Nigeria welcomes Kerry while wishing for Obama
Foreign Policy | The U.S. president’s supporters in Abuja had hoped for one visit before he left office
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 8/23/16, 11:23 am
ABUJA, Nigeria—U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will focus on corruption and security during his trip to Nigeria today and Wednesday, likely the last visit to the country from a major Obama administration official.
Kerry met this morning with religious leaders in Nigeria’s northern Sokoto state, where he delivered a speech on the role of religious tolerance and resilient communities in countering terrorism. Later he will meet with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in the capital, Abuja, in talks that will include the country’s tumultuous economy.
“Our hope is that we leave Nigerians with the message that Nigeria continues to have enormous potential, and we want to work with Nigerians as they move forward in tackling these serious challenges that they are facing,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement.
The official trip is Kerry’s third visit to the country. But many Nigerians had hoped President Barack Obama would make an appearance in the country, considering its position and influence in the continent.
When Obama first took office in 2008, 35-year-old Chukwuma Ani and his family joined the celebration. Many in Africa feel a special connection to Obama because his father was Kenyan.
“My elder brother married a Kenyan woman,” Ani said. “So my whole family celebrated.”
Sotola Olusegun, a senior researcher at the Institute for Public Policy Analysis, recalled a similar celebratory atmosphere in the country.
“During the elections, a lot of people were happy,” Olusegun said. “Some people were even trying to raise money to support him.”
But during the past eight years, the celebration has mostly faded. Ani said he expected more assistance from the Obama administration, which he criticized for supporting issues such as same-sex marriage that do no align with both the traditional and religious African views.
Others said Obama’s support has fallen short of their expectations.
“Obama, being of African descent, we expected him to show greater empathy for African issues,” the Catholic bishop of Nigeria’s Sokoto diocese told WORLD. “All we’ve had is empty promises that have not translated into anything substantial.”
On Monday, Kerry visited Kenya, where he spoke with the country’s leaders on regional security and extremism. He also announced nearly $138 million in humanitarian assistance for war-torn South Sudan.
Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.