The United States Embassy in Abuja has refused to respond to a report in the Financial Times (FT) of London, where US President Donald Trump was reported to have described President Muhammadu Buhari as lifeless.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, told THISDAY Monday that the presidency would not react to such a comment.
Also, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs failed to respond to THISDAY’s call and text messages, seeking the federal government’s position on the report.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama did not pick his call or respond to the text message sent to him. The ministry’s spokesperson, Dr. Tope Elias-Fatile, also did not reply his text message.
The FT while reporting the planned meeting between Trump and his Kenya’s counterpart, Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta, billed for Monday, reported that Trump, after meeting with Buhari last April, the first with any African leader, told his aides that he never wanted to meet someone so lifeless again.
The Monday meeting, which according to the report, is part of efforts by the Trump administration to foster stronger ties with Africa, it is hoped, would end US neglect of the continent.
Already, the White House said Uhuru Kenyatta’s Kenya was one of closest US security and trade partners in Africa.
“Donald Trump will welcome Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta to the White House on Monday for what will be only the second one-on-one meeting the US president has held with a sub-Saharan African leader since he took office last year,” the FT reported, adding: “The first meeting, with Nigeria’s ailing 75-year-old Muhammadu Buhari in April, ended with the US president telling aides he never wanted to meet someone so lifeless again, according to three people familiar with the matter.”
However, when contacted, officials of the embassy in Abuja declined comments on the issue. Calls to the spokesperson at the embassy, Russell Brooks, were not answered and another staff at the embassy who pleaded anonymity refused to also say anything.
On the Kenya’s president visit, the report said advocates of closer US-Africa ties hope the encounter with the much younger Kenyatta, 56, “will breathe fresh life into a relationship with a region that Washington is seen to have neglected as other countries, notably China, develop ever-closer trade and investment ties with the continent”.
It added: “Africa has never been high on his radar but if the big guy likes you he’ll find a way to make things work.”
Trump is widely criticised for not having an Africa policy. So it’s in his interest to have something from [meeting Kenyatta] he can present as a win.
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