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Published On: Sun, Aug 4th, 2013

Jonathan’s Visit to China Jolts Obama to Seek Reconciliation with Nigeria

(L-R) President Goodluck Jonathan and President Barak Obama


The White House has opened fresh talks on the possibility of a presidential-level contact between Presidents Goodluck Jonathan and Barack Obama later this year in Washington DC, in a bid to rebuild confidence after Obama snubbed Nigeria in a presidential visit to Africa recently
Besides, just as Obama was wrapping up his Africa trip last month, the Nigerian government announced President Jonathan’s State visit to China, raising diplomatic eyebrows at the US Capital. Soon afterwards, a US government top official from the State Department headed out to Abuja the same time the Nigerian president was in China to clarify the situation
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It was gathered that, until few days ago, discussions and reviews on the controversial decision of the White House to leave Nigeria out of Obama’s travel plans in Africa were actively going on in US government circles including the Congress.
For instance, it was learnt that the Special Assistant to Obama on Africa, Mr. Grant T. Harris, was playing the defensive on Thursday at the US Congress at a meeting hosted by a US Representative Karen Bass, a Democratic party Congressman, who is a ranking member of the House Sub-Committee on Africa.
That meeting was themed “Perspectives from President Obama’s Africa Trip and AGOA 2013 Forum,” and was attended by members of the US Congress from the Senate and the House, as well as diplomats, including Nigeria’s Ambassador to the US, Prof Ade Adefuye. There, Harris was quoted as saying regarding the decision not to visit Nigeria, that “one event does not define a relationship.”
Ambassador Adefuye, who was listed as one of the key speakers and invited by the US Congress, at the meeting, explained how awkward it was for the US to say the presidential visit to Africa was about trade and the African youth, yet Nigeria was not a stop.
Adefuye, who has earned a reputation for lucidity and diplomatic regard in US government circles, reportedly reminded the meeting that Nigeria, being the US largest trading partner in Sub-Saharan Africa and the country with the largest number of youths in the continent (25 percent of African youths) should have been the highlight of the presidential trip.
Sources at the meeting said Adefuye then challenged the White House officials and US policy makers present at the meeting to ensure that Obama still visited Nigeria before the expiration of his second term since he still has three more years in office.
Although no formal concession on that was given, sources disclosed that US officials were open to the idea, and, besides, the plan is already being implemented for a possible Obama-Jonathan White House meeting within the next two months.
An authoritative diplomatic source hinted that both the Nigerian and the US governments were now keen to start rebuilding diplomatic confidence again after what Nigeria considered a snub, and the proposed Obama-Jonathan White House meeting will cement it, as US’s offer to reassure that Nigeria was still its strategic partner in Africa.
In a similar vein US-based Nigerians also felt the decision of Obama to exclude Nigeria was a strategic error on the part of US policy makers.
According to the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans (CANAN) in a recent statement on the matter, “a visit by President Obama, based on the widespread admiration he enjoys in Nigeria, would have served to mobilise the Nigerian people and pushed the country towards fulfilling its potential, the same fact for which the US government itself have described the country as its African anchor.
On several occasions, the US had described Nigeria as one of its three major strategic partners in Africa, but the decision to leave Nigeria out because of a major but fleeting security challenge could turn out a strategic mistake.”
But speaking over the weekend, Adefuye simply said he was satisfied that the Nigeria-US relationship was getting back on a sound footing. He refused further comments. – Guardian.
Source: Guardian

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