Why Obama can't visit Nigeria, by aide

By Guardian Newspapers

From Laolu Akande, New York
PRESIDENT Barack Obama's White House has now openly deemed Nigeria's 2007 elections among polls in Africa that are "problematic." Hence Obama will not visit Nigeria during his trip to the continent because of this issue.

During a media briefing late on Wednesday, at which senior White House officials including Michelle Gavin, Obama's White House Senior Director for African Affairs briefed reporters about the U.S. president's trip next week to Russia, Italy and Ghana, an American journalist from Associated Press asked "why this is so important to include Ghana on this trip?"

Gavin replied that it made sense for a number of reasons to include Ghana "particularly in light of the fact that there have been some worrying trends in Africa recently. We've had, frankly, a number of coups: Mauritania, although that seems to be getting on the right track now; Madagascar; Guinea; a problematic election in Nigeria, in Kenya, in Zimbabwe; you have this third-term bid that's led to a rule by emergency decree in Niger."

The previous U.S. administration had also criticised the 2007 Nigerian election alongside several others in the international community. But the Obama administration has been silent until Wednesday when the White House openly labelled certain elections in Africa as problematic.

While there are electoral problems in several other states of Africa, including Nigeria, the White House senior official disclosed that President Obama "wanted to stop in Ghana particularly because he's interested in emphasising themes of governance - the importance of governance for making development progress, the importance of governance for stability."

She said Obama felt that "Ghana is a truly admirable example of a place where governance is getting stronger, a thriving democracy. They just had an extraordinarily close election at the end of last year, decided ultimately by about 40,000 votes, that remained peaceful. Power was transferred peacefully, and they continue to pursue a development agenda and bolster the rule of law."

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