Buhari In America

Casmir Igbokwe

First published in The Union, July 24, 2015

The lamentation of Tony Onyima on his Facebook wall, that the local American media didn’t attach much importance to the recent visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to the United States, made me laugh.

Onyima, my friend and senior colleague, expressed worry about what he called the arrogance of the Western media. He lamented, “Most of the local and national broadcast networks, from ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC to CNN have not considered it newsworthy the visit of the President of the most populous black nation…I know if it were in Nigeria the visit will be broadcast live by NTA and other channels. So, what’s going on here?”

What’s going on is that America and indeed, the Western world, don’t consider us very important. Many of them must have heard about Nigeria through the exploits of Boko Haram and advance fee fraudsters. The visit of our President means little or nothing to them. The question is, outside oil and crime, what do we have to offer them? Even, they also produce oil such that they have drastically reduced oil imports from Nigeria.

Mutual relationships are built and sustained on the solid exchange of values. The United States citizens made their country what it is today. And so, they have some values to offer. That is why almost every Nigerian President wants to go to America first. That is why many Nigerian citizens want to go to the US.

And that is why President Barack Obama can afford to ignore visiting us  after over seven years of being in power while our own President, soon after assuming office, rushed to America with a bagful of requests which include begging Obama to visit us.

The US President may not easily agree to visit us because his country has a low estimation of Nigeria. They had denied our country weapons to prosecute the Boko Haram war because of human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by our forces.

Our president put it this way, “In the face of abduction of innocent schoolgirls from their hostels, indiscriminate bombings of civilians in the markets and places of worship, our forces have remained largely impotent because they do not possess the appropriate  weapons and technology which they could have had, had the so-called human rights violations not been an obstacle.”

You see what I mean? We have tied our fate to America, and Obama can afford to dictate to us to legalise gay marriage, which is against our constitution, or no weapons for us. Our president may have rejected the same-sex marriage proposal from Obama but do we have the muscles to stand by that decision if the US seriously insists on having her way?

The truth is that we need to enhance our value so as to become relevant in the world. The Western world massages our ego by calling us the most populous black nation on earth. But big population alone will get us nowhere.

Our destiny lies in our hands. President Buhari sums it up, “The international community can only assist, but the hard work belongs to Nigerians and their government. I will as President, lead from the front, but all Nigerians, including the opposition parties, civil society, business and religious leaders, public servants, labour unions, the youth and professional associations all have important roles to play to get our country back on a sound economic footing.”

I completely agree.

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