SEVEN KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM PRESIDENT BUHARI’S VISIT TO THE UNITED STATES.
By Garba Shehu
In the first in-person meeting with the American President Joe Biden, President Buhari established a personal equation with his US counterpart and got an important recognition for his democratic credentials and activism at home in particular, and Africa in general: “your legacy is a model,” says President Biden. There was a perfect meeting of minds.
This, coming from the remaining superpower still standing and the guardian and promoter of the values of democracy all over the world, is a major milestone as the President braces up to give the country its most open, most free and most fair elections in February next year.
Equally, it speaks to the fact the world is interested in what happens here and they are watching. Everyone is watching what happens in Nigeria and our politicians must watch their steps. President Buhari has cleared himself. He is doing all that is required of him to deliver free and fair elections, leading to the emergence of his successor in May next year.
Beyond the symbolism of the one-on-one meeting and their sitting together to watch the Morocco-Argentina World Cup semi-final, an incident that grabbed the attention of the world soon as it took place, Biden’s recognition of President Buhari as continental champion of democracy will come with admirable dividends.
One, the fact of the acceptance by the two leaders that we share with each other the values of democracy and human rights; that we are on the same page in regard to these values is indicative of deep ties between our two nations, working together to uphold free and fair elections, an important condition for democracy in Nigeria, West Africa and the rest of the continent.
In this context, the Biden promise to work for a permanent “G20” seat for Africa may, if all continues to work well between our two nations, lead to Nigeria earning a place in the all-important intergovernmental forum comprising 19 countries and the European Union, and possibly thereafter, a “G7” place and-wait for it-a Permanent Seat on the United Nations Security Council!
Nigeria’s strategic partnership with the US is important if a choice is to be made.
Two. On the very important issue of peace and security of the continent, a key agenda item in the Biden-Africa summit, President Buhari was asked to lead. It is a recognition of Nigeria as the very important voice for Africa.
After President Buhari finished with his speech on AU Agenda 2063, essentially speaking about the defined goals of peace and security on the continent, President Biden left the meeting.
Three. President Buhari spoke at the US Peace Institute. It is interesting that the President spoke at the Institute in 2015 at the commencement of his first term and was coming to do so when the curtains are about being drawn on his second term tenure.
Who invited him to speak at both points? It’s Ambassador Johnnie Carson, the diplomat and politician who was an Obama-era cabinet member and a friend of Nigeria who, not only extolled the virtues of President Buhari but played up the role of the administration in attaining a strategic partnership with the US.
Amb. Carson has just been named by President Biden to coordinate the follow up of the decisions on the just-concluded Summit. In this regard, it is not out of place to expect Nigeria drawing substantially from the USD 55 billion the Biden administration has put in the basket for Africa to draw from.
Four. President Buhari, who has been waging a global battle for the survival of gas, Nigeria’s abundant resource as a transition energy from fossil fuels that are being blacklisted for causing global climate degradation, found the right place to take his case to, and it is getting a traction. With the US supporting Nigeria, President Buhari is building a consensus for our well-articulated energy transition plan that has gas a transition energy.
Five. Following the successful CEOs’ roundtable and interactions with businesses at US-Africa Civil and Commercial Space Forum and Corporate Council on Africa-Nigeria Business and Investment Forum, US businesses reaffirmed their confidence and reinforced their commitment to deepening their business interests in Nigeria.
Six. President Buhari presented a refocused roadmap clearly showing Nigeria’s commitment for a safer and healthier global climate, highlighting the country’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).
He has prepared a ready-to-go blueprint for whoever succeeds him; a plan that has earned the respect of the US government, paving the way for a partnership to address conservation, climate adaptation and a just energy transition based on shared objectives.
Government plans to prepare well to draw substantially from the proposed US funding and from CocaCola Foundation which has indicated interest in their participation in our climate change and renewable energy plans.
In line with the plan to address clean and reliable energy supply, creating jobs and ensuring knowledge and technology transfer, the government of Nigeria and a US company Sun Africa LLC, signed a major agreement, right there before the representatives of Mr. Biden for the “development, engineering, procurement and construction” of 5,000 MW of solar generation and 2,500 MWh of battery energy storage power plants for up $10 billion investment from the US government.
The project portfolio location and size indicates the beneficiary states as including Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Jigawa, Nassarawa, Benue, Kogi, Katsina, Kaduna, Kano, Kebbi, FCT, Kwara, Edo and Akwa Ibom. Megawatts of power availability ranges from 24, the lowest to 350, the highest.
In addition, 360 rural communities across the 36 states are to benefit from solar mini grids electrification infrastructure and smart meters.
Seven. While there are several crucial outcomes from the visit, I am excited to report that between President Biden and President Buhari, there is a perfect meeting of minds. While President Buhari was full of commendation for the leadership of Biden on global issues, it emerged clearly from these interactions that the two leaders share a common vision on democracy, human rights and the important role in Africa that Nigeria is playing. Nigeria is crucial to Biden and he seemed pleased that he found in President Buhari, an African role model. He held back nothing in showering encomiums upon him for especially sticking to two stipulated terms in office.
With impressive accomplishments trailing the seven-day visit, President Buhari has wetted the ground for whoever will be the next President from May next year. It will be in the nation’s interest to build on where the current President stops.
Garba Shehu is Senior Special Assistant to the President, Media and Publicity.