Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Hillary in Nigeria

As the US Secretary of State arrived Abuja on Tuesday on her 3 day visit to Nigeria, it is worth noting that what initially appeared to be another pedestrian shuttle through Africa has now caught the media's attention as a result of her outburst in Kinshasa on Monday.

But I really hope she still has some diplomatic outrage left in her and is willing to put it to good use during her meetings on Wednesday. Why outrage you might ask? It's because some of the people she will meet tommorow need to be told some home truths even if it grates their ears.
SaharaReporters claims in a news item that Olusegun Obasanjo is scheduled to meet Clinton as part of a grouping of civil society leaders.

While still trying to get my head around why Obasanjo has been rehabilitated on the African stage and allowed to mix freely in diplomatic circles, in Nigeria it's obvious he still represents a troublesome reminder of a past that we don't long for. Even though Umaru Yar 'Adua's percieved cluelessness may make some to yearn for that past. But I slightly digress.

When Obasanjo meets with Clinton, I hope she will be bold enough in expressing her government's displeasure with his political misdemeanours in and out of office even if it makes him seethe with rage as he's wont to. Yar'Adua shouldn't be left out too.

When Johnnie Carson, the State Department's Africa pointman said shortly before Clinton left Washington that " Nigeria is probably the most important country in Sub-Saharan Africa," he was merely re-echoing what he said in a September 1997 hearing on Capitol Hill. Back then in an earlier incarnation of his current role, he also proclaimed that " Nigeria is too important to ignore." They can't seem to ignore Nigeria because of their fixation with and reliance on the 8% decade old share of their oil consumption coming from Nigeria's sweet crude deposits. But I hope that on this issue of Nigeria's importance, America backs her words with action in avoiding the current slide to a one-party dictatorship being engineered by Obasanjo and Yar'Adua's PDP.

In addition to her briefing papers before going for breakfast with Ojo Maduekwe and meeting with the President, she should also read these insightful articles by 2 perceptive commentators on Nigeria. One Nigerian (Pius Adesanmi) and the other American (Richard Joseph).

UPDATE: The brilliant former Central Bank Deputy Governor, Obadiah Mailafia, has also written an interesting Memo to Hillary Clinton on the NEXT website. He concludes it with this observation that the Americans would do well to take note of:

"I would be the first to concede that we are not yet a nation. And our democracy remains a delicate experiment. We are far from being a purpose-driven country. Few of our leaders appreciate the urgency of the need to expand economic opportunities so necessary to stemming the inevitable tide of mass revolt.
We count on your support to help us out of the woods. A prosperous Nigeria would not only be a boost to West Africa; it would have a stabilising influence throughout our continent."

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