It is said that whenever the United States is ill disposed towards something, the rest of the world heaves a sigh of relief because that thing is definitely in the interest of all but Uncle Sam.
Here in Nigeria, the disposition of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is the barometer with which to measure the mood of the larger society. If the PDP is happy, then it is definitely bad news for the rest, and if it is unhappy, it is celebration time for the rest because of the disconnect between the party and the rest of the society.
Last week’s two-day visit to Nigeria by the US Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton was an event that captured the nation’s imagination for the time it lasted. It provided a needed distraction from the daily drudgery of living on the fringes of existence for many a Nigerian.
Given the uncomplimentary remarks on Nigeria by her boss President Barack Obama during his visit to Ghana last month, only the most gullible or the chronic optimist would expect Mrs. Clinton to tow a line not in harmony with the US President’s. But that is not PDP’s style. The hierarchy of the party must be seen to be doing something even if it is nothing.
To be sure, Mrs. Clinton’s pointed remark against Nigeria’s leadership while in Angola on her way to Nigeria and the disdainful manner in which US Embassy officials had taken charge of every protocol arrangements to the exclusion of Nigerian officials, was indeed a cause for worry by all rational Nigerians. As we are a sovereign nation we deserve the courtesy of the best diplomatic practice even from the world’s sole super power. We therefore deserve to be treated as equals not least because we are on our shores. So the complaints by Presidency and Foreign Ministry officials against the conduct of the Americans during the visit is not only understandable but commendable as well.
The PDP would have earned the symphasy of many Nigerians outside its fold if it had localised its reservation in the conduct and or comments of the visiting US Secretary of State and the Abuja US Embassy officials instead of resorting to its usual fare of crying wolf where non exists by blaming it traditional whipping target: the faceless ‘disgruntled politicians’.
According to PDP, all the remarks made by Mrs. Clinton before and after she arrived into the country were a function of misinformation fed to her by failed politicians who have an axe to grind with the federal government.
“Mrs. Clinton seems to have taken her briefs from individuals or groups and other failed politicians who have an axe to grind with the government of the federal republic of Nigeria. We do not want to believe that her mission to Nigeria was meant to confer legitimacy on these groups who are pursuing narrow interests within the Nigerian political environment”, whined the party.
But the lords at Wadata House ought to know that the US does not have to rely on ‘individuals or groups and other failed politicians who have an axe to grind with the government’ to tell it what is happening in Nigeria. With its sophisticated methods of intelligence gathering, the US can know even the most intimate details of the life of our leaders without resorting to local sources that are, in any case, not versed in the cloak and dagger business of espionage.
Mrs. Clinton’s comments about the sorry state of affairs in the country, which the PDP found detestable, if truth must be told, are not really original.
On July 29, the Financial Times of London carried a news analysis titled: "Muddling through is no longer an option for Nigeria" in which the writer took the nation’s leadership to the cleaners profiling the sorry state of affairs in very graphic terms as to leave no one in doubt as to where the country is headed.
The FT followed that article the following day with an editorial titled: "Nigeria, the potential powerhouse of Africa, is in trouble." In the editorial, the paper did not mince word about what it thinks of Nigeria in even more graphic terms than the previous day article. It described the nation’s leadership as the weakest ever.
Perhaps, if it could have its way, the PDP would dismiss the two articles as penned by and the ranting of “failed politicians who have an axe to grind with the government of the federal republic of Nigeria”.
Instead of this grandstanding, the ruling party ought to have seen the comments of the visitor in the context in which they were made and soul-search for a solution to the problems engendering such negative remarks from concerned stakeholders in the country and our foreign development partners who are as much interested in Nigeria’s progress as we are.
The PDP should see the visit as an opportunity for Nigeria and the United States could initiate a new era of cooperation based on shared commitments to constitutional democracy, the strengthening of open, multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies and laying the foundations for sustainable and equitable growth.
This much was confirmed by the US Secretary of State during a joint press conference with her Nigerian counterpart Chief Ojo Maduekwe. She said that "We strongly support and encourage the government of Nigeria's efforts to increase transparency, reduce corruption, and provide support for democratic processes in preparation for the 2011 elections".
Respect, as we all know, is earned not conferred on a platter of gold. In case the PDP leadership needs a proof of this, they need not go beyond Ghana. It is the transparent manner in which Ghana’s leadership conducts state business that makes it the toss of the Western world, which was capped by a state visit by the US’s Obama last month.
For us in Nigeria, that visit to Ghana by President Obama and the two-day one by Mrs. Clinton to our shores are supposed to be a wake- up call.
Malumfashi wrote from No.35, Moses A. Majekodunmi Crescent,