The Palestinian Authority President, Abu Abbas was recently at the White House. It was his second visit of the year. Ariel Sharon must have visited the White House at least a dozen times since he became the Prime Minister of Israel, in 2001. Generally, presidents and prime ministers and people whom the American government considers friendly and important and of substance gets to meet with the U.S President in the Oval Office, Camp David or have press conferences at the Rose Garden. Photo-op with the president of the United States is highly prized and is therefore considered a “symbol of power” by many.
Most of these political juggernauts or economic heavyweights also get to visit with the Secretary of State, and with influential members of the U.S Congress and other decision-makers. Some of these men and women would also gets to address the elite media, visit and or give speeches at elite institutions like Harvard, Berkeley, Princeton, American University, Yale and others. They may visit the Council on Foreign Relations, the Brookings Institution, the Cato Institute, the American Enterprise Institute and others. They are courted by opinion-makers like Charlie Rose, Larry King, Mike Wallace and Ted Koppel for their opinions on various intermestic issues.
These juggernauts and heavyweights would also make it a point of duty to visit their constituencies in New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Los Angeles and other places. They would visit Churches and Mosques and Temples and Synagogues. Those from South America would never fail to visit Miami, Texas, and California.
The Israelis are masters of the game. For instance, the Prime Minster of Israel and his entourage would never fail to make the media round. For two or three days, they would take over CNN, PBS, ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX and other news outlets trying to sway US public opinion on a wide array of domestic and foreign policy matters. Mr. Daniel Ayalon, the current Israeli ambassador, much like his predecessors, would be found partying and parlaying with the Secretary of State and others — pushing Israeli agenda.
Ambassadors Moshe Arad, Zalman Shoval, Eliahu Ben-Elissar, Itamar Rabinovich, Zalman Shoval, and David Ivry — like all other Israeli ambassadors around the world do the same thing: selflessly and vigorously championing their country’s interests before the two publics: domestic and foreign. The Israeli’s are good. They have lobbying groups in all the economic and political capitals of the world. Not even Hollywood is overlooked. Their Prime Minister have unrestrained access to the White House, and to Downing Street, and to other power centers they deem strategic. Israel is not a nation that fools around. This is not a nation that wastes her resources. This is a nation that values the role and place of history, diplomacy, public relations, power, and national security.
Africans on the other hand seem clueless. Totally clueless! When a typical African Head of State or Head of Government come to the US, a low-level officer from the State Department — not even an Under Secretary of State — receives him or her. I am not even sure if Dr. Condoleezza Rice or her predecessors, say within the last 10 years, have ever directly welcomed an African president to the US. Mr. Nelson Mandela may have been the only exception. The White House doesn’t even consider African countries partners. We do not fall within America’s strategic interest.
To London, Paris, Berlin, and especially to Washington DC, Africans are just some bloody fools — to be used and abused and whose resources they need for the advancement of their own country. And when they seem to be running out of cheap labor, they allow us in on green card lottery schemes.
The sad part of this unequal relationship is this: if an American mayor, a CEO of a small company, a member of the US Congress or even a middle-level officer of the US State Department were to visit Nigeria or any other African country, he or she would be heartily welcome to the presidential palace. And even the Indians, the Pakistanis, the Chinese, Japanese and others understand the game. Day after day and week after weeks, the Nigerian newspapers publishes pictures of president Obasanjo with the chairman of this or that company, with the financial officer of this or that company, with the Chinese representative of this or that organization or with the ambassador of this or that country.
How these people are able to gain access to the president beats me. That any Ying and Yang and Singh and Chung and Jimmydick can stroll into Aso Rock amazes me; that any of these low-level business and political errand boys can meet with President Obasanjo shocks me. My goodness, how cheap is the Nigerian presidency?
Very few people have direct access to members of the US Congress; very few people have access to State Governors; and even in some cities, access to Mayors are restricted. And fewer still have access to the White House; but not so in Nigeria or any African country. While the natives barely see their presidents and elected officials, foreigners have easy access to our presidents and prime ministers and other high-up public officials. Is this a case of inferiority complex?
Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Thabo Mbeki, Mwai Kibaki and John Kufor must have visited the United States a combined two-dozen or so times. Now, how many times have they met with President Bush? How many times have they been invited to address the US Congress? How many times have they met with the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Defense? How many times have they been invited to give commencement speeches at any of the elite institutions? How many times have they appeared before the elite media?
For the most part, when African presidents come to the US, they hang out with their cron
ies and hangeron, and with low-level public and private officials. Some come for medical treatments, to finalize illegal money transfers, to attend the graduation or marriage ceremony of their children, visit with their mistresses or engage in such misadventures. Rare is the African president or State Governor who can comfortably address the US media or go before any of the elite think tanks to make his or her case. For the most part, they have nothing significant to say, no original idea or philosophy to propagate. They are just Ajalas.
The ambassadors are not any better. What exactly are their functions anyway? What is it they do in Washington and in New York? I have never heard of or seen the Nigerian ambassador to the US on American television or newspaper or magazine defending, stating or championing Nigeria’s national security interest. He probably comes out of his mansion when the president, the vice-president or a high-up military officer or their wives are visiting. It is a waste of our resources when you have ambassadors who have no great roles to play other than to just sleep, eat, attend weekend social functions and host visiting dignitaries.
Yet, they have untold staff manning the embassy. This is the same embassy where people just sit around attending to their personal chores, chew gums, gossip over this and that issue and in the process waste the nation’s resources. Even African countries that shouldn’t have been nation-states in the first place have embassies or some form of diplomatic representation in the US. Why?
Some of these countries live off of donor money; yet they find it elegant to send representatives to the US, London, Paris and elsewhere. They all should just pack their bags and go back home. And in their place, the African Union should send a staff of twenty-four to represent the entire continent in the US. And an equal number to Europe, Asia and the Pacific Rim countries; and may be five staff members to South America — instead of what we currently have.
Most of these so-called ambassadors are party apparatchiks, or the president’s cronies. For the most part, these are people who see ambassadorship as a way to move their wives and children and family members out of the country. Ambassadorship has become a way to better one’s personal life, not an opportunity to serve one’s country. It has become a legal way to illegally siphon and waste the country’s resources — not an avenue to help make the case for one’s country.
With the possible exception of a few African ambassadors and a few head of states, most have no idea of how the world works. They have no business running a state. They have no business lording over their countrymen. Their behavior and pronouncements give the world reasons to laugh at us. Any wonder then that the vast majority of the world sees Africans as a bunch of people who can’t shoot straight and as a people can’t put their houses in order. The world, I am sure, have no respect for the African.
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