Why Obama Keeps Skipping Nigeria By Sam Nda-Isaiah
Last week, the White House announced that President Barack Obama would visit Africa between June 26 and July 3, 2013. He will be travelling with his lovely wife Michelle to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. According to the statement, Obama will meet government officials as well as leaders from the business, civil society and youth groups. The White House further said that the visit will focus on strengthening economic growth, democratic institutions and African leadership. In July 2009, during Obama’s first term as president, he visited Ghana from where he addressed the African continent, and, in the process, obliquely threw a few barbs at Nigeria’s leaders.
Is it not curious that the United States president shall be visiting Africa to discuss business and his itinerary does not include the continent’s second largest economy that is even expected to take over as the largest within a decade? And do we think the president of the world’s biggest economy, who is desperately seeking new markets for his country’s manufacturers, does not covet the continent’s largest market? The United States business community can do a lot with a country of 170 million people, a population that is more than half the size of the United States. I am sure that Nike Inc, the American shoe company, has better use for 170 million pairs of feet. And is it possible to discuss African leadership, as the White House has said Obama would be doing on this African trip, without including Nigeria in the conversation? That would be playing Hamlet without the prince. But I also think, for President Obama, there are more pressing issues. As the first African American president of the United States, he must have some sense of “noblesse oblige” towards the continent of his forebears. He must have been labouring over the thought of the best way that his presidency would be of the greatest benefit to the Africa continent – though as at this moment, warts and all, George W. Bush holds the record of the most friendly US president the African continent has had. And there is no way Africa can move forward without Nigeria leading the way.
Coming to Nigeria at this time would clearly be an endorsement of the Jonathan administration, and no serious world leader would want to tarnish his image by doing that. The matter of Nigeria’s bad government and the issue of bad governance have become a global subject of discussion. Everyone knows that the problems of Nigeria are inextricably tied to the quality of leadership that the country has received. Corruption under President Jonathan has become something of a fairy tale. And the Americans know, especially the kind of corruption that has now become the trademark of the oil industry. When, during a trip to the United States in April, Jonathan’s special adviser on the amnesty programme, Kingsley Kuku, declared that only Jonathan could guarantee peace in the Niger Delta, many in his audience in faraway Washington, DC, had a good laugh. It was ludicrous because, as Kuku was making that silly statement, oil production in the Niger Delta had plummeted under Jonathan from 2.6 million barrels daily to 1.7 million as a result of the activities of oil thieves (both official and unofficial) who have never had it so good. Is that the kind of peace Jonathan desires for Nigeria? Unlike in those days when oil thieves had to shoot their way to stealing the nation’s oil, under Jonathan they do not need to fire a single bullet. They don’t have to. One of them is now officially in charge of maritime security.
President Obama knows more than most Nigerians the kind of damage those at the helm are doing both to the nation’s economy and to the fabric of the society. And he surely will not want to encourage the nonsense that is happening by further endorsing them. In spite of all the damage Obasanjo did in his day – the serial election rigging, corruption, the enthronement of thuggery in governance as epitomized by the kidnap of a sitting governor by his associates, sundry political assassinations that could be traced to the highest echelon of government – President George W. Bush encouraged all these by simply paying a visit to Nigeria, and the Queen of England did same as head of the Commonwealth by leading all Commonwealth leaders to Obasanjo’s Aso Rock just after the terribly rigged general elections of 2003. These endorsements played a major role in the kind of impunity that later defined Obasanjo’s leadership.
Nigerians should be grateful to President Obama for sending a clear message to Jonathan and his band of co-travellers. It’s his widow’s mite in the quest for a better Nigeria. But, ultimately, the real hard work to change Nigeria and bring it back to the path of rectitude and respect can only be done by us, not by outsiders, even if they are our friends like the United States. We can start that by ensuring that Jonathan joins the very exclusive and prestigious club of former presidents in 2015. The world cannot wait!
No, They Are Not Nigerians
Last week, two loonies appeared on the cable networks literally butchering a 25-year-old soldier near an army barracks in Woolwich, London, in an apparent terrorist attack. One of them, Mujaheed Michael Adebolaja, was seen on TV holding a knife and a cleaver as if he was a butcher in an abbatoir about to cut the thigh and other parts of a cow for his customers. The other chap was identified as Michael Adebowale. The media around the world, including the Nigerian and British media, have continued to refer to the lunatics as Nigerians or “of Nigerian origin”. No, they are not. They are British citizens who have probably never been to Nigeria and probably do not speak or understand the Yoruba language. Adebolaja spoke in unmistaken British accent.
When other Adebolajas and Adebowales were busy winning medals in the Olympics for Britain, nobody referred to them as Nigerians. They were British citizens then. So these ones cannot be Nigerians. Even our own Mujaheed here, Dokubo-Asari, would not do that, even though he has promised to kill all of us if we refused to vote Jonathan in 2015.
All the name, Mujaheed Michael Adebolaja and Michael Adebowale are British citizens and they shall remain so till the end of their miserable lives.
Jonathan Should Mind Himself
President Goodluck Jonathan has made a successful career of dividing Nigerians since he was given the opportunity to lead the country three years ago. Last week, he successfully but needlessly broke up the Nigeria Governors’ Forum due to his meddlesomeness. On October 1, 2010, when MEND bombed Abuja, his first reaction was to turn himself into MEND’s mouthpiece. He said it was not MEND that did it. MEND people were his people, he said, and he knew them. That was a most insensitive statement at a time so many innocent lives were lost. That was also the first time many of us were knowing that our president was a member of MEND. He said so with his own mouth. After Henry Okah was arrested in South Africa in connection with the terrorist act, he started saying that he was under pressure by top members of the Jonathan government to implicate the north in the bombing. Another president would have sensed the danger in that statement, whether it was true or not, and immediately set up a machinery to probe the veracity of the statement. Jonathan did nothing of the sort and many were left with no option but to believe Okah. That further divided the nation.
Jonathan’s actions and many of his statements even in private have tended to divide the nation along ethnic, regional and religious lines. That is exactly the opposite of what the president of a country should be doing. He has said to people that even the little votes he received in the last elections in the north from Igbos living in the north and northern Christians. At other times, he has said that the south-east remains his strongest support base, therefore deserves more government patronage than others. There are simply some things a president should not utter even if they are true. The chief job of a president, especially the president of a very disparate and complicated country like Nigeria, is to inspire and bring people together, and turn the nation’s diversity into an enduring advantage that would lead the nation to greater heights. Jonathan is not doing that. If Jonathan would have no qualms breaking the Nigeria Governors’ Forum to serve a selfish interest, then, we should all be worried about the implications of this as we approach 2015. The president should mind the Nigeria he leaves behind.
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