John Kerry: I’m not being patronizing when I say we want Nigeria to succeed

“We want Nigeria to succeed.  And I don’t say that with any element of patronizing or arrogant or any kind of view other than the fact that we know there are challenges,” said John Kerry, United States Secretary of State as he addressed a meeting of the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission (BNC) in Washington D.C. on Wednesday.

“You know there are challenges,” he continued. “That’s what your election was about.”

Nigeria voted retired General Muhammadu Buhari in as president last year as he rode on the mantra of change and a promise to fight corruption and end Boko Haram insurgency in the country. Since assuming power, Buhari has sought stronger collaboration with world powers which is why he has gone on several foreign trips criticized by many Nigerians as too much.

The BNC has been revitalised since President Buhari’s administration took over, with improved engagement in the areas of security cooperation, economic growth and development, as well as governance and democracy.

The U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission was established to among other things promote and coordinate the diplomatic, economic, military, commercial, technical, social and cultural cooperation between the two countries.

Kerry reiterated the resolve of the United States to support Nigeria as it faces its worst economic crisis in years. He also acknowledged the fact that the change promised by the Nigerian government takes time. But having through some difficult periods in its history, America, Kerry says, has more experience and is in a good position to help Nigeria through these torrid times.

“And what we’re trying to do is really share with people the shortcut, if you will – how you can manage to avoid some of the mistakes that we’ve made in the course of our own development in ways that can embrace the hopes and the aspirations of millions upon millions of people.  That’s what this is about,” said Kerry.

The U.S. Secretary says it’s good news that the bilateral relationship between his country and Nigeria is strong. The West African nation will receive more than $600 million in development assistance from the U.S. this year with focus on youth, health, education, security, food security and power.

“Nigeria is a country with an almost boundless capacity for economic growth,” he stressed. “Nigeria is a country that is a responsible international partner and well positioned to contribute to the regional and global problem-solving.”

Since President Buhari became Nigeria’s new leader last May, he has been faced with multiple challenges of stabilizing and economy hurt by slump in prices of oil, insecurity, huge infrastructural deficit and corruption. While his government has shown readiness to fight the ills, results have not matched the expectation of Nigerians making many of his supporters to start losing faith in his ability to bring the desired change. However, international belief in his ability seemed not to have waned.

The BNC at its meeting co-chaired by Geoffrey Onyeama, Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs, Federal Republic of Nigeria and Antony Blinken, Deputy Secretary of State, United States of America, reviewed a paper setting out proposed joint goals for each agreed area of focus: security cooperation, economic growth and development, governance and democracy. It directed working groups be established for each area of focus, and that these working groups finalize the paper within one month.

At its working lunch, the BNC discussed issues including climate change, strengthening ECOWAS to promote regional economic integration, and the potential provision of UN financial support for conflict prevention, and the financing of UN Security Council-approved African Union peacekeeping operations.

The next meeting of the commission holds in Nigeria at a date to be mutually agreed through diplomatic channels.