By Omololu OgunmadeÂ in Abuja
The presidency yesterday compared Nigeriaâ€™s relations with the United States of America under the Barack Obama and Donald Trump administrations, saying that unlike his predecessor who denied Nigeria deserved support in the fight against terrorism, President Donald Trump has been very supportive since he assumed office.
President Muhammadu Buhari who will be meeting Trump today for bilateral talks, arrived Washington D.C. yesterday at about 8.35 a.m. Eastern time and was visited by a pro-Buhari group which stormed the Blair House, the official guest house of the U.S. president, with placards in support of his governmentâ€™s fight against corruption and Buhariâ€™s re-election bid.
Blair House is also used as the residence of the U.S. president-elect before moving to White House.
Speaking with journalists at Blair House yesterday, the Senior Special Assistant to the Nigerian President, Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu said US-Nigeria relations had recorded remarkable progress since Trump assumed office.
Â Shehu also said the meeting between Trump and Buhari would focus on security, especially on the fight against terrorism, describing the meeting as symbolic.
â€œHe is the second African head of government to visit the Trump White House and this is a pointer to two important things. One is, no matter how Nigerians take our own country, this is hugely an important country and this recognition is being manifested in this visit.
â€œBut it is important to know that beyond the symbolism of the visit, there are important matters affecting both countries that will be placed on the table when the two presidents meet.
â€œWe have the understanding that the two delegations have their agendas clearly spelt out and there will be interest and focus on matters of security and safety, focus on trade and investment, and focus on democratic developments in our country.
â€œIt is important that cooperation between the two countries have manifestly increased under the Trump presidency.
â€œIf you recall sometime back, the president had reason to openly complain that we were not receiving as much as we thought we deserved in terms of support and cooperation, especially in our fight against terrorism back then during the Obama presidency.
â€œAnd it will seem that quite dramatically and interestingly, a lot of the obstacles are being removed under the Trump presidency and doors are being opened and we are receiving far more support than most people had expected,â€ Shehu said.
On the solidarity rally by some Nigerians in the diaspora for the president, Shehu said: â€œIt was a very pleasant development and this tells you that America is a totally different clime. There is a deep appreciation for the work the president is doing for our country.â€
Leader of the solidarity group, Wale Adewoye, said: â€œWe are here to support the president. When we came, we were over 150 people but because of the cold and people needed to go back to work, people left.
â€œWe realised that there was a lot of damage done to the county and when Buhari came to power, he tried at least to stop corruption in Nigeria, he is still working on it, it is not easy.
â€œSo we just felt that we should support him in our little way, to encourage the government and let them know that we are behind him to support him.â€
On the trip to the U.S. with Buhari are the governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun, his counterpart in Plateau State, Simon Lalong, President of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Monsurat Sunmonu and her counterpart in the House of Representatives, Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje.
Also on the trip are the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin, and the Director General, National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ahmed Abubakar.
The delegation was received by the Nigerian Ambassador to the U.S., Sylvester Nsofor, among other officials of the Nigerian mission in Washington D.C.