US Ambassador, Johnnie Carson, Talks 10 Ways To Repair U.S – Nigeria Ties


A senior adviser at the United States
Institute of Peace, visiting senior fellow at Yale University, former assistant
secretary of State for Africa and a former U.S. ambassador to Kenya, Uganda and
Ambassador Johnnie Carson has penned down “more” than his two cents
on how the U.S government can ceremonially and substantively can reach out to
the incoming Buhari’s administration particularly at a time when the economy of
Nigeria is on a downward slide.

1. President Obama should stop over in Nigeria when he visits East
Africa in July.

Strengthening democratic
institutions has been the administration’s number one priority in sub-Saharan
Africa. President Obama is slated to visit Kenya, a longstanding economic,
democratic and security partner, and Ethiopia, an important security partner
whose democratic and human rights performance has been strongly criticized in
the international community. It would be deeply troubling for many Nigerians to
see Africa’s largest democracy snubbed at this important moment in its history.
2. President Obama should send a high level delegation to President
Buhari’s inauguration in Abuja on May 29.

Ideally, this delegation should
be led by Vice President Joe Biden, who engaged with both President Jonathan
and with president-elect Buhari in the run-up to the presidential election. If
he is unable to go, Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Advisor
Susan Rice, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson or Agriculture Secretary
Thomas Vilsack should lead the delegation, which should include senior
officials from several cabinet departments, including the Department of
3. President Obama should formally invite President Buhari for an
official visit soon.

If the White House does not send
an appropriately high delegation to the inauguration in Abuja, an official
visit takes on greater urgency.
4. Washington should reinvigorate and elevate the U.S.-Nigerian strategic
dialogue established by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

This dialogue should be placed on
the same plane as those with India, Brazil and China, with Secretary Kerry
leading the U.S. meeting in Washington and Deputy Secretary Antony Blinken
leading subsequent meetings.
5. The administration should deepen commercial and trade ties between
Nigeria and the U.S.

It needs to build off of the
successful U.S.-Africa business summit of 2014, and Commerce Secretary Penny
Pritzker, who has shown great interest in Africa, should be encouraged to
travel to Nigeria with American business leaders and investors. Americans and
Nigerians should organize high-level trade and investment conferences in
6. The administration should re-establish and elevate the broken military
relationship with Abuja.

This will require some sensitive
diplomacy and the White House should send the Chairman or the Vice Chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff to demonstrate a strong commitment by the U.S. to get
this important relationship right. Once this is done, the Africom commander can
take the lead, but given the harsh feelings toward Nigeria at Africom
headquarters and by some in the Pentagon, the Chairman or the Vice Chairman
should go first.
7. The State Department should revisit the establishment of a Consulate
General in northern Nigeria, probably in Kano.

Nigeria has Africa’s largest
Muslim population, concentrated in the northern region, and has the fifth
largest Muslim population in the world. The United States has very little
presence, access or influence in the north. Secretary Clinton approved the opening
of a consulate in the north in 2009. The effort should be revisited as quickly
as possible.
8. The United States should help Nigeria with access to reliable,
inexpensive and readily available power.

Lack of power is the most serious
impediment to growing Nigeria’s economy. A country of 180 million people
produces less power than New York City and its surrounding suburbs. President
Jonathan’s inability to improve the situation is one the reasons he was thrown
out of office. Power Africa has been one of the Obama administration’s most
significant initiatives and it needs to double down on its efforts to assist
Nigeria in addressing its energy needs by bringing together major American
power producers to work with, partner and invest in Nigeria’s power sector.
9. The administration should encourage an early trip to Nigeria by
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack.

Leading American agro industry
companies and the deans of some of America’s leading agricultural colleges
should travel with him to help Nigeria revitalize and grow its agricultural
sector. Once self-sufficient in food and one of Africa’s largest exporters of
groundnuts, cocoa, cotton and palm oil, Nigeria is now a major food importer.
Support for its agricultural sector offers another opportunity for serious and
sustained engagement with a country whose population is expected to grow from
180 to more than 400 million by 2035.
10. The administration should also consider revamping the Millennium
Challenge Corporation (MCC) to support state governments.

In the past, the MCC has helped
only national governments. Given the growing influence of states and the
important work being done at the state level, the administration should seek
changes in the MCC statute in order to help progressive, honest and forward thinking
state governors whose states are performing well, implementing sound
development projects and providing improved services to their people.

Nigeria is so important, and the
administration should not miss this opportunity to engage with Nigeria’s new
government. Strong support for Nigeria will help strengthen its democracy,
support its economic growth and enhance its security and stability.

An economically vibrant and
democratically robust Nigeria is in the interests of Africa, the United States
and the broader global community.

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