Visit Anti-Climax The way the four-day of President Muhammadu Buhari to the United States of America was hyped and advertised, it looked as if the life of his young administration depended on it. It might well have because to the new administration, the United States and the Barack Obama government seemed to have the magic wand for the fulfilment of the copious promises which the APC had made to Nigerians during the campaigns. Undoubtedly, PMB had given three cardinal assurances to the Nigerian electorate and it was on those that he was chosen overwhelmingly over Goodluck Jonathan.
The promise to deal ruthlessly and end the Boko Haram scourge within a few weeks of coming to power, the revamping of the national economy which included the firming up of the national currency as well as the headlong confrontation with corruption, were the tripod on which Buhari’s credibility would rest. Somehow, President Buhari seemed to have also believed that he would get answers to the difficult questions posed by the solemn promises he had made to the Nigerian people, most of who, somehow see him more as a magician, than as an ordinary determined man, from the United States.
That must have been why the invitation to visit the US by the Obama administration had appeared not just significant, but of an absolute necessity to the PMB administration. But because the expectations of the Buhari administration of what was to be gained from the trip were superfluous ab initio, perhaps because of his incorrect reading of an important rubric international diplomacy. That fact is that strong nations do not necessarily make offers to or deal with other nations neither out of love or affection, nor even for the benefit of those nations at the receiving end. Nations do favours to other nations for their own personal benefits or interests.
The quantum of goodies which other nations receive from such nations like the United States is directly proportional to the amount of strategic benefits the United States hopes to garner No Comment from such gestures, both on the short and long run. President Buhari went to the United States expecting more than he deserved, and when he was escorted back with empty begging bowls, he returned with anger and drooping spirit like a frustrated almajiri child. To date, and in spite of the failed attempts by the spin doctors to convince Nigerians that the visit was not one grand four day working holiday to the US capital, one is yet to hear of one single solid pledge that the United States had made to Nigeria on the strength of the negotiations made during the visit.
It would, therefore, be very difficult to disagree with those who are claiming that the visit was a veritable anti-climax. An anti-climax, yes, because instead of bringing more goodwill and friendship along with the tools Nigeria would need to prosecute its war on terror and repair its economy, what PMB and his team brought home are mere platitudes. To make matters worse, those failed expectations even made our dear president to commit some diplomatic and political blunders which would haunt him and his administration for some time in future. The frustration and disappointment from being told to his face that Nigeria should forget about getting the sophisticated military equipment the president had hoped to obtain from the US for ending the Boko Haram terror might have led our president to drop his diplomatic guard. In that unguarded moment, whilst still in the United States, PMB had vicariously placed the blame for the spread and ostensible invincibility of Boko Haram on the US for failing to sell the arms which Nigerian military needs to do the needful.
He had said what his ‘innocent’ mind had told him was the truth without considering the adverse diplomatic backlash of his angry vituperation. He had returned home when the dam of anger burst in the United States on the account of his blame of the US tardiness to equip our military. In fact, and unknown to the Presidency, US authorities were already brimming with rage and gyrating for a kill, when some highly connected Nigerians got the hint and warned the Presidency.
And that was how and when Femi Adesina, the presidential spokesman made his belated release explaining his boss’s very undiplomatic, if correct statement. When the US authorities lashed out through Senator Patrick Leahy over the weekend, lambasting the sloppy handling of the situation by the Nigerian authorities, it further drove the nail into the anticlimax nature of Nigerian leader’s euphoric visit. The diplomatic blunder recorded during the visit might not be as damaging and as devastating as the domestic damage which the president caused to himself and his administration, when before the wide world he admitted that he was one sided in his treatment of his citizens.
While answering a question at a press conference on what he would do for the Niger Delta, with special reference to the Amnesty programme, President Buhari had replied cavalierly that a region that did not give him a lot of votes should not expect be as well treated as those that gave him massive votes. He must have suddenly become weaned of his naivety and seemed to have discovered his blunder when he went into unconvicting and disjointed circumlocutions on how the Constitution had spoken about equality and all that. But the world had heard his first rendition which seemed to be the way his mind has been working, evidenced from the pattern of his appointments so far.
The obvious and unambiguous reading is that because the South South and the South East zones did not support him overwhelmingly during the last elections, their zones would remain marginalized under him. Significantly, two days later, Barrister Callistus Nwabueze Obi who was appointed the acting DG of NIMASA four days earlier – and who had been the only South Easterner among the over 30 recent appointments he had made – was removed and replaced with a Northerner from Adamawa State. It would be important to point out that the US remains completely blameless in her refusal to sell arms to Nigeria.
That decision is hinged on the new Leahy Law which states that the US would not support the military of a country with poor human rights record with weapon. We do not expect the US to act like Nigeria, as a country that does not respect or keep its own laws. For over three years, Nigerians, especially from the North, have been crying ‘blue murder’ to the world, reporting how bad the Nigerian military had been in their human rights record.
The Northern elites had been so strident in their complaints that the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) have been trying to drag some military chiefs to the World Court at The Hague for human rights abuses especially in their prosecution of the terror war against Boko Haram. So shrill was their cry that it was picked up by the Amnesty International in their last annual report which painted Nigerian military’s human records in putrid colours. So, was the US not justified in continuing to refuse to sell arms to our military when Buhari has not shown that there has been any fundamental transformation either in the mandate or style of our military? Or when nobody has been prosecuted and brought to punishment over those ‘violations’?
Many people believe that the way the US has treated us in this case should make us to start thinking and acting more strategically in the way we do things as a nation, especially as it concerns placing sectional and partisan interests over and above the holistic national issues. And while this remains the situation, it might become important for Nigeria to stop being naïve about international relationships and go back to our usual non-aligned stance which would help us source arms and cooperation. One must, however, admit that the only gain from the rip is the fact that our president looked American leaders in their face and told them point blank that Nigerians will never degrade to the low animalistic level of the West by accepting the same-sex subhuman culture. If that is their real reason for refusing Nigeria their arms, they can as well keep them, and ‘stuff it’, as they would say.