Why Obama should attend Buhari inauguration
SIR: Last month, Nigeria completed its election process in a peaceful and transparent manner. While the U.S. applauded this positive feat, our involvement cannot conclude just yet. In fact, in some ways, it is only just the beginning – which is why I strongly urge President Barack Obama to attend the inauguration of President-Elect Muhammadu Buhari on May 29.
President Obama’s presence at this historic inauguration would send the right signal at the right time. This election was a landmark victory for democracy in Africa and for struggling people elsewhere around the world, and his participation would make a powerful statement of hope and renewal. Nigeria is in the balance. While it is dealing with a brutal terrorism campaign in the north, and multiple other development challenges elsewhere across the country – still it is the largest economy in a very important part of the world and – is poised to achieve much more in the years ahead.
Nigerians are well aware that President Obama bypassed their country on two previous visits to Africa. Many excused him believing his decision was based on the fact that the U.S. saw limited progress on democratic processes. They were also mindful of the issues surrounding corruption along with the fierce security threats posed by Boko Haram.
But conditions on the ground have since changed dramatically. There is now a new “hope” and a different landscape in Nigeria that would be communicated clearly if President Obama were to attend the inauguration. His presence may well provide the spark needed to reenergise and refocus U.S-Nigeria relations, a partnership that appears to have stumbled in recent times.
We have a huge stake in what happens in Nigeria. Credit for the successful elections rightly belongs to the Nigerian people, but they are the first to admit the United States provided strong support to the electoral process. This explains why President-Elect Buhari, in his victory speech, promptly expressed the gratitude of the Nigerian people to the U.S. and other international partners. He also pledged to engage the governments of partner countries, such as the U.S, in tackling Nigeria’s numerous challenges.
The Presidential inauguration ceremony will be a defining moment for Nigeria’s maturing democracy. This day will be a call for Nigerians and their foreign friends and partners to demonstrate the strength and promise of their collective commitment to democracy.
It is better to embrace and validate this new budding freedom in Nigeria than the leader of the world’s most prestigious democracy – the United States.
• Melvin Foote, Constituency for Africa