Obama, Africa and the Politics of Oil
By Johnson Amusan-Action J
If a crusader is deficient in integrity,
who will believe his gospel?
– T.Y. Danjuma
On Facebook and other social media, the poster is already flying here and there on who should emerge the next American President. The debate is spreading very fast, wide and far beyond shores of the United States about the two leading candidates of opposing parties dominating the current presidential campaigns in America. These two characters are Donald Trump of Republican Party and Hilary Clinton of Democratic Party.
Although, Nigeria is several thousands of miles away from America, many Nigerians are already contracting the fever (taking sides) too. Some are now standing for or against one candidate or the other. Some have even gone into fasting and prayers for the victory of their choice candidate at the November 2016 polls. I have heard some Nigerians wish Hilary Clinton won over Donald Trump who has projected himself a racist. While some people have also stood for Trump for the simple reason that they want America to learn her lesson in humility, in case Trump implements his racist and sectarian agenda. They believe it will be very catastrophic for America.
This I have come to review as like yesterday that Barrack Obama was running for the same seat.
Yes, it was like yesterday. I remember that day with nostalgia. I was then admitted at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) for a surgery. It was some weeks after I had the surgery that the election between Barack Obama and McCain came up. The two candidates from Democratic Party and the Republican Party respectively were the only major centre of attraction despite other candidates from other parties. And because the ‘post theatre treatment’ of the surgery had developed a critical complication, I was kept on a hospital bed twenty four hours, lying on my back – just twice or trice for about 30 minutes daily I would be helped off the bed for some medical procedure. In spite of the trauma I was undergoing at that time, the election between the two candidates became one of such periods of placebo for me. Like most Nigerians, I followed it keenly with all intents and purposes. (And this attitude seemed cut across all the fabrics of Africa.) The reason being that I saw myself in Obama; my interest only was that I wanted a black man to rule America, the policeman of the world. With his participation in the election, I saw a rising (new) dawn of respects for the black Americans. Obama symbolised an eraser (a cure-all) to the injustices that the blacks are facing from racial segregation and for their African descent. And the oratory brilliance he was displaying during his electioneering campaigns brought home the fact that African-Americans are not fools or monkeys after all. With a level playing field, they are people who have the mastery of the world and can interpret its dynamics correctly to proffer solutions. Obama therefore was like a soothing balm to the wound of ages.
Usually, America’s electioneering falls in the night here in Nigeria. That night I ought to be sleeping, considering my state of health, but I could not. I wanted to be a witness to the election process that involved an African-American called Barrack as a candidate. While the election was going on, the Nigerian spirituality took over me and I started praying on my hospital bed for Obama to win. That was it. It became a tough struggle between me and sleep. As sleep was beating my eyes closed, I was beating them open with my nerves. With a bated breath, I was so agitated. As the results were rolling in, it got to a point when that of McCain’s were outweighing that of Obama. It was that period that sleep trapped me into sleeping. However, my spirit and body were not in line, hence I was waking up intermittently to catch some glimpses of whether the final results had been announced. Disappointments met my view each time. When I could no longer fight against nature, I eventually gave in totally.
The shout of Hallelujah woke me up in the morning. Obama had won and I almost jumped out of my bed. I was highly elated as if I was physically present in America. The whole Africa went into a wild jubilation. But what has been the experience with Obama so far?
I must say that Obama has in a way not acted differently from many past American presidents. In fact, his racial descent has been his snare. And this is just my perception. And my disappointment is in three ways: first is the murder of Muammar Gaddafi and the destruction of Libya; the other is the overlooking of the undemocratic and heinous acts that some African leaders are perpetrating in countries like Burundi, Uganda, Togo, Cameroon etc. and the deaths of thousands of innocent souls that have arisen from the opposition against such infamous and undemocratic moves; and the last being about the serial killings of Black Americans in America, which brought home the dark cloud that Black Americans are still the endangered species in a country that should be for fundamental human rights (a land of equality and freedom).
One of the platforms on which Obama came to power was his sermon for peace. In fact, he condemned George Bush Jr., his predecessor, for his proclivity for war. Obama was aggrieved that Bush drove so many American soldiers to their untimely deaths in unwarranted wars. Because of his stand against war and his clear intention to make America in particular, and the world in general, safe, he earned Nobel Laureate for Peace immediately he got to power. To show his seriousness against wars or war mongering, one effort he instantaneously embarked upon was at resolving the age-long Israeli-Palestine crisis.
