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Atsar Terver

Public Commentator
Port Harcourt
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more articles by Terver


Obama will visit Ghana and South Africa because of the business interest of America in these countries, not because they have free and fair elections. Check out the friends America has around the globe and tell me about free and fair elections! America and Europe have all cause to be jittery about Nigeria because of the fundamental reforms eminent in her oil industry, the biggest area of western investment (and exploitation) in the country. If people understand what this means in the ultimate fortunes of these nations, then they will appreciate the efforts they (the US) will make to frustrate these reforms.

Obama Not a Snub.
by Atsar Terver
 

Efforts have been made by many Nigerians to interpret the planned visit to Ghana by American President Barack Obama as a snub on Nigeria for failing to demonstrate commitment to free and fair election-a feat which Ghana has managed to achieve in three consecutive times since Jerry Rawlling’s revolution. The expectations of many is that Nigeria being the most populous black nation with a huge potential and actual economic and political acumen on the global scene should have been the automatic first point of call of the first African president of the most powerful nation in the world.

This position is reinforced by the consistent brutalization of our national psyche by doomsday protagonists who always see evil in and about Nigeria, to the point that we have as a nation developed a very low sense of worth. The low self esteem resulting from this negative patriotism is partially responsible for the much dysfunctional behaviours that are associated with our youth. They grow up thinking of nothing good about or that could come out of their fatherland. They have no idea of what hope and future their nation holds for them as her citizens. Unlike an average American child who is thought to love his nation from childhood, our younger generation have been psychologically conditioned to believe that if good things ever happen in Nigeria, it must be an aberration.

Thus of the over 50 African countries, it must be the ‘bad’ Nigeria that is deemed snubbed when Obama visits Ghana first. Why not Egypt, South Africa, Lybia (Ghaddaffi’s colony), Zimbabwe (the despot Mugabe’s kingdom), Kenya (Obama’s fatherland), Tanzania, Angola, Uganda, DR Congo or Somalia(the Land of pirates) ?  In arriving at this conclusion, these commentators fail to strain their brains to consider a bigger picture that puts all the factors together to decipher what America may wish to gain by visiting Ghana; but rather chose to lazily latch on what they suppose must of necessity be the negative impact on Nigeria as if Obama is just out on a snubbing mission.

Those who make these cheap assumptions do not seem to understand the thrust of Obama’s foreign policy. As far as I know, Obama is not s snub. Here is a straight-talking guy who would rather fly into Abuja and tell Yar'Adua to buckle up than resort to petty snubbing. That’s rather too cheap an approach for Obama. If indeed he feels there is something we need to fix here, Obama will say so. Who is he afraid of?

I know this for sure because, Obama did not snub Cuba. He has entered into direct communication with Raul Castro! Why is that relevant here? Cuba is a Communist nation that has been in diplomatic friction with the US since 1960, after Fidel Castro (Raul’s Sibling) led the Island’s revolution. Washington imposed partial trade sanctions against her in 1960, expanding it to a full economic embargo in 1962. Obama has opened up the line to Cuba not because they have organised a free and fair election, but because he is desirous of change and a new beginning.  Addressing the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, Obama had said he wanted to move forward with a sense of "equal partnership" with all the nations of the Americas despite decades of mistrust. On Cuba, he had this to say: ‘The US seeks a new beginning with Cuba.

So essentially Obama has changed America’s view of her international role from that of a teacher cum policeman to that of an ‘equal partner’ (no matter how farfetched this may seem). He told the G-20 summit in London that he had gone there  "to listen, not to lecture."  Obama clearly demonstrates that he recognises the right of sovereign states to decide what suites them in terms of leadership and would not go out of his way to arm-twist any nation to adopt America’s model of democracy as a standard.

Therefore as plausible as these self-defeating sentiments about Obama’s first visit to Africa may seem, they are premised on the wrong footing.  In making diplomatic decisions, history has taught us that America places their interest (economic and political) first. It is not unlikely for instance that having discovered oil recently, Ghana is seen as an emerging bride that needs to be proactively courted especially in the face of the escalating crisis in the Nigerian Niger Delta that has shut in millions of barrels of Crude Oil with significant impact on the American domestic energy market.  In the event of total shut down in oil production in Nigeria, it would be quite convenient to simply relocate to nearby Ghana. And life continues!  Of course the White House will not state their motives plainly like this but would find diplomatic expressions like ‘strengthening democratic institutions and the civil society’ more convenient.

 America did not find it funny when the price of Crude oil hit the roofs recently. My suspicion has been that all this talk about global economic meltdown is a hoax engineered by US economists to push down the price of Crude Oil to where it ’belongs’. Why for instance has the Dollar failed to depreciate despite the depression, whereas our Naira tumbled three times?

So it is obvious that the interest of America in Ghana is not the size of its population or their democratic system but more importantly the potential it has to further America’s future economic interest. Democracy only becomes a factor in America’s diplomatic policy with a nation when its absence constitutes a threat to America’s access to that nation’s economic resources. The point here is that in Africa, Ghana is not the only country that has a stable democratic succession. Egypt for instance has been holding successful and fair elections since 1953.  Tanzania has been politically stable since the merger of Tagayinka and Zanzibar in 1964. Mozambique has witnessed stable democratic governance since 1990. So Obama’s coming to Ghana instead of Mozambique or Tanzania must be for other reasons apart from the much trumped up democracy.

Check out the politics in America’s top allies in the Middle East. Kuwait, it is ruled by a monarchy. Until last year, Pakistan was ruled by a ‘Dictator’. Saudi Arabia is ruled by a King. What are China’s credentials in human rights, civil society or multi-party democracy? None!  But no US President would contemplate snubbing China. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

The problem with those Nigerians who are having running noses over Obama’s Visit to Ghana is that they have reduced Africa from fifty three to two nations; that is Ghana and Nigeria. But Africa is much bigger than a tango-tango competition between Nigeria and Ghana.

In any case, removing the elections, by what indices do we view Nigeria as deserving the first visit from Obama? What does snubbing mean for Nigeria?  As far as I know, Nigeria is still looked upon as an emerging market with great economic potentials, which America cannot afford to ‘snub’. Indeed nobody is snubbing Nigeria. To the contrary it is mostly Nigerians that have perfected this act of disparaging everything about their nation and not other nations. 

Obama will visit Ghana and South Africa because of the business interest of America in these countries, not because they have free and fair elections. Check out the friends America has around the globe and tell me about free and fair elections! America and Europe have all cause to be jittery about Nigeria because of the fundamental reforms eminent in her oil industry, the biggest area of western investment (and exploitation) in the country. If people understand what this means in the ultimate fortunes of these nations, then they will appreciate the efforts they (the US) will make to frustrate these reforms.

Therefore it is naive for people to think it is just about free and fair elections that the US has a cold attitude towards Nigeria. The politics is much deeper; but it is good, Nigerians advising Yar’ Adua, are beginning to show some strong sense of patriotism. We will surely get there in the long run.
 

 

 


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