The proposed visit of US President, Barack Obama, to Ghana has whipped up frenzy among ordinary Nigerians and is now turning into a political and diplomatic ‘tug of words’. Mr Obama and his wife Michelle will visit Ghana in July, his fist trip to Africa as an American head of state.
Since the announcement was made earlier this month, some Nigerians, including some at the top of the political hierarchy are furious that Mr Obama’s choice of Ghana ahead of Nigeria, a strategic partner to the US and the ‘heavy weight’ of Africa, is not only a snub but a shame. But many simply argue that whilst Nigeria is a failed state Ghana is both a thriving democracy and a political success in Africa, thus Obama’s preference.
The latest to join the battle of words is the popular Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, who indicated that Obama’s choice of Ghana is a wise decision: “If Obama decides to grace Nigeria with his presence, I will stone him. The message he is sending by going to Ghana is so obvious, is so brilliant that he must not render it flawed by coming to Nigeria any time soon,” he said.
The Nigerian Presidency, however, was swift to reply to Soyinka’s unpatriotic and ‘embarrassing’ attitude. Ambassador Jibrin Chinade, Foreign Affairs special adviser to the Nigerian President, Umaru Yaradua, said “Soyinka’s statement which he is entitled to, is most unfortunate and un-diplomatic because he chose the wrong venue and ended up embarrassing the Italian Ambassador who had invited him for an art exhibition,” quoted This Day Newspaper in Nigeria.
Ambassador Chinade continued: “It’s most unfortunate that a prominent citizen like Soyinka seized the opportunity of a diplomatic invitation to attack his country. I have read all his books including the most current one, for somebody to speak at an art exhibition to say nothing else than to denigrate himself and his country that has done a lot for him is most unfortunate and highly embarrassing.”
National, private and even international media continue to report on the ongoing issue that has generated a lot of attention. Many private media in Nigeria are of the view that the fiddling of political elections, corruption, economic and social imbalance, all add up to Obama’s ‘rejection’ of Nigeria as his first priority.
The Presidency has said, however that Nigeria has no problem at all with Obama visiting Ghana because Ghana is not only a friendly country but also a member of the ECOWAS. “Which country to visit and when, is entirely the prerogative of a country and Nigeria has no problem whatsoever with whom Obama visits and when, we cannot predetermine it”.
Support for Wole Soyinka
Many still support Mr Soyinka’s statement, arguing that the Nobel Laureate has only spoken the truth about the real state of affairs in Nigeria, which should do more with its democracy.
“Whatever Prof. Wole Soyinka says is his prerogative. While I do not agree with most of his opinions, I respect the man’s viewpoint on this particular issue, we as Nigerians must recognize the message being sent to us as a prospectively great country that has practically everything that is needed to be one of the top 10 economies in the world,
“but for the reckless, inconsiderate, greedy people that practice politics just for them to have access to the wealth of this country to enrich themselves. The so-called leadership strata of the country lack empathy. Just holding elections in a country of brilliant and intellectuals like no other country in Africa has been impossible. It simply shows the rest of the world how disingenuous a people we are,” said Wale Ade.
Samuel Adegboyega from Abuja also said: “The Presidency guys should cover their face in shame for attacking or reacting too negatively against Professor Soyinka for declaring the open truth. If Obama had chosen to come to Nigeria, I would have organised A-Two Million March against him.”
Dauda Gambo, at the Department of History, University of Maiduguri, however argued that Obama’s choice of Ghana as his first point of Africa has no undertone. “If we are talking of preference, he would have chosen Kenya.”
Meanwhile, Ghana continues to accrue democratic dividends and score more economic points. A group of business associations from The UK will be visiting Ghana next month. The UK-West Africa Business Association’s (WABA) Oil and Gas Business Conference and Exhibition, in its second visit to Accra, will help engage in the ongoing development of its new oil-discovery fields.