When President Muhammadu Buhari stepped out onto the lawns of the White House in Washington, with his host, President Donald Trump, to address the international media, Monday, it was, indeed, literally speaking, Nigeria’s moment in the American sun.
Trump had very many good words for Nigeria, including describing it as “an amazing country” that he would like to visit, and treated its leader, Buhari, with dignity.
Coming soon after the visits of the President of France, Emmanuel Macron and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, President Buhari’s state visit, the first by any sub Saharan African leader since Trump’s election showed the importance that the US President attaches to Nigeria and its strategic place in American-African affairs.
The wide range of issues discussed by the two leaders also confirm that the relationship between the two nations would blossom in the days ahead, especially in the areas of economic cooperation, fight against terrorism, anti-corruption war and governance.
It is, without being overtly mentioned, also clear that the US is fighting to ensure that its influence in Nigeria and Africa is not eroded by China.
During his meeting with Trump at the White House, President Buhari, who confirmed that Nigerians were concerned about the resort to arms by some herdsmen, assured Trump that his administration is stabilising the attacks by the herdsmen across the country.
He described the situation as alien to the age-long peaceful coexistence between herders and farmers across the country, stressing: “The problem of cattle herders is a very long historical problem. What is of a concern is that before now the Nigerian herders are known to carry sticks and machetes and cut follies for their animals but these ones are carrying AK 47.
“So, I don’t think we should underrate Libya, 43 years of Gaddafi people were being recruited from the Sahel and people were being killed.
“With the demise, they moved from their country and their region with their training and their weapons and that is what aggravated the situation.
“We are doing our best to make ensure we stop the cross border movement and so on. It will take time. We are stabilising the situation in Nigeria.”
He explained that Nigeria was happy with the U.S. trying to see the end of ISIS, saying this has helped Nigeria a lot because the Boko Haram in Nigeria had at one time made a statement that they belonged to ISIS.
“Now that ISIS has been virtually dealt with, we are very happy with that,” he said.
On security, Buhari said he was very grateful to the U.S. for “agreeing to sell to us the aircraft we asked for and the spare parts.
“We are even more grateful for the physical presence of the United States military who are training in our institutions and who also go to the frontlines in the northeast to see how they are doing.
“The commitment of the United States to get rid of terrorism across the world, we have firsthand experience of that and we are very grateful for it,” he said.
“Chibok girls’ kidnap was before we came. We rescue some of them. The Dapchi girls were 106, we rescued 100 back, four died, one is still in captivity.
“We are very grateful to the United Nations organisation that is acting as go-between and is helping out. We have not given up on the Dapchi girl,” Buhari said.
Earlier, Trump had said he had met Buhari before and they had a great relationship.
“We have had very serious problems with Christians who are being murdered in Nigeria, we are going to be working on that problem very, very hard because we cannot allow that to happen,” Trump said.
The U.S. leader said his country had very much decimated ISIS over the last 12 months.
“But Boko Haram has been terrible. How did you do with the young women that have been kidnapped? It’s a terrible problem,” Trump had said.