WashU Expert: Nigeria in the spotlight with presidential visit to White House

When Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari visits Washington, D.C., today, it will be the first time President Donald Trump has hosted the leader of a sub-Saharan African nation at the White House during his presidency. The agenda for the meeting includes security and economic issues, and the visit will be an opportunity for Buhari to bring global attention to Africa’s most populous country — a moment that could be revealing, according to an expert on Nigerian politics and culture at Washington University in St. Louis.


“In answering a question last week during a commonwealth business forum session in London, President Buhari discussed Nigeria’s troubled economy and high unemployment rate. The Nigerian leader characterized the youth as lazy, entitled and perhaps deluded,” said Benjamin Akande, senior adviser to the chancellor and director of Washington University’s Africa initiative. “It was an inappropriate statement coming from a leader of the government which has done very little to resolve the non-functioning education system.”

A Nigerian-born American, Akande has dedicated his career to African research, teaching and learning, with a particular focus on political economies across Africa. Formerly serving as president of Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, and as a tenured professor of economics and dean of the George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology at Webster University, he holds two master’s degrees and a PhD in economics.

Akande expects Buhari’s visit to highlight some serious issues in Nigeria, including significant gaps in education. He said a great majority of Nigerians do not have access to schooling, citing a UNICEF estimate that the country has 10.5 million children of school age who have not received any formal education. He pins this squarely on Buhari, saying the leader “has not shown that he has thought about these problems, let alone offered solutions to them.”

He also expects the meeting of the two presidents to be a lively one, particularly given Trump’s prior comments about Nigeria being a “s – – – hole” country.

Akande is available for comment and may be reached by email at benjaminakande@wustl.edu.

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