International interest in Nigeria’s political transition and the planned transfer of power from the Jonathan-Sambo presidency to the Buhari-Osinbajo presidency billed for May 29 has risen in the United States as President Barack Obama now considers sending a high-powered U.S. delegation to the event, officials said Wednesday.
U.S. government sources said Mr. Obama is considering who might lead the American representatives to the event.
Besides, at least two US Ivy universities-Harvard and Yale – have since held special review sessions where scholars were invited from around the U.S. and the world to give lectures and seminars on the outcome of the Nigerian elections, focusing on the emergence of a former military head of state, who is a Muslim from the North of Nigeria, and a Christian pastor, who is a law professor from the South as president-elect and vice president-elect respectively.
Three names are already being mentioned in official U.S. and diplomatic circles including Obama’s wife, the American First Lady, Michelle, Vice President Joe Biden and the Secretary of State, John Kerry, as the head of the presidential delegation. From the U.S. Congress also, some of the senior members are said to be planning to attend the event including the Chairman of the US House of Representatives Sub Committee on Africa, Congressman Chris Smith.
The U.S. President normally announces a delegation to the presidential inaugurations of friendly nations being led by the Ambassador in that country. But in rare occasions, he picks very senior public officials as the head of delegation when he wants to underscore and emphasis a point of how the US highly regards the country or the circumstances at a given point in time.
Nigeria’s Ambassador to the U.S., Ade Adefuye, said, “I have been told that there would be an unusually large American delegation that will attend the presidential inauguration on May 29″.
He confirmed to journalists on Wednesday that he has also been told that a very senior member of the U.S. government is expected to lead the delegation, but that there was no confirmation yet.
The Nigerian Ambassador said he has been in consultations with the U.S. State Department on the matter, adding that President Goodluck Jonathan has already extended an invitation to the U.S. government.
“We are following up with the US government to ensure a very large US presence at the inauguration,” the Ambassador said Tuesday in Washington DC.
Mr. Adefuye explained that “Nigeria’s profile has been on the rise since after the election, the concession by Jonathan, and with the smooth transition that is going on”.
From the U.S. government to the business sectors and think tanks, the level of excitement about the anticipated peaceful transfer of power in Nigeria and the outcome of the elections itself producing the Buhari-Osinbajo ticket from an opposition party, APC, has been quite widespread.
Some of the U.S. groups that have been showing keen interest to attend the inauguration and pressuring the U.S. government to send a very high-powered delegation are the Atlantic Council, and the Constituency for Africa-groups known to be very influential in Washington DC.
A U.S. State Department source noted that after the elections, feelers were sent out to business groups, think tanks on interests in attending the Nigerian inauguration, and the “feedback has been very encouraging,” said the source.
At the Yale University over the weekend, a group of theologians-the Oxford Study Group on World Christianity had their annual meeting and participants disclosed that the Nigerian election was one of the major discussions this year.
A top U.S. Professor who attended the meeting said the Study Group composed of leading scholars from around the world who considered it significant that the Nigerian elections produced a Pentecostal pastor as Vice President to a Moslem, who had earlier been perceived not to be religiously pluralistic. Last month also, the Washington Post had published a report on its faith pages on “How a Pentecostal Law Professor Has Helped Reshape Nigerian Politics.”
Earlier Harvard Africa-American Program had also held an academic review session on the Nigerian election further revealing how widely significant the issue has become here in the US.