If feelers from Washington are anything to go by, the inauguration of General Muhammadu Buhari as the fourth president in the Fourth Republic on May 29 will have either the American first lady, Michelle Obama or the United States vice president, Joe Biden in attendance.
The two names are said to be on the mind of President Barack Obama who would not be physically present in Abuja for the change of guard.
Also being considered is the US secretary of state, John Kerry, as the head of the US presidential delegation to the inauguration.
Empowered Newswire, monitored in Abuja said the three names are already being mentioned in official U.S. and diplomatic circles.
Nigeria’s ambassador to the US, Prof. Ade Adefuye, reportedly 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 yesterday 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.
Adefuye explained that “Nigeria’s profile has been on the rise since after the election, with the concession by Jonathan, and the smooth transition that is going on”.
The US Congress also plans to send some of the senior members of the Legislative chamber to attend the event. The Congress may be led by the chairman of the US House of Representatives Sub Committee on Africa, Congressman Chris Smith.
It is the usual practice that the U.S. president 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 emphasise a point of how the US highly regards the country or the circumstances at a given point in time.
From the U.S. government to the business sector 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 and think tanks on interests in attending the Nigerian inauguration, and the “feedback has been very encouraging”.
Nigeria’s general elections have been receiving plaudits from US lately.
The US consul-general, Jeffrey Hawkins, on Tuesday commended the media for their remarkable role in ensuring prompt information dissemination that aided the peaceful conduct of the polls.
“The world has indeed watched Nigeria’s successes; and for me, experiencing the historic elections first hand has been a highlight of my career as a diplomat,” Mr. Hawkins said at an event to mark the 2015 World Press Freedom Day organised by the US Consulate in Lagos.
“I would like to commend the efforts of the news media in offering a platform for the expression and amplification of ideas by political candidates during the campaign season. The news media, like their peers in other parts of the world, shouldered a heavy responsibility to inform and educate the electorate, and in some cases placing themselves in harm’s way.
“By providing to the Nigerian electorate timely, factual, analytical, and objective information to help them understand the issues and where the candidates stand, the news media lived up to a universal professional standard and contributed immensely to a healthy and functioning democracy in Nigeria”.