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Obama tells Jonathan to put his acts together

By The Rainbow

PRESIDENT Barack Obama had a very frank discussion with Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan last Monday in New York, according to sources in the US who disclosed that the Nigerian leader was told to put his acts together and help realise the Nigerian potential.

During the almost one-hour meeting, insiders say the discussion went from being very frank to very cordial, but ending very fruitful to both countries whose relationship had developed a strain after President Obama went to Africa without stopping in Nigeria.

The Monday meeting at the Waldorf Astoria was scheduled to start at 1.45pm and end 2.25pm, but went on till 2.35pm, which made the Nigerian President briefly late to New York Stock Exchange meeting with Hedge Fund investors.

Although details of the meeting, which was also attended by the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, the US National Security Adviser, Ms. Susan Rice, Ms. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the new US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, among others were sketchy over the weekend, it was learnt that the US team secured guarantees from President Jonathan on a number of issues especially the 2015 elections, Boko Haram, corruption among others.

For instance, with the background of the build-up to 2015 already overheating the Nigerian polity, the US President and his team at the presidential meeting held at Waldorf Astoria made Jonathan to commit to ensuring a credible, free and fair election in 2015, promising that the federal government would ensure it happens.

But the Nigerian team, besides the President, also included the Foreign Affairs Minister of State Viola Onwuliri, Ambassador Ade Adefuye, Presidential Principal Private Secretary, Ambassador Hassan Tukur among others.

In a veiled reference to Obama's Africa travel plan living out Nigeria, President Jonathan was also said to have made it clear to the Americans that the US cannot fix the word without fixing Africa, and Africa cannot be fixed without Nigeria- a line for which the Nigerian Ambassador to the US, Prof Adefuye had become popular in US official circles.

A White House statement quoted Obama, at the open part of the meeting before going behind closed door, as saying 'President Jonathan has committed to building on the democratic process that we've seen in Nigeria in the past.  The last election that brought President Jonathan to power was a hallmark on the continent and in Nigeria in terms of free and fair elections.  And I know that he is committed to making sure that the elections in 2015 move in that same fashion.'

Sources said Jonathan made it very clear that one of his legacy would be free and fair elections.

While the US President promised that the American government would now upgrade its assistance in fighting Boko Haram, especially in the backdrop of the Nairobi Mall terror attack, Jonathan was also tasked on the need to pay attention to the prevailing circumstances that encourage recruitment of terrorists in parts of northern Nigeria.

Sources disclosed that during the meeting President Obama said the US was close to formally adopting a policy that will determine that Boko Haram is a national security threat to the US as well.

In effect, the US-Nigeria Bi-National Commission, BNC would now adopt Regional Security as a major component and through the auspices of that commission the US will offer for support and engage the Nigerian government more in the fight against terrorism in the country.

A White House statement after the meeting quoted Obama as saying that Boko Haram is one of the most vicious terrorist groups today in the world.

Said he:  'In the northern regions of Nigeria we've seen the emergence of one of the most vicious terrorist organisations in the world, the Boko Haram.

The US President added that this 'presents an extraordinary security challenge for the people of Nigeria, and we want to be cooperative in that process of building capacity inside Nigeria to deal with that terrorist threat, but doing so in a way that is consistent with human rights.'

Obama added that ' because we strongly believe that the best way to undermine the agenda of those who would do violence is to make sure that governments are responsive to the needs of people and following rule of law.'

Although he was said to have been very frank to President Jonathan on a number of issues at the meeting, US sources said President Obama also paid tribute to Nigeria's rising significance in Africa and the growing influence of President Jonathan personally and urged the Nigerian leader live up to those possibilities and heal the country.

In fact in the press release put out by the White House after the meeting, it was noted that President Obama referred to President Jonathan's visit to the New York Exchange as evidence of his rising profile in the estimation of global investors.

According to Obama in that White House statement 'Nigeria is one of the most powerful and fastest-growing countries in the world.  I think that's testified by the fact that President Jonathan is going to have the opportunity to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange.  I think it signifies how important Nigeria is becoming in the global economy.'

Sources from official circles, both in the US and Nigeria, noted that the Obama-Jonathan effectively restored the strained relationship following the Obama Africa trip. For instance it was noted that Nigeria was the only nation with whom Obama had a bilateral meeting in Africa during his UN trip last week. And out of the three meetings with foreign heads of states all together, Nigeria's meeting was the first.

A diplomatic source noted that this was the proof of Nigeria's significance in Africa and global issues (THE GUARDIAN)