Adebimpe Onifade, MBA, Ph.D.Thursday, July 16, 2015
[email protected]
New Jersey, USA




n February 5 2015, the author of this article sent an unsolicited communication to the White House (WH) suggesting that the winner of the presidential election should be invited to Washington for immediate discussions on Boko Haram and the general security situation in Nigeria. This article claims no contribution to the decision of the WH to invite President Muhamad Buhari (PMB). Nonetheless, PMB's visiting the US either by invitation or at the instance of Nigeria's request is the right thing to do. It creates an avenue for Presidential Summit. Agreeably, in international relations, basic things are known and expected; however, securing a presidential invitation by the President of the United States (POTUS) comes out of the highest consideration.

The US Deputy Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken, visited Nigeria on 9 July and he remarked that his visit is to strengthening the partnership between the United States and Nigeria and to advance a more secure, prosperous, and peaceful future for all of Nigeria's citizens. Clearly, this is an indication of the importance that the United States Government (USG) placed on Nigeria. Also, early in June, the G-7 invited PMB to their meeting in Germany. During the G-7 meeting, he must have had time at least one-on-one with some of leaders of world's most industrialized countries. Again, this gesture extended to PMB reiterated the global importance of Nigeria especially from Africa's continental perspective and also as an economic powerhouse in Africa. The invitation of PMB could also be due to the possibility that President Obama may not be able to make State visit to Africa's most populous country and largest economy before the expiration of this term. Considering the ramifications of the importance of the Presidential Summit, it is not out of place to write on some issues during prior to the visit.

Security Cooperation to combat terrorism of Boko Haram: It is no gainsaying that Nigeria is the stabilizing nation in West Africa, and the lingering BH insurgency continues to be destabilizing to the region. Insecurity in Nigeria and neighboring countries could engulf major parts of Africa from Central to North Africa leading to serious humanitarian catastrophe, instability and negatively affect economic development. The experience and capabilities of the USG in containing insurgencies is unparalleled; therefore, PMB should request for robust military, intelligence, and financial assistance from USG. PMB may wish to request for assistance of USG to containing the source of finance and military supplies to Boko Haram. PMB has promised that Boko Haram would be defeated in his Op-Ed in New York Times of April 15, 2015. This is an opportunity for him to update POTUS of the status of implementation of MNJTF and the mission to defeat Boko Haram. With the MNJTF being operationalized, the Government of Nigeria (GoN) should show clear leadership with support from global partners to tackle the terrorism problem in a multifaceted approach. In a nutshell, USG can help, and we should unreservedly seek help, and be prepared to be dictated to in some areas of operations of the MNJTF. Since this is the core agenda for the visit, we wish PMB good luck in their deliberations.

Peace, Security and Conflict Resolution in other parts of Africa: Whereas the serious issue for discussion would be on security and curtailment of Boko Haram's regional menace, the continental status of Nigeria behooves on PMB to take a little time out of his discussion with POTUS on the lingering destabilizing civil war going on in South Sudan. Yes, the talking point of PMB may be under revision, it would be crucial that Nigeria show her concern and leadership on Africa's security. In a previous article by this author, the establishment of the Office of Special Envoy on Peace and Security in Africa (OSEPSA) was suggested and such high-ranking personality could be representing PMB on continental peace process and conflict resolution. Establishment of OSEPSA conforms to international practice on peace and conflict resolution and it is most likely to be viewed as a veritable partnership with the United States. When the USG sees our concern to collaborate on finding solution in South Sudan, this could strengthen the relationship and cooperation by both countries in securing global peace. No doubt, the importance of Government of Nigeria (GoN) in peace and security on the continent had been long recognized. Let us remember that President Bill Clinton appreciatively described Nigeria as "peacekeeping superpower" sometimes ago in late 1990s in recognition of GoN contribution. It is high time, we reclaim this title, and USG would be appreciative and supportive of such role, which Nigeria had and continues to play.

Government Transparent Accounting and Business Processes: In addition to the Security cooperation, PMB should include in his talking points, the request for US businesses to invest in Nigeria's energy sector. Also, we should seek help in streamlining our NNPC operations and enablement of transparent governmental accounting practices. It could be assumed that no other country in the world has the number of streams of revenues as the US federal government; therefore, it is would be important for GoN to crucially understudy and adopt the best practices in government transparent accounting especially the federation account. In his inaugural speech to the National Economic Council, PMB promised that the revenue generating agencies in Nigeria would be streamlined and consolidated to reduce wastages. The PricewaterhouseCoopers Consultants also recommended that NNPC accounts need to be improved upon, and arguments regarding Excess Crude Account (ECA) have shown that much still need to be done. While credits have been given to the outgone AGF Mr. Otunla for the improvement, PMB took another positive step at the inaugural NEC to invite NNPC, AGF and others to participate at the NEC meeting. This is an area where our legislatures, professionals, and Government officials could learn how the USG operates transparent accounting practices along it multifarious revenue sources.