But going by his confession of his regret recently, Obama had to encourage the war in Libya and had her leader, Muammar Gaddafi, killed to prove himself wrong that he was not different after all. His belated crocodile tears over Libya were as if the blood of Gaddafi cried out. Because Libya was flourishing when Gaddafi was alive. He had although stayed too long in power in the view of western democracy, but he was a performing leader. Libyans themselves testify to this. In fact, many non-Libyans were also witnesses to the glorious era of Gaddafi. At least, their Nigerian counterparts came home to testify to it that many facilities not available in our country for the people to enjoy were provided for the Libyans for free or little fee. And that unlike many Nigerians who have fled to flood foreign lands, Libyans had no reason to leave their country.
Who would want to leave a country that charged no bill for electricity; whose state-owned banks operated interest-free loans to all citizens; where home was provided for every citizen as a right; where government gave out 50,000 dollars to newly-wedded couple to start up their family; where free education operated to the tertiaries for every citizen and literacy level was shot up from 25% to 83%; where citizens were treated free at government hospitals; even where they could not get the kind of education or medical treatment they wanted in Libya, government would not only sponsor them abroad free but equally give them certain amount of money (2,300 dollars) for accommodation and transportation; where government would subsidize 50% on a car every Libyan would buy in Libya; where petrol pump price was 0.14 cents per litter devoid of ‘independent marketers and subsidy-frauds’; where an unemployed Libyan would get an average of what should be his salary if he was employed; where to give birth brought more joys because the mother would receive 5000 dollars immediately after birth; where a portion of Libyan oil sale would be credited directly to the bank accounts of all Libyan citizens; where the economy of Libya grew to the extent that it had no external debts and was being buoyed as at 2010 by the external reserves of more than 150 billion dollars etc.? Who would want to leave this kind of country?
I must be frank, the above list sounds too good to be true. Compare to Nigerian and many other African situations, it is a world of El Dorado. But the truth is that I have not found one piece of contrary evidence.
One day, a friend shared an experience of how he became a butt of a joke when he was in Libya for a programme. It was during the reign of Muammar Gaddafi. After he had settled into a hotel, he approached one of the workers to confirm if the hotel had a standby electric generator. That friend had a heavy workload to discharge on his computer. But the battery of his computer was weak and would not be able to last long in the event of a power failure. Charity, they say, begins at home. With his experience of the Nigerian factor – the erratic power supply – he had to seek an assurance from the hotel worker. The worker looked at him strangely and chuckled and asked him of his nationality. After my friend had told him that he was from Nigeria, then the worker replied, “We don’t use electric generator here.” And he lectured him briefly on the stability of electricity in Libya. That friend also confessed to how he saw no single untarred road in all the places he attended in Libya.
Gaddafi in his reign tried every means to fend off the aggression of the western powers against Libya in many respects economically and politically and had a strained relationship with them for many years. This led to several attempts being made on his life. But Gaddafi was caught pants down when he was trying to court the friendship and recognition of the Western powers. And for this reason, he gave in to all the allegations over Lockerbie Bombing – the plane that crashed in Lockerbie in Scotland in-which many foreign nationals died. Gaddafi was alleged of being its mastermind. Although, he hammered his innocence for years to the hearing of whoever cared to listen to him until he agreed to paying reparations in billions of US dollars to all the families of the victims, thinking this effort would make western powers to leave him off the hook of extermination. In fact, he romanticized America to the extent that he presented to Condoleezza Rice, the United States Secretary of State in the administration of George Bush Jr., gifts running into hundreds of thousands of dollars when she was on a state visit to Libya.
Unfortunately, his pandering to the west became his Achilles’ heels. That was when they penetrated and engineered crisis in his country against him on the allegations that he was a tyrant and had overstayed in power. He was murdered thereafter by the NATO’s representatives.
My major area of concern however is that before he was killed, millions of innocent Libyans were wasted, homelessness spread far and wide, social amenities destroyed, and the economy of the country shattered completely. Libya became rudderless as the war could not abate immediately after his death. Today, she is one huge pile of dumpsite. She is in hopeless state as her joy had been stolen away. In fifty years’ time, it seems not feasible the country can recover from the destruction wrought on her.
Several times I have had to ask myself, why America should be a party to the destruction of Libya and Libyans. Why should Obama encourage this? Has Libya now started practising democracy that America and its allies exported into Libya? And what is democracy that has to be achieved through the barrel of guns and the war rockets of bombs?
