Friday, May 31, 2013

USA Africa Dialogue Series - Re: Fw: OBAMA’S SNUBBING OF NIGERIA

All said and done, US – Nigeria relations are good and just as with most relationships, there's room for improvement. From the US administration's point of view perhaps this is not the best time for such a visit - but surely there must be other occasions such as the upcoming October 1 Independence celebrations when goodwill invitations are usually extended to best friends. I would imagine that for the US, courting African nations and their public opinion would be of the essence – and that it's not only e a matter of establishing Africom and expecting the roses to grow by themselves and form bouquets without any attention and pruning from the gardeners / cultivators. Considering the competition from China which is more and more making her presence felt on the African continent – in my opinion it's all the more reason why the US needs to cultivate the US- Africa friendships – especially with an African-American president who again I would imagine would also be turning on his natural charm with a charm offensive in Africa. I know that with the people of China even in interpersonal relationships, friendship if of the essence – and friendship is something that has to be cultivated. The ease with which Chinese diplomats establish a rapport with African leaders is testimony of a relationship which is in the ascendant.

The Chinese diplomat asks "We make friendship ?" - I suppose that's what you ask the Chinese woman too ( and less of the big grammar and 1000 Phds etc) and invariably the whole-hearted answer is "Yes" and then there's some walking hand- in-hand or arm-in arm and the deal – whatever deal - is concluded – and there again, without any extensive lectures from China about Human Rights issues or the dignity of labour or about the dollar a day or the cringe or starve conundrum...

SO, I'm also looking forward to hearing Brother Obama saying , " God bless Nigeria" and reaping the tremendous effects of saying those three simple words...

On Friday, 31 May 2013 08:10:05 UTC+2, wrote:
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld from Glo Mobile.

From: Tope Olaiya <>
Date: Tue, 28 May 2013 04:16:28 -0700 (PDT)
ReplyTo: Tope Olaiya <>

Barring an unlikely politically negotiated detour, United States President, Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, will not visit Nigeria on their forthcoming African tour, billed to take them to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania between June 26 and July 3.The White House announced last week the exclusion of Nigeria from Obama's African itinerary as a way of delivering a strong message to the country's rulers on their slack, anti corruption policy and poor human rights record. Subsequent reports on the matter, however, indicate that Nigeria's ambassador to the United States, Professor Ade Adefuye, is exploring the possibility of getting the United States to change its mind by reinserting Nigeria on the list of countries to be visited by Obama.
Flash back to the twilight months of 1975 when General Murtala Muhammed at the time Nigeria's Head of State pointedly rebuffed United States Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, who had proposed to visit Nigeria, and see what a sea change has occurred in Nigeria's foreign policy as well as national self worth. In that glorious season, we called the bluff of the United States; today we cringe before that same country, beseeching it to consider Nigeria worthy of being visited by its president. By way of explanation, let us recall that Muritala's government and to a lesser extent the successor government of General Olusegun Obasanjo were reformist, nationalist and enjoyed popular legitimacy on account of proven, not rhetorical achievements. Nigeria relished the spotlight as a haven for anti-colonial rebels across the continent including those from apartheid South Africa.
It must be recorded as a touching irony that South Africa, whose liberation was in the 1970's and early 1980's, a defining and much acclaimed credo of our vigorous foreign policy is listed today on Obama's itinerary while Nigeria the liberator is shoved aside. What has changed about Nigeria that it should now become the butt of the derisive snubbing and dismissive scorn around the globe? In the 1970's there was a nation around which nationalism could be projected. Today, the nation is imploding, and retreating to its least common denominators. That is why an Asari Dokubo can threaten war, if his kinsman loses the election in 2015; and insurgent Islam can institute a reign of terror, verging on attempted secession in another part of the country. Nigeria is viewed with the contempt that one reserves for a neighbouring family whre husband and wife square up to each other in fisticuffs on the verandah, disturbing the peace of the entire neighbourhood.
That is not all. A diminution of leadership is today superimposed on a crisis of governance, with predictable diminishing returns for governmental output. South Africa, a federation like Nigeria obviously has its problems but it had as president and now statesman, Nelson Mandela who put his country on the world map both by bridge-building skills and by quitting office when the ovation was loudest. As the ongoing, tawdy squabble in the Nigerian Governor's Forum (NGF) shows, much of it engineered from outside, dishonourable shenanigans and dishonesty rule the political roost, mainly because of what Chief Awolowo was fond of calling "tenacity of office". Let us face it. There is hardly anything in the United States' dressing down of Nigeria that has not been pointed out by civil society and, permit the self indulgence, by this columnist. What domestic and international reactions did the Jonathan administration expect when it granted state pardon to a former Bayelsa state governor, who is on the list of wanted persons in several countries around the globe? Should not that decision have been weighed in the light of the government's loudly advertised anticorruption policy and of global public opinion?
Now the rub. As condemnations at home and abroad trailed the state pardon, with a United States journalist calling for the impeachment of Jonathan, our president was quoted to have said that he has no regrets for taking that universally denounced step. In other words, as the Americans would say 'in your face'. Could not Nigeria's Foreign Minister and Jonathan's many advisers have pointed out the implications of exploring the borders of a pariah outlook in the international community and for no other reason than helping out a fallen mentor? I do not defend the United States which is not without its own human rights blemishes, symbolized by the excesses of the war on terror and the horrifying narratives that poured out of its naval base in Guantanamo. Yet, it is hard to deny that through our blunders and inactions we have often earned the rebuke of other countries, including those of our better governed, smaller neighbours.
There are occasions as in the example of the 1970's cited earlier when a reformist government can rally the nation against the big brother insults of a foreign power. But this is not one of them; as we did not need the United States to tell us that the anticorruption agenda has lost its steam and that business as usual is the name of the game in our political setting. Our leaders do not expect other democracies to congratulate them for flouting emerging governance norms in the global neighbourhood; or for treating Nigerians with the contempt reserved for subjects of autocratic rule, rather than citizens of a democracy. 
It is not too late, however especially in the light of the current rebuff, for Nigeria's leaders to begin to do things right as well as enthrone decency in the polity and in state-society relations. Even rogue states within the international system must live with certain restrictions on their conduct as long as they remain in the comity of nations. The administration should consider breathing new life into the comatose anticorruption agenda; as well as by the force of example, institute new norms that would stem and slow down the current fiendish and fiery political skirmishes, in the run-up to 2015.
Furthermore, is it not time to recompact this tottering nation by convoking a national conference that will seek to revalidate our eroding sense of nationhood and community or in the alternative, prescribe modalities for nationalities to go their separate ways without bloodletting? As argued earlier, there can be no nationalism without a nation; and there can be no nation without the consent of the nationalities. The current federal jamboree favours the emergence of second elevens as state officials and the elevation of mediocrity and visionless government into fundamental directives of state policy. It is time to renegotiate Nigeria.
Olukotun is Professor of Political Science and Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences and Entrepreneurial Studies, Lead City University, Ibadan

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