Garba Shehu Defends Buhari’s Trip Middle-east, Says Trip Needed For Stronger Ties

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BEVERLY HILLS, February 17, (THEWILL) – The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, has come out in defense of the President's planned trip to the Middle-East amidst complaints of frequent trips by the president.

President Buhari is on schedule to attend the “Africa 2016: Business for Africa, Egypt and the world” from the 20th – 21st of February in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt; and will thereafter visit Saudi-Arabia and Qatar.

According to Shehu, the visit President will seek deeper ties with the countries and get some support for the reconstruction of the North-East which has been ravaged by insurgency.

Why Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar? He asks rhetorically as he provides justifications for the president personally making the trips rather than send a minister or a delegate.

“With the urgent task of resettling the more than two million refugees, mostly women and children on his mind, and at hand, the more urgent one of rebuilding damaged infrastructure such as roads, bridges,clinics, schools as a requirement for their return to their communities, President Buhari leaves for the Middle-East on a wee tour of three friendly countries,” he begins.

“The organizers say the primary objective of the Forum is to accelerate private sector engagement and investment within Africa. It is also to help develop new ties and partnerships, and to highlight the African opportunity.

“This meeting is seen as the African international business forum to attend for those concerned with doing serious business in Africa, “the world's last investment frontier. Indeed, Africa 2016 will provide the platform needed for public and private sector to network, discuss, and further advance African business.

“Just a few days ago, our President was with the British Prime Minister David Cameron who hosted a meeting on Syria. The next day, while the three dozen or so foreign leaders he called to this meeting were still in the United Kingdom, Cameron left for Poland and thereafter, Germany,” adding that the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited 29 countries on five continents in 2015.

“Leaders are on the move because they don’t have the luxury of time in dealing with matters of importance at most of the times. A minister can meet foreign leaders on behalf of his nation, but his final answer would say, at best, “You will hear from us after I make my report.

“The President of a country is the final authority on any issue in international relations. A presidential visit is the highest track of diplomacy. Nothing can be more authoritative than hearing from the Head of State.

The first thing on President Buhari’s engagement in Egypt is business, then followed by the issue of security. Terrorism is a serious issue for Egypt and it has become an urgent issue for Nigeria, to be dealt with before it gets even bigger.

“Given the large muslim population of Nigeria, warranting the second largest delegation to the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, Nigeria has had a significant but hardly beneficial relations with the Saudi Kingdom.

“Beside the many Nigerians who go on pilgrimage to the country, we share a lot with them in the fact that we have our economies dominated by oil. When they meet, President Buhari will make the Saudis see the problems of the world oil market from the point of view of Nigeria,” he said as he justified the trip.

“Going to Qatar straight from Saudi Arabia would seem like a natural progression in terms of the pursuit of our national objectives in the Middle-East.

“Qatar which made advances in the development of solar power and other renewable sources of energy may, in addition to keying into the reconstruction of the North-East also be persuaded to make investment of a serious nature in this country’s power sector.

“In the Middle-East as in other regions he has visited, the aim is to project a respected and well-placed Nigeria; a country of good people under a good leadership in the hope of attracting foreign investment which in turn leads to economic development and job creation which then lead to improved life-styles, security of life and property, better infrastructure and better services for the benefit of the citizens.”

Story by David Oputah