Tuesday, July 21, 2015

President Buhari visits the White House and makes plans to root out Boko Haram and official corruption


Nigeria's President Buhari, who defeated Goodluck Jonathan in March (the first time the PDP lost a presidential election since multiparty elections were re-introduced in 1999), was in Washington yesterday to gather support for his related campaigns against Boko Haram and official corruption.

Yesterday Buhari met with Obama in the White House to discuss his plans to defeat the terrorist group Boko Haram and also to root out corruption. Obama expressed approval for Buhari's plans and offered support in the form of intelligence and other cooperation. Since Buhari's election, the US has committed $5 million to support a multinational task force to fight Boko Haram. According to Reuters, "U.S. cooperation with Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, had virtually ground to a halt over issues including his refusal to investigate corruption and human rights abuses by the Nigerian military."

Yesterday Buhari also wrote an editorial in the Washington Post in which he described some of his efforts to improve the fight against Boko Haram (such as replacing the heads of Nigeria's army, navy, and air force and shifting the military headquarters north to the front line of the battle), and his efforts to fight corruption. He will wait until September to appoint his cabinet ministers, so that new rules of conduct and good governance can be put in place first. He has requested assistance from the U.S. to recover $150 billion embezzled by officials in previous years.

Buhari has a reputation of fighting corruption, which is one of the reasons he defeated Jonathan, under whom corruption was endemic in Nigeria. Buhari was president of Nigeria for 20 months in the 1980s, between the coup in which he took power and the coup in which he lost power. During those months, some 500 politicians, officials, and businessmen were jailed as part of his anti-corruption campaign. In addition, in order to uncover stashed money, he introduced new currency to force holders of old notes to bring their money into the banking system.

Other policies under Buhari's previous tenure as president was restriction of press freedoms, and restrictions on imports to address Nigeria's trade imbalance, resulting in higher cost of living. These policies contributed to discontent and the coup that removed him from power.

His reputation for fighting corruption contributed to his popularity in the recent election. As a democratically elected president, rather than a president who seized power in a coup, he will need to use new tactics that will hopefully enable an improvement in governance as well as political stability.

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