Is Trump Buhari's ace in the pack?

Author:Akinloye, Lagun
Position::AROUND AFRICA: NIGERIA - Muhammadu Buhari
 
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President Buhari's visit to the US shortly after his decision to stand for re-election next year is likely to play to his advantage during campaigning. However, his administration's rather limp performance thus far might yet tilt the balance. Analysis by Lagun Akinloye.

In April, Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari became the first leader from sub-Saharan Africa to be entertained in the Oval Office by US President Donald Trump.

The working visit by Buhari, who arrived alongside a retinue of governors, ministers and business eaders, was aimed at repairing the alliance, whilst also seeking to improve bilateral relations.

Discussions between the two presidents appeared on the surface to be friendly and productive, with promises being made towards increased US military assistance in the prolonged conflict against the militant group Boko Haram, the repatriation of $500m-worth of stolen funds stashed in US bank accounts by corrupt individuals, as well as finding ways to mitigate the ongoing violence perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen against Christians throughout the country.

The trip elicited a divergence of opinions, due to the seeming ambivalence of the Trump administration about fashioning a coherent Africa policy, coupled with his widely-reported derogatory remarks about the continent. Chatham House Fellow and former US State Department official, Matthew Page, viewed the diplomatic parley as Tittle more than a "photo opportunity that afforded two polarising presidents an opportunity to appear engaged, statesmanlike and in control".

Buhari on the other hand, will view this trip as a success, with the recent declaration of his intention to run for a second term as President in 2019 seemingly boosted by his trip to the White House.

The perceived elevation of his international profile will put him in good stead as the campaign season commences, though negative opinions of his leadership thus far continue to reverberate.

Rebuilding an old friendship

Nigeria and the US have maintained strong and affable ties going back to the 1960s, with the two countries forging a close relationship in trade, security and geopolitical cooperation.

But in recent times the relationship had become strained, with the Obama administration in 2014 blocking the attempts of then Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to buy military hardware in the fight against Boko Haram, citing the government's poor human rights record as the reason.

The reset button on relations seems to...

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