Buhari’s US trip of mixed bags -By Olalekan Adetayo

Filed under: National Issues |

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Activities at the Presidential Villa were at the lowest ebb during the week for obvious reasons. President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday embarked on a trip to the fifth country since his inauguration on May 29. His destination was the United States of America where he was the guest of President Barack Obama for four days. Recall that he had earlier visited Niger, Chad, South Africa and Germany.

Buhari, his handlers and indeed many Nigerians looked forward to his trip to the US with a lot of hopes and aspirations. They expected so much in form of assistance, justifiably so, from the authorities of the “God’s own country.” There were also fears.

The major areas where expectations were high were assistance in fighting corruption, especially identification and repatriation of stolen funds as well as in the fight against terrorism. Much of this, according to the information made available by the government, was achieved during the trip that grabbed headlines across the globe.

Buhari, no doubt, is still enjoying tremendous goodwill not only among Nigerians, but also in the international community. No wonder the trip was hyped to the level that some people erroneously put the meeting between the President and Obama as the first between a Nigerian leader and the US President.

Those who belong to that category also praised the President to high heavens for, according to them, drastically cutting down on the number of those who were on his delegation. They would have formed their opinion based on the (little) information made available to them.

The trip had come and gone, what is next for the most populous black nation is to begin to harvest the benefits inherent in the visit pretty soon. Nigerians want to see the various promises made by the US authorities metamorphosing from promisory notes to realities. They want to see looted funds put at $15bn returned into the government coffers and used to better the lot of all. They want to see the war against Boko Haram being won once and for all. Of course, they want to see the nation’s economy being turned around for good with increased foreign direct investment.

As laudable as the trip was, it was not devoid of fears, controversies and criticisms. Starting from the fears: many Nigerians nursed the fear that Buhari would succumb to the Western world’s known position on gay rights during the visit. Much of these fears were expressed by groups and clerics ahead of the trip.

To show that the fears were not misplaced, the Presidency through the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, confirmed that the President was actually confronted with the issue at the joint session of Senate and House Committees on Foreign Affairs despite that Nigeria has a law that stipulates stiff penalties for same-sex relationship.

The good thing about it however is that Adesina reported back that the President made it clear that it is an issue he would not want to touch even with a long pole. “The issue of gay marriage came up here (in U.S.) yesterday (Tuesday). PMB (President Buhari) was point blank. Sodomy is against the law in Nigeria, and abhorrent to our culture,” Adesina posted on his Twitter handle to the admiration of those who are against gay marriage and to the chagrin of those who believe strongly in gay rights. He said the issue was not pushed as talks shifted to another matter once the President emphatically stated Nigeria’s stand on the matter.

On the controversies, they started early with the official release of the names of members of the President’s delegation. First, the President received knocks for travelling with only state governors elected on the platform of his party, the All Progressives Congress except that of Anambra. . The governors were those of Edo, Oyo, Imo, Borno and Nasarawa states. Many wondered the criteria used in selecting the governors that not even one from the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party could be considered.

Another controversy came from the National Assembly. Lawmakers are used to seeing former President Goodluck Jonathan embarking on such an important trip with at least two of their own: one each from the two chambers of the National Assembly. Many however thought that Buhari left them out of his delegation because of the leadership crisis currently rocking the legislature.

Finally on the various speeches delivered during the visit, some Nigerians descended heavily on the President for still erroneously referring to the party on whose platform he won the March 28 presidential election as the All Nigeria Peoples Congress during the joint press conference he had with Obama before their meeting went into closed door. The video of that aspect of the press conference went viral with those behind it recalling how the same President had earlier during electioneering referred to the same party as the All Progressives Confidence.

Obama himself was not spared of criticism. The National Chairman of Telecoms Security Workers Association of Nigeria, Dr. Ishaya Bawa, faulted what he called the inappropriate reception accorded Buhari at the Joint Base Andrews Airport by the US government on his arrival, saying it was wrong for Obama to send an ambassador to receive the President.

Despite these fears, controversies and criticisms however, the President went; he saw and whether he conquered or not, that will be determined by the results that follow in coming weeks and months.

President and the travails of yesterday’s men

It was at a thanksgiving and farewell service organised in his honour at the Cathedral Church of the Advent, Life Camp, Gwarinpa, Abuja on May 10 that former President Goodluck Jonathan gave an insight into the fate that he believed awaited him under Buhari’s government, saying he and his ministers as well as other aides who served under him would be persecuted.

Less that two months after that prophecy according to the former President, its physical manifestation in the lives of the yesterday’s men (apology to former presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati) has started staring all in the face.

Shortly after he was replaced last week, former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), was treated to a surprise by men of the Department of State Service. Almost about the same time, Jonathan’s former Chief Security Officer, was also having it rough from his constituency, the DSS. On Wednesday, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission grilled ex-President Jonathan’s Senior Special Assistant on Schools and Agricultural Programmes, Baraka Sani. Sani was reportedly interrogated by operatives of the commission at its headquarters for eight hours.

On Wednesday in far away Washington DC, Buhari who said people have nicknamed him “Baba Go Slow” said he had started receiving some documents which indicted some former ministers and other top government officials of massive fraud, including oil theft. That statement was pointer to the fact that the President will soon descend on some of these yesterday’s men.

It is just a matter of time for the prophesy according to Jonathan to come to full fruition. Enjoy your weekend.

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