Friday, June 05, 2009

Obama’s Visit to Ghana

Ordinarily, the choice of which country the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, visits is his own prerogative as well as those of his diplomatic advisers. It should therefore generate little or no controversy. But given the prevailing circumstances, the decision of President Obama to visit three countries in Africa: Egypt, South Africa and Ghana, leaving Nigeria out, naturally stirs some curiosity.
It should be curious to the people of a nation famed to be the giant of Africa, with the largest population of the black race in the world; a nation with strong economic potentials and a key supplier of crude oil to the US; and a nation once counted by the White House as one of the pillars for the development of the impoverished African continent.
President Obama will between July 10 and 11 this year be paying his first visit to Africa (Ghana) after he was sworn-in last January. Indeed, why did President Obama choose to ignore Nigeria and prefer to visit a country like Ghana?
No doubt, the American President’s visit to Africa has strong political significance, though denominated in diplomatic rebuff for Nigeria. This is the first American President with an African blood, who is visiting ‘home’ for the first time. The countries he chooses to go to are crucial in the sense of their diplomatic weight in international fora. It even blazes a trail for foreign investment and tourism both of which Nigeria needs badly.
It is against this backdrop that some Nigerians are showing concern for the diplomatic signal being flashed by America. In a way, it re-inforces the beliefs in some quarters that Nigeria is gradually losing its leadership status in a continent where she has not only dominated in many issues, but has also helped to stabilise and organise through support in money and kind.
While in Ghana, Obama will open talks with President Attah Mills of Ghana on a wide range of issues including bilateral and regional issues. There is no doubting the fact that such an opportunity will have tremendous economic on and bilateral spin-offs for an economy battling to stabilize, just like Nigeria’s. That is the more reason why Nigeria should feel concerned about the cold shoulder from America.
Although the White House has given no (and need not give any) explanation for the choice of Ghana, over and above Nigeria, the elite reading indicates that Nigeria’s fate in this circumstance, may have been determined by the baggage of democratic deficits and fraud in recent times.
Disappointing as the America’s decision is, what it all suggests is that Nigeria should stop sulking over the neglect it has suffered and work on its obvious deficiencies. At least, it is now obvious that the international community’s perception of a country matters so much. Even so, it is a direct function of the good things done at home.
Nigeria still has the chance to re-position itself for the leadership position of the continent it deserves. The Obama visit to Africa, more than anything else, should serve as a wakeup call for Nigerian leaders.
To dismiss the significance of the choice of Ghana over Nigeria, as some officials in government are wont to do, is not helpful. That will be tragic for a nation which in just a year should be marking her golden jubilee. Even in the African culture, it matters so much for a home or community to host an august visitor.