Electricity and Power Generation: President Barack Obama in his visit to Africa in 2013, if I remember specifically in Tanzania mentioned that USG is ready to support Africa on power generation, transmission and distribution. Power in terms of electricity is the livewire of any economy, and the multiplier effects cannot be overemphasized. Power supply in Nigeria remains grossly deficient and it continues to impede the optimal development of the country and more so SMEs. The renaming of NEPA and unbundling into a dozen and half PHCN is not enough. The GoN needs to tackle power supply to unleash the entrepreneurial capacity of the citizen as we have seen with the mobile telephone companies. The US holds the lead on the area of power generation and smart countries have enjoyed good relationships with US businesses in this area. Considering the importance of power supply, PMB should deliberately request for US investors to help take on the lingering problem in the energy sector with particular reference to exploitation of gas turbine and hydrothermal technology. This power supply issue should be included in PMB talking points. I hate to recall a discussion with a senior Professor when he cited the difference between the then President of Nigeria and Prime Minister of India when they visited the US in 1981. Nigeria was requesting for cooperation on importation of rice while PM of India was requesting the USG for cooperation on civilian nuclear technology. This singular opportunity by PMB should be maximize for the advantage of Nigeria.

Weather-forecasting for Green Revolution: It would not be out of place for the PMB to request the USG for assistance and cooperation on weather forecasting to support agricultural "green revolution" in Nigeria. The weather forecasting in the US has global satellites that could give accurate forecasting on weather in Nigeria. Whereas, this may not necessarily be on a government-government agreement, it could be a government-to-government negotiation for concessionary rates. Understandably, use of satellite is a commercial issue, nonetheless, if PMB raises it, the USG could probably intervene and our Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Department of Agriculture of the US could work out areas of cooperation. The ultimate aim should be the harness weather data from satellite to be transmitted on mobile telephony networks for Nigerian farmers.

Businesspeople and leading women should be in the entourage of PMB not only politicians: Some names of governors and personalities who will accompany PMB have been circuating in the news, and it is quite Nigerian that real businesspeople across party lines have not been seen on the list. Serious governments use this kind of meeting to get the best of their enterprenurs to rub minds with their foreign counterparts. This simple Presidential Summit between POTUS and PMB carries tremendous diplomatic, business and political advantages. Since we are not sure POTUS would be able to visit Nigeria before the expiration of his administration, we need to optimize the opportunity. Nigeria's serious business leader with serious business agenda should be onboard with PMB. Nigeria's richest man Dangote, Adenuga, and their likes that have the capacity should be in the entourage even if they would fly in separately. They probably just need to be accredited for the visit. Yes, the Governors are CEOs of their states, but the reality is that many of the states are so broke that they can't invest. On the contrary, these internationally reputable businesspeople have the wherewithal and experience to make things happen. Therefore, a Public-Private Partnership in the visit should be the norm.

PMB should have answers ready for some issues such as legalization of gay marriage, Islamic Jihad, and women participation in democracy. No doubt, Media Assistants to the PMB would have been putting together some agreed lines of answers to some anticipated questions. It would be very important that diplomatic answers are prepared and shared with PMB before he arrives. The WH Press Corp is often unapologetic in asking hard questions from their POTUS and even visiting foreign leaders. This is not out of respect or a demonstration of diplomatic etiquette; it is just a plain demonstration of "casual approach and freedom of expression". As such, PMB team should prepare diplomatic answers to combating terrorism, political personalities supporting Boko Haram, anti-gay marriage in Nigeria constitution, military and autocratic past of PMB, problems rocking APC, etc.

PMB should visit UK soon: It goes without saying that nations envy each other, and PMB visit to US may be viewed enviously in two other capitals that have been traditionally close to Africa and these are London and Paris. In particular, 10 Downing Street is the seat of our colonial master and Paris is the seat of government of colonial masters of all neighboring countries to Nigeria. We could recall that President Hollande has been playing a leading role on Security in in Africa especially combating menace of Boko Haram, and his administration has also indicated her preparedness to host another meeting. Also, the MNJTF is headquartered in Chad, which continues to play a crucial role in fighting Boko Haram. Considering the importance of both UK and France, it would be diplomatically prudent for PMB to visit both capitals as soon as possible.

Invite POTUS to visit Nigeria before the end of his administration: Nigeria's significance in Africa and the world cannot be overemphasized. Nigeria's contribution to global, continental and regional security and peace cannot be overemphasized. Nigeria is a global leader in peacekeeping operations. Nigeria democracy is deepening and it has successfully transferred power from ruling party to the former opposition party. Nigeria is the most populous country and biggest economy in Africa. Nigeria has the biggest market in Africa and the largest telephone subscribers in Africa. Nigerian Americans are also among the best adapted and successful immigrants to the US. Nigeria has always been one of the choice countries in Africa that US Presidents visit. After visiting Kenya on July 24, 2015, POTUS would have visited all the major regional countries in Africa except Nigeria. With some of these facts and with the aim to deepen democracy by emphasizing Nigeria on the continent, perhaps, PMB could invite POTUS to visit Nigeria before he hands over to the new administration on January 2017.

Conclusion: This article discusses some key areas that may be included in the Presidential Summit between POTUS and PMB and some of these are request for robust assistance on military, intelligence and financial support to fight Boko Haram, discussing the intention of GoN to establish Office of Special Envoy on Peace and Security to engage USG Special Envoy to finding sustainable solution to crisis in South Sudan, requesting USG technical support on deployment of transparent governmental accounting process, the support of US business to invest in Nigeria's energy sector, and US assistance on satellite weather data to spur green revolution in Nigeria. Furthermore, the article strongly recommends that international businesspeople such as Dangote and Adenuga and women should be on the entourage and not only political stalwarts and State Governors.

May God Bless Nigeria and Guide our Leaders Right.