Friday, July 10, 2009

Obama's Visit: A View from Ghana

As night falls over Accra, President Obama and his family will land at Kotoka International Airport. I'm sure Ghanaians are praying for divine intervention (spear-headed by Pastor TB Joshua) to deal with this rain; it still has not stopped! I still think there is very little information for the general public as to where we are allowed to go. Can we line the streets outside the airport and wait for the Obama entourage to pass. If all the streets are cordoned off and cleared of people, won't Accra look like an inhabited ghost town to our visitors? Where can we get a glimpse of the man besides TV, La Polyclinic or Cape Coast? It is all still a mystery to me. Anyway, one of the best takes I have read on the impending visit is a piece by Ms. Elizabeth Ohene, a former minister in the erstwhile New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration and a former BBC journalist. Her article was featured on the BBC over the past weekend and is available on their web page. It is a witty, humorous and sardonic view of the impending Obama visit that encapsulates everything from envy from other African countries, Ghanaian euphoria and also Ghanaian partisan politics. What I found particularly informative were the comments made and the reactions to the piece from across Africa and the world. I hope the BBC will forgive me for blatantly lifting a few of these from their web-page.

DISCLAIMER: BBC, please do not take me to court over this. I live by the Beeb and have done for most of my life. I first started listening to the BBC with my Dad when I was 7 years old ...way back in the day when (the late) Mr. Chris Bickerton hosted Focus on Africa.

Anyway, here are *interesting* views from the BBC web page in reaction to Ms. Ohene's piece:

My Ghanaian friend, I am a Nigerian and don't envy Ghana even if President Obama and his disciples visit your country everyday. President Obama is just another American president looking after American interests. In this case, it is your newly acquired oil shores. Your comments justifies my views about Ghanaians. Let me add that Ghana is the same size as Lagos Nigeria if not smaller. Good luck with your thriving democracy and good governance. I am happy that you are basking on something that is already in Africa.
Simms, Umuahia, Nigeria

Obama's visit to Ghana is NOT in any way Humiliation to Nigeria or any other africa nations.....OBAMA is Not JESUS CHRIST simply a president who chosed and decided to visit Ghana and may decide to Visit Nigeria some day. He can not visit all Africa nations same day same moment, Ghana is down to inferiority complex that makes them to see themselves as Brazil of Africa When Nigeria had beaten the real Brazil in a major football competition.
marcel eze, abidjan

Aw pulezzzz!!! Whether Obama comes or not, Nigeria is still the giant of Africa. It is okay for Obama to encourage Ghana's democracy. In spite of our current woes we still have a profound influence across Africa. Imagine what happens when we work through our problems....the whole world will come to our door steps.
Ono Vu, Abuja-Nigeria

Yikes, a serious case of very sour grapes methinks! Anyway, I would recommend reading Ms. Ohene's article and all the comments lest I present my own slant on this.

Obama day has started out bright. I drove into work this morning with the sun in my heart and rain on my windscreen listening to the BBC. Our very own Ghanaian BBC journalist Komla Dumor was live from Accra with a very poignant piece about the impending visit. He made a heartfelt trip to Cape Coast Castle and the slave dungeons which has had me reflecting on the impact of the upcoming Cape Coast visit for Michelle Obama in particular. Mr. Dumor also touched on some stark realities surrounding the new Obama administration vis-a-vis Africa. There have been some unfulfilled campaign promises and real questions about more trade and less aid. My fellow blogger Pen Powder's posting this morning also encapsulates the real questions about economic partnerships to improve Africa after stripping away all the Obama-mania and hype.

Not all Ghanaians are gushing with joy about the visit. Just this morning on Kwaku Sakyi-Addo's Joy FM programme some people were asking about whether President Obama will apologise to the Ghanaian people for the (purported) US role in the over-throw of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah in 1966. Interesting question..somewhat logical but completely ludicrous at the same time! Anyway, have to get to work so I can go and bask in the Obama-Ghana glory later!


Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

I am one person who was a staunch supporter of Obama though I didn't and don't have the power to make him the president. However, I am not overjoyed or even slightly happy about his visit. It wouldn't change the salary I earn neither would it put a slice of bread on my table. If anything at all it has taken away my liberty, my freedom of movement since certain roads at the Airport Residential Area would be blocked.