At the beginning of the western-engineered uprising in Libya, some people adduced the reason for the American interest to be not less than crude oil. However, the declassification of the Hillary’s emails recently revealed that the real motive went beyond oil and hardly had anything to do with dictatorship, lack of internal democracy and overstaying in power. It is now known that gold and silver were also involved. And the whole idea was embedded in the rumour that Gaddafi had designed a plan to use $7 billion in gold and silver to support a new African Currency. And this worried the French government that this plan would weaken its currency, CFA Franc, which is the major denomination in the French colonies in West Africa. That was all the sin of Gaddafi; and he had to die for it.
Some wonder why America and her allies have been silent on other African countries where undemocratic practices are going on. Is it that America has not seen enough crude oil in these countries, probably not in large commercial quantity, to warrant intervention in them? Or is it that those ones do not have enough gold and silver deposits that can threaten foreign interests? Or is it that they are cooperating to the extent that western democracy will amount to an unnecessary application to their governance? Many of such countries are present in Africa today but I will dwell on the very few of them.
Burundi leader became a law unto himself and ordered for the amendment of the clause in the country’s constitution that restricted staying in office to two terms. There was no provision previously in the constitution for the third term. But like our former President Olusegun Obasanjo, he wanted third term. And despite all the outcry of the opposition against it, unlike Obasanjo, the Burundi leader was not ready to budge. Even the condemnation of such act re-echoed in other African countries. But the leader was adamant, the amendment against the wishes of the majority of Burundians was carried out and a Kangaroo election that brought the leader to power for the third term was conducted. Since then, many opposition leaders have been clamped in gaols while many Burundian citizens protesting against the third term have been mauled down in cold blood under hail of bullets. Now, Burundi is a large cemetery because day-in-day-out, people are killed. And the protest is not stopping because the killing spree is not ending.
But America and other international communities are looking elsewhere. They have not seen yet that what is happening in Burundi is against the spirit and letters of democracy; that it is not just killings that are going on there but genocide or better still, pogrom. What could have prevented America’s intervention from Burundi to save the innocent souls and chase the bloodthirsty leader away?
Togo is a good reference in point. The former president, Gnassingbe Eyadema ruled the country for 38 years. After Eyadema died on the throne, Togo was married off to his son. Since 2005, Faure Gnassingbe Eyadema has been the lord over his people. At a point, he crushed those who were gnashing their teeth and went into a massive protest against his government. I have not heard America and her allies say that family inheritance of a government is against the principle of democracy.
Since 1986, Yoweri Museveni has been the Lord of Manor in Uganda, and he has no doubt overstayed in power. He has also been renewing his term of office at the end of every term through the killing and jailing of members of the opposition. His counterpart, Paul Biya, is also winning laurels in an undemocratic performance in Cameroon. He has been in power since 1982 and doing all within his power to stifle opposition in his domain. Perhaps Museveni and Biya have been good, malleable pawns in the chess game of international interests.
The other dark spot on the Obama’s spick-and-span suits is the game that an average black American is made of under his watch. It seems one of the ways by which the white Americans are registering their displeasure against the presidency of Obama is the killing of the Black Americans. I mean, it is a very deeply felt means of saying he is a figurehead black monkey from Africa. It was shocking that for all the periods Blacks were turned to games by the white police – and one way or the other, the white killers are released or freed of any crime – Obama could not intervene. And it went on and on.
One unforgiving example was in a video clip I watched sometimes ago, where a white police officer asked an unarmed black guy to turn his back at him and shot him dead in the middle of the road in a neighbourhood in America. It was like a sight of a man practising in shooting range. It is a scenario that violates every principle of fundamental rights in a country that preaches equality. Very sad!
However, the main issue here is that it seems an American president, irrespective of his descent, has no regard for the Africans whether in America or in Africa or in a bleached skin or an Arabian colour. Why do we continue to live in self-delusion?
Now that Nigerians, and some Africans, are joining the bandwagon again of whether to stand for, by or with one candidate or the other in America, they should ask themselves of what benefit is it for them? Arising from my own experience at the hospital, I have weighed the pros and cons of what has being my gain whether a particular candidate wins in America or not. I have come to realise that America has an institutionalised policy no American leader can bypass or subvert irrespective of his party. It is not about a candidate, it is more of an American ideology. Once again, it is America; it is no candidate.
No person other than Sen. John Kerry made me realise this in his concession speech when he lost to George Bush Jr. in his race for the second term: “. . . in an American election, there are no losers, because whether or not our candidates are successful, the next morning we all wake up as Americans.” Who will acknowledge my sacrifice for a candidate to win in America?
Johnson Amusan is a public affair analyst and commentator.
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