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She came to scold us

By Ochereome Nnanna
AMERICA’S Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Clinton has come to Nigeria and gone, leaving issues in her wake. What is the significance of that visit? What message did she bring? How do we rate in the eyes of those who now lead the world’s most powerful nation? Is there any lesson for us to learn in the way and manner she visited us?

Before we go into all this, let us compare her diplomatic expedition to President Barack Obama’s trip to Ghana some weeks ago. We can ask the same questions above. The answer will be simple. Obama’s visit to Ghana was an endorsement.

Hillary Clinton to Nigeria to scold us. The first Black man ever to occupy the White House and son of an African sojourner to America went to Ghana to give that country a pat on the back for creating a model of democracy and governance which, if maintained, will ensure their greatness.

He sent a message to the rest of Black Africa (especially, to my mind, Nigeria) to borrow a leaf from Ghana and do away with primitive political behaviour. He wanted us to know that Ghana is now in a position to produce The Audacity of Hope on their soil.

Mrs. Clinton’s Nigeria visit was generic, as opposed to Obama’s Ghana trip, which was particular. She is touring the world on a familiarisation jaunt. Nigeria is just one of more than a dozen stops. Nigeria entered her list for two major reasons.

Number one was the fact that this nation by its population, regional clout and strategic economic ties with the US, had to make the list.

Even if Nigeria were still the pariah nation she was in the days of General Abacha, the chances were that the American Secretary of State would still have visited.

She would then deliver the same message she came with: Thank you for being a nice business partner and regional stabiliser, but your system is corrupt, your security capacity is a non-starter and your democracy is laughable. She said so both in words and body language.

I did not sense a lot of esteem in the manner in which America’s number one diplomat came to Nigeria and left. This visit was supposed to be a close collaboration between the State Department and our Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

It was, but only up to a point. In the area of security arrangements and protocol, the State Department through the US Embassy in Nigeria, went absolutely solo.

Robin Sanders, the US Ambassador to Nigeria, refused to hold any security meeting outside the Embassy. When the SSS insisted it wanted to be carried along in the security arrangements, Sanders asked them to come over to the Embassy!

The Americans, along with some local non-governmental organisations, compiled the names of the people to meet Mrs. Clinton and those to speak at the Town Hall programme held at the Shehu Yar’ Adua Centre. Many important dignitaries that the government would have wanted to attend were left out and angry.

I wonder what the Americans would have done if our Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe were to visit Washington and the Nigerian Embassy over there behaved in like manner. It is simply inconceivable.

We know that the Americans are very fastidious about the security of their presidents and top officials when they travel abroad.

A top diplomat and former Nigerian ambassador to the US told me that when one of Mrs. Clinton’s predecessors, Madeline Albright visited Nigeria in 1999, the Americans were also in charge. But the absolute disdain that was displayed during Hillary Clinton’s visit was not there.

There were at least some attempts made by the Americans to seem to work with Nigerian officials to make the visit hitch-free. Clinton’s visit left behind a lot of ruffled feathers. Even the media were not spared, as she did not even bother to wave the press corps goodbye, let alone stop briefly for a perfunctory chat.

She just walked out of the presidential wing of the Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport and boarded her plane. It was as if she could not leave Abuja fast enough.

This brings to mind another international visit that took place the previous week. Mr. Jack Warner, the Vice President of the FIFA, was in Nigeria for the final inspection and draws for the junior world cup that will be coming up in Nigeria in November.

Reports had it that the nation was made to pay N666 million to enable the world football governing body organise the security of the tournament. The normal order of things is for FIFA to pay the host nation certain amount to enable them provide security for its tournaments.

With Boko Haram religious crisis in the North and militants of the Niger Delta troubling the oil producing zone, armed robbers and kidnappers ruling with impunity, nobody from outside Nigeria can entrust their security to Nigeria.

The Federal Government claims to be “on the same page” with America on the need to fight corruption, clean up our electoral system and enthrone good governance.

From the way the American Secretary of State visited and departed, I have the sneaking feeling that America and most Nigerians are not “on the same page” with the Federal Government of Nigeria.


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