Public Diplomacy

by E. Terfa Ula-Lisa Esq

Public Diplomacy is essential to governments, especially democratic governments. The acts and intentions of any government can be misunderstood by the public in whose interest the public officials act. In democracies, the leaders, regardless of how powerful they may be, still need to make a connection with the people, and sometimes things are not exactly what they seem. That is why we need public diplomacy to finesse the rough edges where one is wont to misunderstand. Particularly where one may be understood regarding intentions.

In the US, we have the able Karen Hughes in charge of that desk. The questions for Ms. Hughes, whom I am sure would read this with the aid of her battery of media watchers and even the controversial wire-tapping, is, How did the good USA move from the most loved nation on earth to one of the most controversial within less than six years? What is the disconnect between the compassionate conservatism with all the faith based and community Initiatives to the hard-line perception that all aliens (inclusive of pastors) are evil and must be watched? Does the vibrancy of western opinion preclude Afro-centric opinion? Is every African presumed to be a terrorist/419 until proved otherwise? Do the discerning Africans have any protected freedoms while in the US? Or like Babagida, the “wilmot solution” is the first option to rid one’s country of those “undesirables”. Would the teacher of democracy not do right?

The question for President Obasanjo of Nigeria is, who is his public diplomacy officer? Could it be the most harangued Fani-Kayode, or do we look for another? In a democratic setting (and that includes the “quasi-democracies”) all have the right to air their views, but when the chairman of the PDP speaks, does he represent the official party position, or because of his nexus to the president (and even the special circumstance of his election/selection) are his opinions official? The chairman enjoys publicity because he is the chairman of the ruling party, PDP. If he was not the chairman, the press would not bother with his comments, same as my comments are not newsworthy. Therefore, if the unrestrained chairman of the PDP makes comments to the effect that the President should stay on in power even after his constitutional term limit, or, even to amend the constitution to achieve that purpose, the perception; right, wrong, or indifferent, would be that, the chairman may be speaking his master’s will. What is the perception in the public domain is an issue of Public Diplomacy the president needs to tackle.

Public Diplomacy is employed to a large extent by the western governments seeking favorable trade deals with Africa. These governments persons read our papers, determine our policy positions or direction and react to them. African governments are given orders in an under-hand manner via public diplomacy. When much noise is made of poverty, the controllers of power, leverage token measures to act as palliatives while they think of ways (underhandly) to retrieve their expenditure.

Public Diplomacy is much needed to handle the Delta issues. While not agreeing with the crude methods of kidnappings and sabotage of the so-called “Delta-Youth”, one must make bold to mention that this is an issue of public diplomacy and not bombings. The perception is that the western-based multi-national oil companies collaborate with the local elites (so-called Nigerian leaders) to loot the government, steal the resources of the land without caring for the people or the environmental degradation their activities cause to the locals. The free spillage that occurs in Nigeria and the devastation done to the locals cannot happen in any part of the globe without a huge pecuniary cost to the companies.

The perception of ordinary people is that big oil is constantly wrecking the lives of locals and any person vocal or intelligent enough to make inquiries or to even stumble on information, is hounded, branded and sacrificed at the alter of big oil. Public diplomacy should not only be about cover-up and reactions to blogs; public diplomacy should also be about solutions.

Back to my two questions; Karen Hughes, why are your officials snooping on Africans, including pastors? Are we all terrorists because we are black or come from Africa?

President Obasanjo, While I admire some of your good attributes in government, would it not be advantageous to come out to say openly and to clear all the fuss like someone once said; if drafted you would not run, if nominated, you would not contest, and if voted for, you would not serve in the interest of democracy regardless of whatever change is made in the constitution. One of the marks of a good leader is that he has a good succession plan, do you have one?

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1 comment

Anonymous February 28, 2006 - 7:53 pm

Obasanjo is a big thief and he is proving to the whole world that he cannot be trusted. His desire to have the house amend the 1999 constitution in his favor is criminal and very dubious by all indications. If I ask, what significant reform is he and all his cronies flaunting in a country that is so greatly endowed with natural resources, yet people do not have jobs, food, good medicare, roads, to mention just a few? Nigeria can do better without him and his fellow criminals. This third term bid will surely consume him in the end. Good luck to him.


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