Soyinka: Obama’s Boycott Of Nigeria In Order

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By Davidson Iriekpen
US President Barack Obama's visit to Ghana may have come and gone but the significance of the choice of the West African country as against Nigeria and Kenya, is still a subject discourse.

Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, yesterday in a statement titled: “Obama's Choice' faulted what he described as the “resentment and indignation” from government over Obama's symbolic boycott of Nigeria, wondering how those in power would imagine that a leader like Obama, who ascended to power through respect for the manifested will of a people, would actually lend his presence to dignify any state that demonstrably rejects, and actively ridicules, the very means that brought him (Obama) to power.

Using the expression “blood is thicker than water” to buttress his point, the nobel laureate said Obama's gesture is intended to inform nations like Kenya and Nigeria that neither blood nor oil courses thicker than equity.

He said anyone who had read Obama's memoirs, Dreams from my Father, or knows his trajectory through childhood, intellectual and political formation,would understand immediately that he would sooner spend Thanksgiving Day with the genocidal government of Omar Bashir, or the throwback mullahs of Iran than choose either Uganda or Nigeria for a first visit that not only pursues political and economic goals, but is profoundly symbolic.

“Blood, they say, is thicker than water. Obama's gesture is intended to inform nations like Kenya and Nigeria that neither blood nor oil courses thicker than equity. How sad it makes one – no, not the studied excision by Obama of those two nations from his itinerary – but the lack of objective self-assessment within the rulership circles of such 'aggrieved' nations! It evokes pity for the continent as a whole, that such political leadership exists today which, sooner than retire into their gilded holes to reflect, have actually gone to battle on behalf over some mystic entitlement, since such is not sustained by any credentials in democratic and responsible governance. Of the two, the case of our own nation, Nigeria, is obviously the more pathetic.

“This, just to refresh memories, was a candidate who ensured from the beginning that he would break with corporate patronage and thus, indebtedness, and rely largely on the mass contribution of cents and pennies to ensure a mandate of maximum independence. By contrast, behold the permanent indentureship of the Nigerian power base, not merely to the moneyed oligarchy, but to the most corrupt, indeed criminal elements within that disreputable oligarchy.

“Nigeria is a nation that repeatedly blows its chances to stand tall, to present to the world a massively endowed colossus, bestriding the continent with the over-abundant productive genius of its people and the generosity of nature resources.

“What, instead, has been the actuality? A plague of incontinent rulers in relay, some in military uniform, others in civilian clothing, but all clones of one another, united in a commitment to unabashed profligacy, mutually assisted corruption and, to add insult to injury, an obsessive hankering for self-perpetuation, necessitating the cultivation of outright disdain for the elementary right of their citizens to a voice in leadership choice.

Is this truly a nation that deserves the recognition, much less a gesture of respect, from any democratically elected leadership of the world, and one especially of such unprecedented political significance for the African continent itself?

“A decade ago, needless to say, Ghana would also have been a non-contender. But the continent has witnessed, and remains envious of, the transformation that has taken place in Ghana, an internal process of self-recovery that nearly matches that of the United States in her transition from George Bush to Barrack Obama.

Among the attributes of intelligence is the ability to create, or recognize the opportunity for self-renewal. Nigerians, at home or residing in the United States during the past decade, have not been slow to observe that the eight previous years in United States governance were uncannily paralleled within Nigeria – eight years of waste, deception, divisiveness and corruption, of advancing bankruptcy, eight years of arrogant subversion of democratic norms….all spearheaded by a man from whom the nation, the continent and the world expected so much, eight years that sent the nation spiraling into a reverse momentum that has earned it the humiliating designation of a 'failed state'.

“Should an incoming product of the repudiation of such a shared past compromise his mandate by a significant visit to the other half, while it remains fixated and unrepentant in its perpetuation of that disreputable past?

“Of course if it were possible for Barrack Obama to visit Nigerians – the people that is – to express his condolences for such an unmerited state of affairs, parley with non-governmental organizations, exchange views with political alternatives, interact with the labour unions, hold talks with the insurgents of the oil-producing Delta region and offer direct succour to the neglected people of a benighted nation, I have no doubt whatsoever that Nigeria would indeed be his first choice. However, such a precedent being impossible – at least in these times - the only programme that remained would have been, at best, a tokenist interaction with the other Nigeria, duly vetted.

“The rest would be to wine and dine, sign some effete agreements and exchange presents with the current symbol of national decay and leadership alienation, a nation whose claim to the status of a giant is upheld only by the gigantesque dimensions of its retrogression since independence, its governance ineptness and the colossal scale of its corruption. Obama knows that every other hand he would shake at a state reception is steeped in sheer putrefaction from the sump of robbery, perhaps every third elbow deep in the blood of perceived political threats – across all levels of contestation.

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