Reflecting On President Obama's Visit To Ghana

by Tunde Ali

Marcus Garvey, a renown Pan African apologetic once said “…liberate the mind of men and ultimately you will liberate the bodies of men”. This dictum was once again brought to life on November 4, 2009 in Accra Ghana during the visit of the first African American President – Barrack Obama. In a visit that could be tagged a home coming of an illustrious son, President Obama in his usual characteristics, charismatically pierced through the minds of the excuse ridden African leaders and advised them to eschew their excuses and stand up to the challenges of a modern day Africa within the global dynamics.

President Obama’s visit to Ghana was not his first visit to the continent of Africa. Record indicated that he has visited a couple of African states in the past, the last of which was Kenya – his father’s country shortly before the U.S Presidential election of 2008. However, his recent visit to Ghana became important not because of the associated peagantries but because of the new robe, his new role, and the political implications of the visit. The visit was the climax of the accomplishment of what many people, few years back will consider impossible and and possibly impracticable especially during this generation. Barrack Obama landed in Ghana as the first African American President. His short spanned visit was welcome and heralded with funfair in an atmosphere that depicts royalties of the gods.

As a “son of the soil” and “the Omobowale of the continent”, President Obama neither wasted time nor minced word in echoing his voice of wisdom through the Ghana Parliament to all the 47 countries (including the Islands off the Coast) in the continent. Simply put, Mr. President reiterated his lack of interest in African leaders excuses for poverty, disease, and bad government. He challenged the continent through its leaders to establish its own identity and join the race for inclusion in the global advancement and progress. He credited Ghana’s economic progress to its political stability, and encouraged other African countries to emulate its example. President Obama wrapped up his 21 hours tour of his father land with suggested solutions for its redemption. He considered his suggestion a fundamental and foundation of mutual partnership between Africa and the entire developing world. Included in his recipe are: Democracy, Opportunity, Health, and the Peaceful resolution of conflict.

Arguably, President Obama’s suggestions did not in any way constitute new form or body of knowledge. It was a painful elaboration of the obvious. What the strongest man on the face of the earth should do is to move beyond the rhetorical postulation of democracy as a sustainable form of government, and depart from an unimpressive argument that attempts to disconnect African poverty from Western exploration and exploitations. Mr. President should refrain from extending American centered democratic value, and allow each nation to fashion out a system of government that is congruent to the indigenous culture and responsive to the yearnings of its people. I considered it a double standard for a president who on June 4, 2009 addressed the Muslims and the Arab nations in Cairo-Egypt but have no word on democracy for President Mubarak (former Air Force Commander) who has been in power since 1981; secondly, I found it ironic that President Obama who on Wednesday 3rd of June, 2009 visited Saudi Arabia, left his host (King Abdullah- a theocratic Head of State and absolute monarch) without a word of advice on systematic introduction of democracy to Saudi people, but suddenly became an advocate of democracy to the sub-Sahara Africa as the only sustainable form of government. What happened to African indigenous system of government ? What difference would it have made if the president advocated a system of government, be it theocracy, autocracy, democracy, gerontocracy, monarchical etc, as far as it is the wish of the people, congruent to the indigenous culture and improve their welfare?

Let no one misunderstood my position. I am pro-democracy. However, my contention is that democracy is good to the extent to which its operators and exponents are able to deliver the greatest goods to the greatest number of people. If democracy is run by self seeking, and self glorifying fascist, the aftermath will not only be disastrous; it will be consequentially retrogressive. This actually is the situation with African model of democracy. Rather than uplifting the people and the society, it glorifies its practitioners (the so-called democrats). It creates strong men rather than strong institution; and leaders becomes corrupt, repressive, brutish and nasty.

The President exercised a sound judgment when he encouragingly challenged the African Youths to stand up to national leadership and demand transparency from their political operators. However what would be expedient is for President Obama to jettison his inherited America double face policy on African States. A policy that only frown at corruption in theory. It is a known fact that all corrupt African leaders banks their loots from their impoverished countries in America and other Western countries. Whereas the America government is a significant signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption – (The first legally binding international anti-corruption instrument), and UNODC Global Programme Against Corruption. This among others are legal instruments that the America (and other Western governments ) can use to discourage and criminalize African political looters. For instance, the immediate past president George W. Bush went after the bank accounts of all terrorist related or supportive individuals and organizations worldwide in an effort to frustrate their networks and paralyze their operations. An effort that successfully shrink and incapacitate the operations of the terrorists networks. The same could and should be done on the foreign bank accounts of the corrupt African leaders.

In the United States of America, if anyone make a substantial cash payment for a product, for example; if anyone purchased and paid in cash for a car in excess of $5,000.00, such person would likely become a guest to either the FBI, or the Police within 24 hours, to give explanation for the source of such money. Whereas, African leaders has been reported to have laundered stolen money into the United States, and use part of such stolen money to buy real estates, often in cash without repercussion, government concerns or consequence. This to say the least amount to double standard. What is good for the geese is good for the gander. It is this inconsequential treatment that encourages thieves from African countries to route their loots to the Western world. If the president who has vowed to take tough decisions as at when due is to be taking seriously, his administration should begin to develop policies that would ensure the implementations of all United Nations anti – corruption programs. This effort should discourage, apprehend and prosecute African political profiteers and looters. Until this is done, envisioning democracy as a sustainable system of government will remains a wishful thought.

