Following the successful conduct of the 2015 polls, there are indications that the United States Government will send a large, high-powered delegation, which may be led by either US First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden or Secretary of State, John Kerry, to the inauguration of Major-General Muhammadu Buhari on May 29 as Nigeria’s fifth democratically elected president.
Confirming this on Wednesday [May 6], a source in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told THISDAY that it was very likely that the delegation might be led by either Mrs. Obama, the US vice-president or Kerry. He said the ministry was aware that Nigeria’s Ambassador to the US, Prof. Ade Adefuye was scheduled to have a meeting with the US State Department at 2 pm (EST) on Monday where the issue of the delegation will be discussed and finalised.
Since Buhari’s victory at the polls and the peaceful transition in the country following President Goodluck Jonathan’s concession of defeat, several countries have shown a renewed interest in Nigeria and have moved to improve ties with the incoming administration. Relations between Nigeria and the US, in recent months, have been frosty following the latter’s reluctance to provide concrete assistance in the war against the Boko Haram insurgency.
Things got to a head last year when the US blocked Nigeria’s attempt to procure American-manufactured Cobra helicopters from Israel for the war against Boko Haram. The US had expressed concern over massive human rights abuses by the Nigerian military in its prosecution of the war in the North-east. The source in the foreign ministry said the US is now eager to turn the situation around, as it considers Nigeria an important ally on the African continent.
When contacted on the issue, Adefuye confirmed that the US Government had indicated that it will send a senior delegation to Buhari’s inauguration, but could not state who would lead the team. He informed THISDAY that the US has expressed satisfaction with the conduct and outcome of the elections and was also of the view that “democracy is gaining grounds in Nigeria”.
“In this respect, several interest groups comprising the White House, US State Department, Congress and the business community, have indicated interest in attending General Buhari’s inauguration,” he said. He added that the Government of Nigeria through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had also sent invitations to the various groups for the inauguration.
Adefuye could not, however, confirm who would lead the US delegation to Nigeria, stating that the team would be made known to the Nigerian Embassy and Foreign Affairs Ministry in due course.