Nigeria: Clinton choses straight talk over soft diplomacy and lambasts Nigerian leaders

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U.S Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has chosen not to mince her words or show sentiments in her criticism of Nigeria, during her visit to the West African country: Nigeria should be part of the G20 but — a big but — the corruption reputation… it is a problem, she said after meeting with President Umaru Yar’Adua and his foreign minister in the capital city of Abuja.

Speaking at a town hall meeting of several hundred civil society leaders, before Nigeria’s president Umaru Yar’Adua and his foreign minister, Mrs. Clinton reminded the leaders that the wide divide between Nigeria’s rich and poor was because of their failures at federal, state and local level.

A fact that is recognized from the highest seat of office to the lowly streets of Nigeria is that mismanagement and incompetence over decades have impeded the country’s development, discouraged investment, undermined democracy and fueled conflicts such as the militancy of the Niger Delta rebellion and bouts of religious violence in the north, but this fact has reportedly struck new chords after being echoed to Nigerian public officials directly by the U.S Secretary of State.

Citing United Nations figures, Ms. Clinton said Nigeria’s poverty rate had risen to 76 percent from 46 percent over the past 13 years alone despite Nigeria’s 2 million barrels per day of oil production. According to a World Bank report. Mrs. Clinton sates, Nigeria had lost more than $300 billion over the past three decades as a result of corruption and other related problems.

Nigeria, the self-acclaimed Giant of Africa, ought to be a member of the G-20 league of Nations, but despite being Africa’s biggest energy producer and Africa’s second largest economy Nigeria is not ranked among the world’s most important developing nations because of its corruption reputation Mrs. Clinton argued.

In response to Ms. Clinton’s to-your-face criticism of the leaders of Africa’s most populated nation, Nigerian Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe described the talks between Clinton and Yar’Adua as “candid, encouraging and mutually inspiring” and said the Nigerian president had acknowledged there were major issues to face. “Electoral reforms and commitment to the rule of law, the fight against corruption — the president acknowledged that we have serious challenges there,” Maduekwe is quoted as saying.

Mrs. Clinton however assured Nigerians that Washington was keen to support efforts to increase transparency and bolster democracy in Nigeria before national polls in 2011. She also said that the United States planned a commission to tackle issues from Niger Delta violence to electoral reform.

Capable, reliable and transparent institutions are the key to success; strong parliaments and honest police forces; independent judges and journalists; a vibrant private sector and civil society are the things that give life to democracy, because that is what matters in peoples’ lives. With better governance, there is no doubt that Nigeria holds the promise of a better living standard for its populations.

Dependence on oil export has concentrated wealth in the hands of a few wealthy people and these old habits (corruption) must be broken. According to U.S President Mr. Barack Obama, Africa’s future is up to Africans.

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