Barack Obama will welcome Nigeria's freshly elected president to the White House Monday, lending a personal endorsement after the country's first ever democratic transition.
Obama's administration has faced criticism for not including the continent's most populous country on a Africa tour later this week that will take in Kenya and Ethiopia.
By hosting Muhammadu Buhari in the Oval Office, the U.S. president hopes to underscore that the African giant, also the continent's biggest economy, is vital U.S. interests.
Praise for Nigeria's recent elections -- the first won by an opposition challenger against an incumbent -- is likely to be coupled with tricky discussions on combating Boko Haram militants.
Nigeria would like to see more help from Washington in its battle against the group, which has been trying to establish an Islamic state in northeast Nigeria since 2009.
So far 15,000 people have been killed and 1.5 million displaced by the conflict.
Buhari's visit has been foreshadowed by a uptick in terror attacks, including suicide bombings in neighboring Cameroon and Chad.
Rights groups say atrocities have been committed both by Boko Haram and the Nigerian military.
US laws banning the transfer of weapons to countries suspected of rights abuses have sometimes pushed a wedge between the two allies.
Obama's administration last year blocked the sale of Cobra attack helicopters to Nigeria, hampering cooperation amid efforts to find the hundreds of still-unfound kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls.
Since being elected in May, Buhari has indicated a readiness to address problems in the army he once ran as a general and as Nigeria's military ruler.
Earlier this month Buhari sacked his entire military top brass.
Buhari's purge of senior commanders inherited from his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan was widely expected but is the clearest demonstration yet of his quest for a fresh start.
Still, Obama is unlikely to endorse a dramatic ramping up of U.S. military activity against Boko Haram -- fearing it could be used by the group as a recruiting tool and entangle the United States in yet another conflict.
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