By Ochereome Nnanna
There is very little in the utterances of top Nigerian officials that indicate they appreciate President Barack Obamaâ€™s mission to Ghana rather than Nigeria. It is either they donâ€™t understand it or they have chosen to block their ears and their minds from the message of the first black man to preside over the affairs of the worldâ€™s greatest superpower.
From the moment the trip was scheduled about two months ago until just before Obama and his family landed in Sikaman, the land of Akwaaba, Nigerian officialdom chose to speak for the sake of hearing their own voices rather than appreciate the visit in its true light.
The national secretariat of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the party which has vowed to rule for 60 years whether we like it or not, chose to see it as a conspiracy against Nigeria.
Just last week, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and former Nigeriaâ€™s Ambassador to the United States, Professor Jibril Aminu, while answering reportersâ€™ questions, accused those he described as â€œill-advisedâ€ and â€œanti-Nigerian forcesâ€ for preventing Obama from visiting Nigeria on his first trip to Africa, in spite of Nigeriaâ€™s fatherly roles on the continent.
He added that when former President Bill Clinton visited Nigeria in 1999 many African leaders told him that unless he visited Nigeria he had not really visited Africa.
In his own response to the eventful visit, Nigeria Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, praised Obama for shunning Nigeria and his fatherâ€™s country of birth, Kenya, settling instead for Ghana.
He chided those he described as â€œpatriotic cheerleaders in Africaâ€ (Professor Aminu sounded like one of them) that they can expect no preferential consideration from Obama when their countries wallow in abject mis-governance.
Obamaâ€™s purpose of visiting Ghana was different from the objective of former President Clinton which Professor Aminu rightly referred to. Clinton sought partners in Africa to help fight hunger, disease (especially HIV and malaria) and to alleviate poverty by pushing through the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA).
In doing this, if he had not visited Nigeria, he would not have really visited Africa because this is where our size and avuncular roles in Africa would count in our favour.
Obamaâ€™s purpose was not to bring bread and butter to Africa or to make promises of economic and social aid. He was here to drop a message aimed at renewing and retooling the psyche of Africans towards the imperatives of democracy and good governance.
He was here to inspire us. The late Great Zik of Africa believed if you show the people the light they will find their way. Obamaâ€™s reason for being in Cairo was different from his reason for being in Accra.
In Cairo he was continuing his gesture of reaching out to the Arab, Middle East and Muslim worlds for partnership to tackle worldwide terrorism and thaw Americaâ€™s icy relations with Islam.
But in Accra, he decided to speak to the African Black Man to wake up from his long slumber and begin to respect the will of his own people, which he has trampled upon for so long to his utter detriment. Allow the people to choose those to lead them through credible, transparent and free elections.
If you allow this to become the political norm of your society, there is no way you can avoid producing good governments. He went to Ghana to deliver this message because this was where his thesis has been tried and found to be an absolute recipe for the rebirth of a society that was once one of the most blighted entities in Africa.
When Ghanaâ€™s rulers trampled on the democratic rights of their people, the country was in the chaos of a proportion now only witnessed in Robert Mugabeâ€™s Zimbabwe.
Just as Zimbabweans are on the run to South Africa where they are treated like animals by the indigenes, Ghanaians flocked to Nigeria in the late 19070s where, in 1981 our government stuffed them in lorries and deported them in their thousands.
That was where the derisive expression: “Ghana Must Go” was born in reference to the polyethylene bags in which they hauled their belongings on their way home.
But the father of modern Ghana and its second Osagyefo (messiah after Dr. Kwame Nkrumah) ground the rotten elite to pulp and rebuilt his country to the point where free, fair and credible elections and transfer of power from one party to another in accordance with the wishes of the people have now come to be taken for granted.
As the model of democracy and good governance in Africa, the political culture in Ghana is now the type that attracts the very best materials to public office, which has raised the quality of governance across board. Corruption is no longer a normal attribute of Ghanaâ€™s public life. That is exactly what investors and tourists in a globalised world want to identify themselves with.
Compare this with our own situation where we still grind the will of our own people underfoot by refusing to permit free, fair and credible elections.
Our electoral process has therefore become a pastime of men and women who are prepared to engage in the vilest and evilest of activities to capture public office and the key to the public treasury. Quality of leadership has continued to nosedive and the impact of governance is almost non-existent at the federal level, especially.
Emphasis is on acquiring and retaining power with little or no responsibility to the citizenry. In spite of the fact that we complain about poor quality leadership, Yarâ€™ Adua will be re-elected in 2011, and all the PDP senators are queuing up for automatic tickets.
They are asking not to be exposed to the risk of not being returned to their plum jobs by the partyâ€™s members because they know how Nigerians feel about the poor work they have done.
Obama is warning us that if we continue along this line, Nigeria will never be a great country. It is food for thought for the wise.
But as legendary Bob Marley once sang:
Only a fool leans upon his own misunderstanding.