Following the November 3 US election, the world watched a historic and suspense-filled transition of power, a development that raised concerns about America’s democracy.
Despite the post-election violence and legal battles, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States of America on January 20, 2021.
The 77-year-old Democrat did not only make his way to the American Presidency after garnering the highest number of votes in the country’s history, but he also arrived the seat of government with Kamla Harris, the first black woman and first Asian-American to be elected vice president.
To this end, Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria, already has high expectations of the Biden-Harris administration, snippets of which were contained in President Muhammadu Buhari’s congratulatory message, as well as an open letter by a two-term Vice-President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar.
It is an indisputable fact that every US Democratic administration has been more sympathetic to the concerns of Nigeria than Republican administrations. This, therefore, means that there could be a better bilateral relationship between the United States and Nigeria under Biden’s regime.
Nigeria has been on the short end of the stick with US policies under the Trump administration, from travel bans to the use of derogatory words. Trump had infamously referred to countries in Africa as ‘shit hole countries’. For Nigeria, during President Buhari’s April 2018 visit to the White House, reports alleged that the former US president referred to him as ‘lifeless’.
Already, President Muhammadu Buhari, in his congratulatory message, expressed confidence that Biden will restore faith in the country. Buhari warmly welcomed the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as President and Vice President of the United States of America on Wednesday, 20 January, expressing hope that their presidency will mark a strong point of cooperation and support for Nigeria.
”We look forward to the Biden presidency with great hope and optimism for the strengthening of existing cordial relationships, working together to tackle global terrorism, climate change, poverty and improvement of economic ties and expansion of trade. We hope that this will be an era of great positivity between our two nations, as we jointly address issues of mutual interest, Buhari had said.
Below are some possible ways of what Nigeria stands to gain under the Biden Administration.
The Biden-led government is likely to put more pressure on Nigeria with respect to the issues of human rights violation. It would be recalled that as Nigerians in the diaspora supported the #EndSARS protests, the attention of President Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, was drawn and they both released individual statements.
Mr Biden, in his statement, urged the Nigerian government to cease the violent crackdown on protesters in Nigeria, which had already resulted in several deaths, adding that the United States must stand with Nigerians, including peaceful demonstrators.
With Mr Biden showing sympathy even when he had not been elected President, there are high expectations that there will be human right reforms in Nigerian and Africa at large.
Nigerian immigrants in the United States have expressed high hopes that the Biden presidency will improve their chances of working and living there. Similarly, many were eager to see a review of Trump’s travel ban and they believe that this may improve the chances of bettering their lives.
The Street Journal had reported that President Biden signed some executive orders on Wednesday, January 20, 2021, few hours after his inauguration and one of the orders lifted the immigrant visa ban placed on Nigerians by his predecessor.
It would also be recalled that Trump while slamming the ban on Nigeria in February 2020, stated that the country lacked a robust database. Wading into the matter, the American Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary-Beth Leonard, noted that improvements had to be made on the country’s data intelligence to ease the investigation of its citizens.
Biden is also proposing a sweeping immigration bill that would provide a pathway to citizenship for roughly 11 million people living illegally in the US.
With the visa ban being lifted, there are hopes that many Nigerian students, unlike during the Trump administration, will be able to get study visas to pursue their education in the United State.
More Nigerians in international offices
During the Trump administration, no Nigerian was privileged to serve in the Presidential, however, right from Biden’s transition days we daw seen him make several appointments and a number of them were Nigerians.
Some Nigerians appointed to serve in the Biden government include Adewale Adeyemi, who will serve as the deputy secretary of the US Treasury; Osaremen Okolo, as COVID-19 Policy Advisor; and Funmi Olorunnipa-Badejo, who will serve as a White House counsel.
Similarly, Nigeria witnessed how the candidacy of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former Finance Minister, to serve as the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), was faced with stiff opposition while Trump was President.
At the moment, there are high hopes that with a more balanced and traditional diplomatic approach from the Biden-led government, Nigerians seeking international offices are likely to face less opposition.
Not only is the country looking forward to less human rights violations, more international appointment and study opportunities, but Nigerians, both home and abroad are looking to a more balanced economy and bilateral trade relations with the United States with Biden as President.