President Buhari's Recent US visit
What a difference a change in administrations can bring. For Christians in Nigeria who have suffered violence from the hands of Boko Haram in the Northeastern part of the Country to those currently in peril in the Middle Belt States from the acts of the Fulani there have been cries for help issued by these suffering people.
When it comes to the Administration that changed the question now becomes where did the turnover occur that brings the most optimism? Is it in Abuja? Or in Washington? What an interesting set of questions to ponder.
After Goodluck Jonathan was defeated in his quest for reelection in 2015 by current President Muhammedu Buhari there was a sense of optimism in Nigeria. Some of the factors that led to the defeat of Mr. Jonathan include the rampant corruption plaguing the country as well as mishandling the Boko Haram Insurgency.
There were two distinct issues during the Boko Haram crisis that directly led to the downfall of the Jonathan Government. First was the withdrawal of a Federal Government Presence in the Northeastern States that were affected the most by the Militants. They are Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States. The other factor was the poor and self-serving response to the Kidnapping of the Chibok school girls. There will be more details about this later in this report.
The issue of the Boko Haram Insurgency can be seen as a small but vital factor here in the United States regarding the Election of Donald J Trump to the Presidency of the United States.
For those who were advocating on behalf of Religious Liberty or Religious Freedom here in the United States in particular for Nigeria there were massive headwinds against them from the Obama Administration, Democrats on the Hill and some activists as well who campaigned against certain strategies in Nigeria. These included
The long battle to actually declare Boko Haram an FTO (Foreign Terrorist Organization) this took years to finally take place and didn’t occur until John Kerry replaced Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State
The Resistance by the Obama Administration to two attempts by Nigeria to purchase Helicopters from Nigeria. Both times the purchase was able to vetoed due to hidden language buried within the Contracts of Sale giving the US the right to veto if these systems are sold to a third party.
Another interesting aspect of relations between Abuja and Washington is the aftermath of the kidnapping of the above mentioned Chibok School Girls. Hundreds of Girls were taken from their schools just before the exam season and it marked a low point in the Presidency of Goodluck Jonathan.
The response by the Nigerian Government in particular the Security Services was interesting. The Chief of General Staff actually announced that the location of the Girls was known. But there was no steps taken to rescue them. Why was that?
It should be noted that at the time the United States offered several services to locate the missing girls. The use of UAVs and even assistance from the FBI was offered to and accepted by the Jonathan Government. However after the announcement of the known location of the missing girls the aid was quietly rescinded.
As we have seen there have been elections in the US and Donald Trump has assumed the mantle of leadership within the United States. The question now is how will the policy towards Nigeria by the United States change?
We have noticed two distinct changes already from the Trump Administration. First of all we have an American Administration that is willing to provide Military Equipment including systems that will improve the capacity of the Nigerian Military including Helicopters and Close Support Aircraft.
The Trump Administration has also made it clear directly to President Buhari that it is concerned with the attacks against Christians in Nigeria. For those suffering on the ground this is a statement they have been waiting for someone to say to a Nigerian President for roughly a decade. For activists here in the United States there is a sigh of relief that their concerns are finally being heard by the people that are supposed to represent them.
One thing that is for certain is that change is constant. Sometimes the situation on the ground is in such a fluid state where data and facts can be updated or changed. That being said the Change of Governments in both Washington and Abuja can be positive. But the momentum needs to be positive and that will be the issue.