Political transparency and accountability are duo virtues that can promote democracy. The expected role of America and other well meaning Western world is to frustrate the efforts of any corrupt African political leader whose goal is to steal from their nation’s treasury and safe their ill-gotten wealth in the United States or any other Western countries. Those monies that are already deposited, and whose owners are unable to provide convincing and legitimate explanation about there source should be confiscated and returned to the government of the nation where such money has been stolen. The culprit should be arrested and prosecuted to the full length of the law in the court of law.

On opportunity, I am not surprised that President Obama stressed that Afro-American partnership should support development and provides opportunity

for more people. My recommendation is rooted in NIKE (sports outfits) slogan: “DO IT.” Mr President, please do it, promote it, and sustain it. In the word of John F. Kennedy, “Geography has made us neighbors, History has made us friends, Economics has made us partners and Necessity has made us allies; so those whom nature has put together, let no one put asunder.” By virtue of the fact that the world is increasingly becoming a global village, it becomes imperative that the America government should take the lead and pro-actively support African nations in their efforts and journey to development and self sufficiency, mindful of the fact that neglect or lackadaisical attitude towards African problems would inevitate a slow pace of global advancement in a millennium where nobody could afford to be left behind.

President Obama should ensure that America does not make African countries a dumping ground for their finished goods, it must correspondingly open up its boarders to accommodate African goods and services, promote trade and investment in a meaningful way. It is this agenda that can open up a new dawn in Africa whereby opportunities are avails to individuals to actualize their full potentials without necessarily dependent on the influence or support of a god-father or a corrupt political nonentity. It is also an avenue to support development and revitalize African ailing economy.

Mr President’s commitment of $63 billion to continue the initiative of his predecessor – President George W. Bush in fighting HIV / AIDS; his determination to end deaths from malaria and tuberculosis, eradicating polio, as well as neglected tropical diseases is a welcome decision. His promise of investment in public health systems that will promote wellness and focus on the health of mothers and children are equally applauded; however, Mr. president should remember that Ghana is only one of the 47 countries in Africa, and the health problems which he is trying to fight transcends Ghana’s boarder, therefore, restricting health aids therein would amount to servicing a tip of an iceberg.

While President Obama reserves the right to reward good governance and punish poor or bad government in his chosen way or format, he need to realize that the grass root people usually bear the burden of poor leadership and bad government. Therefore, any attempt to deny them access to affordable health care delivery does not only add salt to their injury, it is simply inhuman and unjust. The president should therefore look beyond the performances of the African government in determining the country that receives health aids from the United States. After all, it is the poor people that suffers the pain of the burden, the leaders who caused the sanction can access and afford a better quality health care in the Western nation through their stolen wealth.

Networking and liaising with the United Nation’s Health Programs and other allied promoters of good health and wellness in delivering the much needed health aids to the needy in different African countries would ensure that the services are provided directly to the suffering people without the involvement of corrupt political leaders or government officials. This will provide relief to the already traumatized people, and evolve a sense of achievement to the American government.

Conflict is part of life. It is not supposed to lead to blood shed or to create hatred. It is supposed to be a state of mutual disagreement in civility. When disagreement result into conflict, resolutions must be through effective communications and negotiations not confrontations. Poor exploration of communications often leads to confrontations wherein brothers stand up in arms against brothers, neighbors against neighbors, tribe and ethnic groups against one another, and nations against nations. The poor conflict resolution skills and hesitance of conflicting groups usually degenerated to wanton loss of lives, properties and bloodshed that is preventable in the first instance. Rather than using diversity as a source of strength, some African leaders has resulted to animalistic behavior. They declared war and recruited children into combat for their selfish goal. They let loose hell, created physical and psychological pandemonium on innocent citizens. Though the president has reiterated his commitment to peace and security of the world devoid of nuclear weapon, efforts should be made at discouraging and possibly criminalizing those individuals, organizations or countries that tries to profit from conflicts by promoting the discord via selling of ammunitions to the opposing parties. All options to discourage war in whatever format must be on table including prosecuting war mongers for loss of lives and human right violation.

Through Ghana, President Obama unveiled his expectations of African leaders in the 21st Century. His message was lucid for the blind and audible for the hearing impaired. While it is assumed that African leaders will reflect on the thoughts expressed by the Harvard trained US President, It is recommended that Mr. Obama should not allow his visit to his father land to be another statistic, rather he should follow his words with actions, bringing on-board the United Nations, African Union, and all other peace and good government loving nations.

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1 comment

Nathaniel July 23, 2009 - 3:29 pm

Punjent and realistic appraisal of President Obama’s trip to Africa. I hope someone would attention him to the issues raised in your article


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