A STONE FOR OBAMA
Just a stone's throw away is Ghana, a much smaller African country that will host President Barrack Obama of America between July 10 and 11. The first Black-American president has given Nigeria a wide berth, and very good for him, because he could get pelted with stones if he ventures here. Who will throw the stones?
When Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka opens verbal fire on anyone, you think hailstones are dropping.
Ask former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. Sometime in 2003, Obasanjo had written a letter to Soyinka, in which he accused the latter of 'perfidious falsehood.' It turned out to be one of the greatest mistakes of the Otta chicken farmer's life. Soyinka opened fire on him, not only from the hips, but from all directions. I remember writing a piece then, which was entitled 'Soyinka's weapon of mass destruction.'
Soyinka is again in the mood to open fire. But not verbal missiles this time, rather, physical ones. Stones. Hear him at an art exhibition held at the Italian Embassy in Abuja, recently: 'If Obama decides to grace Nigeria with his presence, I will stone him. The message he is sending by going to Ghana is so obvious, is so brilliant that he must not render it flawed by coming to Nigeria any time soon.'
Trust some hirelings who are ever quick to defend their masters, whether reasonable or not, to take up the gauntlet. Ambassador Jibrin Chinade, Special Adviser on Foreign Affairs to President Umaru Yar'Adua, took up Soyinka, saying his comments were 'most unfortunate and undiplomatic.' He added that the writer embarrassed the Italian Ambassador to Nigeria, who had invited him to the art exhibition in the first place. Is Chinade a mind reader? How did he know that the Ambassador was not silently applauding Soyinka for telling the bitter truth?
From time immemorial, stones had always been offensive weapons. In the Holy Bible, God even rained stones from heaven to help the Israelites conquer an enemy nation. And in modern times, Palestinian youths find stones a ready weapon to hurl against Israeli troops in their never ending hostilities.
Even in the animal world, stones are worthy allies. There is a chimpanzee at the Furuvik Zoo in Sweden. Its name is Santino. What does it do every blessed day? It has a tidy pile of stones in its enclosure, which it throws at visitors to the zoo. Even Santino knows the power of stones as protest and assault weapon.
In some other climes, shoes are what they throw. Remember last December 14, when the then American president, George Bush, visited Iraq and addressed the press. So incensed was Muntadar al-Zaidi, a reporter with Cairo-based network Al Baghdadia Television, that he removed his shoes, and flung them one after the other at Bush. The American president had to duck again and again as the projectiles flew in his direction. The journalist is today cooling his heels in jail, having been found guilty of assaulting a foreign leader.
But on a very serious note, why did Soyinka threaten to stone Obama, a man he had also confessed an admiration for? What was the hidden message in the warning? America is the world's greatest democracy, therefore, its president must never fraternize with election riggers. He must never be seen to hobnob with beneficiaries of do or die elections. An American leader should not consort or associate with electoral robbers, lest he be guilty by association.
Obama is going to Ghana, because the latter got its democracy right.
The world watched keenly as Ghana voted last December, and there was a stalemate. Eventually, there was a run-off, and the opposition coasted to power. Outgoing president, John Kufuor, did not manipulate, distort or influence the process with the power of incumbency, in order that his preferred candidate could win. Honourable.
In April 2007, the whole world, including America, equally watched, as Olusegun Obasanjo and Maurice Iwu conducted what is now on record as the world's worst elections. It was roguery at its worst. Daylight robbery. Brigandage. Heist. Plunder. The beneficiary of that evil is in office, pretending to be an elected president, and the man who supervised the elections is equally still in office, deluding himself day after day that he leads an independent commission. And you expect an American president to mingle with them?
And that on his first trip to Sub-Saharan Africa? Such president would then deserve it, if he gets stoned.
Remember that Madeleine Albright, former American Secretary of State, was among those who cried foul after the 2007 elections. She was here, and almost died of apoplexy at the brazen and bizarre spectacle she beheld. Remember what Hilary Clinton, current Secretary of State said of the elections? She said it was disappointing and it 'failed that nation's citizens.' These are part of people that shape America's foreign policy. Do you think they would then advise their president to visit Nigeria so soon in its current state? It won't happen.
If Obama had mistakenly ventured here, and peradventure Soyinka carried out his threat, what would we do to him? Arrest and lock him in jail as Iraq did to Muntadar al-Zaidi? It would by no means be strange to the Nobel Laureate. It is a road he is familiar with. The man truly dies in him who keeps silent in the face of tyranny.