Yet, I don't understand these Nigerians. They always want to make themselves look better than Ghanaian. Ghanaians are by nature calm, which is the exact opposite of how Nigerians want to look and act but being boisterous and foolhardy doesn't make you superior. We beat you in soccer, we beat in boxing, we beat you in every field except your population. Presently, our universities are filled with Nigerians. We are developing our democracy, we are not there yet...but we are definitely far ahead of you.

Obama has nothing to add to our development and we aren't happy because he is my dear Nigerian friends, there is no need to be fussy here. We are brothers and whether Ghana is the size of Lagos or not we know that size doesn't matter. Kuwait is the size of Accra but richer than Nigeria.

Nana Yaw Asiedu said...

Aww, great summary(?) of your thoughts. I will read Liz Ohene's article. I have already read Pen Powder.

Pen Powder said...

Good piece, Abena. I think the our Nigerian brothers are not being fair to themselves in particular and all of us in general. Although I am not Ghanaian, (but having the privilege of being in Ghana at this historic time), I do not begrudge Obama for not going all the way to Zimbabwe. The world should not condone mediocrity, Never! If we as Africans want to be taken seriously, we need to take ourselves seriously first. This is what Ghana has done, and it deserves the pat on the back. Rogue regimes in other parts of Africa should not expect the world to smile at them whilst they undermine their very own people. In a way I feel so happy that some people, and indeed governments feel irked by the Obama snub. That will teach them a lesson. They need to clean up their houses.
Congradulations Ghana, please ensure you reap the maximum economic benefits out of this!

Yayemarie said...

in my opinion i think that it's great that he came to visit the people of ghana and hope that something positive comes out of it for ghana regarding trade and social dev'

Abena said...

Hey Nana Fredua, I totally see your point. In fact, it appears that Obama might as well have been beamed into Ghana via satellite since the best opportunity we have to see him is on TV. Indeed the road closures are quite a hassle. Yet, the symbolism in choosing Ghana cannot be ignored and there may be some positive ripple effects from this visit...
As for some of our Nigerian brethren, they will have other opportunities to bask in Obama-Glory!

Anonymous said...

Don’t worry Abena! Ghanaians should not be afraid. With prayers from men of God like TB Joshua, I know everything (including the weather!) will be fine for Obama’s historic visit today and tomorrow. His trip will be a big success for Ghana and for the entire continent of Africa! When God is involved, everything works out for the good.

Abena said...

*Aww* Nana Yaw, thanks. I think you would enjoy the article plus the entertaining comments!

Abena said...

Thanks Pen Powder! I agree with you that if we as Africans want to be taken seriously, we need to take ourselves seriously first... We are far from perfect in Ghana but are being heralded (for the moment) as the bastion of African democracy so we might as well milk it!

Nana Kofi Acquah said...

The fact that we still think in terms of Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe... tells me how stuck in time we really are.

Together as Africa, we have everything we need to become the world's strongest, biggest economy but here we are... wallowing in our small mindedness.

I think every narrow-minded African deserves a whack on their head today.

And please Nigeria, shut up, straighten up and take lead.

Ghana, you have a reputation for starting.... you suck at growing and completing. Sit up and be responsible. Nkrumah's dream is your nightmare.

Zimbabwe is what it is today not because Mugabe is a fool but because Africa's leadership sat back like the ball-less stooges most of them are, and watched him piss on his people.

When are we going to see that our success doesn't lie in Obama but in our Unity? Africa. When? Africa. Why?

novisi said...

that article by Ohene is insulting to the Egyptians for saying Obama only used Cairo as a post to reach out to the Arab world and therefore this was the real African visit!

just too much childishness on the part of our Adults who should know better! Egypt has always been at the front of African Agenda since Nkrumah and co started out on the OAU biz!

the article largely is no different from what some Kenya's and Nigerians are doing! saying Obama should have visited them first! Ohene too says it is right for Obama to visit Ghana first! just useless talk!

Ihechukwu said...

Thank God for TB Joshua's prayer! It didn't rain, and what a beautiful reception Obama received!

This is history in the making...

Abena said...

Very Poignant Nana Kofi and very true! Unfortunately, it is human nature to be self-centred so arriving at the actualization of an "Africa" would take some really changes in mentality. Besides, the diversity of Africa as a continent makes unity an even greater challenge.

Abena said...

*Ouch* Novisi, I think Ms. Ohene meant the Egyptian comments in a completely sardonic way and that was the tone I got from the rest of the article. I saw it as more than a patriotic list of reasons why Obama chose to visit Ghana. Well, that's just me!!

Abena said...

Indeed Ihechukwu! Thank God it all went smoothly without a hitch!