Obama's visit to Africa: Nigeria cancelled outright from itinerary
The United States' (U.S.) President, Barack Obama, has removed outright a visit to Nigeria on his second trip to the continent, informed U.S. sources have confirmed.
While some middle level State Department officials had already intimated some U.S.-based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on plans to include Nigeria on the U.S. President's stops in Africa starting from next month, senior officials of the same department have hinted the Nigerian Government of the possibility of the nation's exclusion due to some pressing, immediate and distant concerns of their government.
Initial reports indicated Obama would make a brief stop in Nigeria.
But some developments in the country which impinge on the fundamental values of the United States have made the US administration to shun Nigeria in the President's visit.
Apart from the Baga incident, which is seen as the immediate cause of the snub, it was disclosed that White House officials were also inundated with facts on how the President Goodluck Jonathan administration has abandoned the anti-corruption fight, especially by pardoning the former governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.
Other instances the White House officials are said to be concerned about on matters of corruption include the controversial reports it had received regarding two important Federal Government ministries, the Petroleum Resources and Aviation.
The U.S. sources added that before last Monday's announcement on the issue, the Nigerian Ambassador to the U.S., Prof. Ade Adefuye, was invited to the State Department to be formally updated on the situation at a meeting with several U.S. officials, led by the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Donald Yamamoto.
At the meeting, the American officials presented the Nigerian envoy with satellite photographs of the alleged Baga massacre, noting among other things that it made Nigeria's inclusion in Obama's visit very difficult.
Indeed, satellite pictures revealing damage to households in Baga had been made public by the Human Rights Watch earlier, but it was not immediately clear if the same pictures were the ones presented to the Nigerian envoy at the May 17 meeting the officials held with him.
However, it was learnt that Adefuye disputed the credibility of the photos since it claimed to be depicting more houses in Baga than actually existed. Also, there were persistent questions on the fact that the satellite-captured photos could not have revealed who was responsible for the damage in Baga.
Meanwhile, a U.S.-based Nigerian group, the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans (CANAN) had also made a statement earlier in the week that 'President Obama's visit would have benefitted the Nigerian people more than the Nigerian Government.'
CANAN noted that Obama went to Cairo 'at a time dictators were all over the Middle East, and his critical speech provoked a major and productive societal revival, which democratic fervour is still very much in play in the Middle-East.'
It added: 'A visit by President Obama, based on the widespread admiration he enjoys in Nigeria, would have served to mobilise the Nigerian people and push the country forward towards fulfilling its potential, the same fact for which the U.S. Government itself had described the country as its African anchor.'
However, State Department officials insisted that Nigeria's exclusion from the presidential and high-level contact at this time had already been taken by the White House. In fact, after the meeting with Adefuye on May 17, the Secretary of State, John Kerry, issued a public statement that for the first time, the U.S. had in its custody 'credible allegations' against the Nigerian security forces in the implementation of the emergency rule ordered by President Jonathan.
It noted: 'We are also deeply concerned by credible allegations that Nigerian security forces are committing gross human rights violations, which, in turn, only escalate the violence and fuel extremism.
'The United States condemns Boko Haram's campaign of terror in the strongest terms. We urge Nigeria's security forces to apply disciplined use of force in all operations, protect civilians in any security response, and respect human rights and the rule of law.'
According to sources, the groundwork to exclude Nigeria from the presidential visit to Africa, which was announced by the White House on May 20, was perfected after that announcement.
Nevertheless, it is believed that Adefuye was still making last ditch effort to convince the White House on the need for a rethink. Last year, the Secretary of State had left out Nigeria on his stops on an African tour, until Adefuye's efforts caused a change of plans to include a stop in Abuja.