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Of national pride and the Obama snub

Nigeria has taught the world the difference between civil rule and democracy. We have just taught the world that it is possible not to be…

Nigeria has taught the world the difference between civil rule and democracy. We have just taught the world that it is possible not to be in a dictatorship but at the same time not to have democracy. Democracy is that place where the people have the right to choose their own leaders and have those leaders sworn to the realisation of their aspirations and the protection of their benign will. Is President Umaru Musa Yar’adua the people’s choice even in spite of the court stamp? No. He did not emerge through a democratic process. Democracy is that place where the people they choose constantly feel their pulses and carry out their wills. If you look at what has been happening in the national and state assemblies, – the bills they passed into law – do they represent the true aspirations of the people? No. Democracy is a system in which the people’s natural endowments work for the people and not for a privileged few.

So, Obama is visiting Ghana. Ghana is just one year older than Nigeria in terms of flag independence. Ghana had its first step at civil rule truncated by soldiers. Ghana went through a serious period of economic and political recession when its learned citizens became servants in Nigeria before being forced out. In less than two decades, Ghana has reversed its fortunes. At a time, when our own militocrats were perfecting the art of sitting tight, Ghana was clearing its Aegean stables. The result is that Ghanaians, like us, have had uninterrupted civil rule for one civilian president with two terms and through a process of electoral maturity have conducted elections freely and fairly won by the opposition and the mandate well respected. We have not.

Come on, we all know the painful story. How Ghanaians now count it no privilege to recall their sojourn in Nigeria. How, today, Ghana is passing laws aimed at protecting its economy and its commerce from the rough tackles associated with Nigerian businesses. In the past decade, no Ghanaian has been accused of swindling a quarter of the money meant for his ministry or agency. Halliburton did not succeed in Ghana, neither did Siemens. The Ghanaian parliament is not embroiled in constituency projects and pilfering of national resources. The difference is clear.

Yes, Obama is not even contemplating smelling Seme. The putrescence of the political and economic graft oozing out of that border posts would have had on him the combined effect of Swine Flu, Bird Flu and HIV/AIDS combined. So, it is to Ghana, Africa’s pride and West Africa’s bride that Obama is visiting. And by the grace of God, I know that Obama will send words to Nigeria, Africa’s prodigal to sit up. He already did by calling Ghana a strategic partner.

But for now, only Musiliu Obanikoro would see Obama. Obanikoro jostled for the governorship of Lagos State and failed. Then President Yar’adua despatched him to Accra as his envoy. As far as I know, the people of Lagos state are not missing Obanikoro. As their senator, they did not get any inkling that he could have done half of what Raji Fashola is doing with Lagos taxpayers’ money – that’s why today, Lagosians shout at the top of their voice – Eko O ni Baje.

Obama is not coming here. The reasons are quite obvious. At the airport, something would have gone wrong. If he arrived at night, his convoy would have needed extra floodlights to light his path, lern than a quarter of the street lights on the Abuja airport road are working. That would have been unthinkable under Sani Abacha. Obama would have witnessed power failure for the first time in his life. Ghana was counting 18 hours of uninterrupted power supply six years ago. Today, we are probing the probers of electricity fraud and former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who presided over that gargantuan waste is sitting pretty in Otta. What would we show Obama? No federal project has been commissioned in two years of Yar’adua. Ghanaians have just taught West Africa to conduct free and fair elections and a rancour-free handover. The one in Ekiti is a complete antithesis of the norm, so what would we have shown Obama?

If Nigeria worked well Obama would have been begging to see visit here. After all, one in four black people is a Nigerian; our country has 34 solid minerals only one of which is partially tapped and grossly mismanaged. In some states of the US, if Nigerian doctors decided to leave, even America’s health-care system would collapse. But if Obama had cold in Abuja, we would have had to helijet him to Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport and pray that there would be power so that he could be flown to Germany or Saudi Arabia. No hospital, including Aso Rock Clinic would have been able to either diagnose or treat him.

Thanks to Obama for keeping us at arm’s length. Who doesn’t? Just a few months back, the G-20 snubbed Nigeria. South Africa could not have been free without Nigeria’s modest efforts at crippling apartheid. But recently when our President took lovely Turai to Johannesburg for Jacob Zuma’s inauguration as South African president, he was kept in the boys quarters of famous dignitaries. If we want to change this status quo, there is no need to whine, let us wake up and mend the broken walls.