is the US, UK, and India, it is the White House offer of a presidential visit that is expected to generate the greatest diplomatic windfall for Mr. Buhari and Nigeria.
While Nigeria and the U.S. enjoyed good relationship during the Goodluck Jonathan administration with the diplomatic hardwork of Prof Ade Adefuye, the current Nigeria’s Ambassador in Washington DC, the perception that the former Nigerian president was weak on fighting corruption and disagreements between the Nigerian military and their American counterparts on the fight against Boko Haram damaged the otherwise warm diplomatic rapport between both countries particularly in the last one year of the Jonathan presidency.
But in both U.S. and Nigerian diplomatic circles, there is wide agreement that the emergence of the Buhari-Osinbajo presidency has changed the tone, restoring warm diplomatic relationships again.
This, according to U.S. sources explained why the U.S. President, Barack Obama, wanted to send his Vice President, Joe Biden, to lead the presidential delegation to witness and grace Nigeria’s May 29 presidential inauguration.
Mr. Biden could not eventually make the trip because his now passed son, Beau Biden, was already very ill and dying and unsettling him emotionally for a while.
However, at the just-concluded African Union summit in South Africa, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Linda Thomas-Greenfield, discussed with the Nigerian delegation to the summit details of a proposed White House and U.S. reception for President Buhari very soon.
We reliably learnt that U.S. Secretary, John Kerry, has actually offered Buhari a visit to the White House when he attended the president’s May 29 inauguration in Abuja.
The United Kingdom and India are also said to have made similar offers on different occasions earlier.
On the part of the UK, it is believed that during President Buhari’s visit to London just before he was sworn in last month, the issue of a formal state visit to London was discussed with the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, making the offer directly to the Nigerian president.
India has also reportedly offered a visit to Buhari through an envoy who has already met President Buhari to discuss the proposed visit.
While no dates have been confirmed or announced for these proposed visits, diplomats and observers say the offers represent a significant reflection of the global goodwill that Nigeria currently enjoys with the successful transfer of power and the assumption of President Buhari, and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
A good many world leaders personally invest great expectations in the duo, just as the Nigerian populace also does, diplomats say.
Informed sources from the Nigerian presidency added that very soon, the dates of these presidential visits abroad for Mr. Buhari would be announced once all details have been properly worked out, with the U.S. trip likely occurring first.
A western diplomat said that while President Buhari’s recent speaking error referring to Germany as West Germany was a bit of a “diplomatic bump” , and avoidable, it is also considered insignificant compared to the confidence several world leaders have in the personal integrity and discipline of the new Nigerian president.
A New York-based UN official visiting Paris on Monday said President Buhari and his new team should capitalize on the wide global goodwill that is being generated regarding Nigeria now.
For instance he said the Nigerian presidency should carefully review the Amnesty International report which detailed allegations against the Nigerian military in its battles against the insurgents in Northeastern Nigeria, but should avoid a wholesale dismissal of the report, parts of which he said is quite compelling.
Only last week, Time Magazine did a story on the good developments in the world under the title “Here Are 3 Good Things That Happened in the World This Week,” and listed Nigeria among the three.
According to the article, “Turkey, Nigeria and the E.U. all saw positive stories in a week when most of the news was depressing.”
On Nigeria, the international news magazine said “after years of corruption and stagnation, Africa’s largest economy needed new political energy. March’s presidential election provided exactly that. After 16 years of one-party rule following the country’s shift from military control to democracy in 1999, opposition leader Muhammadu Buhari won a clear victory and a strong mandate.
“The incumbent accepted defeat, and power changed hands peacefully. That’s crucial in a country where stability depends on a delicate political balance between Christians in the south, Muslims in the north and various ethnic groups and provincial factions.”
Continuing, the Time magazine captured the global sentiments in favour of Nigeria thus: “With majorities for his APC party in parliament and governorships, Buhari brings energy for reform. A capable economic policy team is now settling into place. A badly needed revitalization of the oil sector is underway. Government spending restraint will earn greater investor confidence in Nigeria’s enormous potential. Buhari, a Muslim and former military commander, will more aggressively target Boko Haram, Muslim militants based in the country’s northeast, than his predecessor did.”