The significance of President Barack Obama's planned trip to Ghana should not be over-emphasized. As written by Mathew Kukah:
A more important question is, beyond the emotional and symbolic value, what difference will a Presidential visit make in the lives of ordinary people in the country?
Three American Presidents have visited Ghana as far as I can remember Bill Clinton, George Bush.
The main drivers and beneficiaries of Presidential visits are businessmen and women who, under the shadow of the President, seek to cut the best business deals, concessions, and monopolies they can get for their businesses.
For example am told that when President Carter visited Nigeria during his Presidency but it was not until over 20 years of his leaving office that they reaped the benefits of his tremendous work in fighting guinea worms around the world under the banner of his Jimmy Carter Foundation which is enjoyed by many here.
Ghana today is enjoying the benefits of the MIDA projects through George Bush and today Nigeria through Bill Clinton’s Foundation in the area of HIV/AIDS surpasses a 100 fold what his visit as President achieved. So, by themselves, Presidential visits are useful, but surely, they should not be the measure for a country's greatness or lack of.
Nigerians and Kenyans have gone to town to second guess Obama’s trip and come to the dubious conclusion that the visit is an indictment on their flawed elections. Fr Kukah asked: If elections were an issue for Obama, would he go out of his way to incur the wrath of his fellow countrymen by hugging or bowing to President Hugo Chavez or the King of Saudi Arabia as he did recently? While Chavez had amended the Constitution and secured an open ended tenure, Saudi Arabia's citizens have neither seen a ballot box or ballot paper in their lives. Is President Obama the world's electoral Pope who is going around rewarding and punishing election defaulters? Kukah concluded: It is the oil, stupid!
Yes, Ghana has just discovered oil. It therefore makes sense that the US, with its gargantuan appetite for oil ensures that it is not caught napping.
Kukah added: This visit is, in simple terms, in pursuit, defence and protection of the permanent interests of the United States of America which is the primary responsibility of any President. These interests, whether they are economic, geopolitical, strategic or even intangible, are varied and complex and only the US knows and defines them. America has shown that it will go to any length or overlook any international obligations or obstacles to achieve these interests.
I have written elsewhere that in choosing to visit Ghana ahead of his fatherland Kenya. "The official word is that we're celebrating democracy, but there are probably some ulterior motives," I continued, "It has not gone unnoticed that oil was discovered, and Ghana has 600 million barrels under it and offshore. And many Ghanaian leaders think the U.S. might like Ghana to serve as a kind of capital for Africom," the U.S. military command responsible for African operations.
Further Ghana sits on the eastern Atlantic Ocean, on the southern side of Africa's western hump. The tropical nation of low plains and plateaus is home to 23 million people. This places Ghana at a strategic location relative to Nigeria and other oil rich countries like Equatorial Guinea.
"Using Ghana as a hub would allow the U.S. to keep an eye on Nigeria and the whole Gulf of Guinea." The United States already keeps a very large embassy in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, is it a lie….somebody tell me.
West Africa is arguably the poorest and least stable area on earth. It is also afflicted by a number of transnational trafficking flows, attracted by and aggravating the special vulnerability of this region. On the other hand, the region is rich in Oil, Gold and other precious resources.
The United states are eager to be well-positioned in the on-going scramble for these resources amidst threats from China, Russia and India challenging the dominance of the United States and Europe - West Africa’s traditional friends.
Moreover I warned that Africa should not expect too much from Obama. The reason being that those that understand the way things really work in the United States, a change of a person as president do not necessarily signal a change in policy and direction unlike Ghana.
In the United States, the president is less a leader than a manager of policies formulated by corporate elite interests. Thus there is stability of the political system, regardless of who is president. US presidents come and go, but the interests remain constant.
Let me be clear. I am not downplaying the significance Obama’s visit to Ghana as the first African-American president of the almighty US of A which caught my favorite minister turned into a photographer. However, I believe that this visit is for President Obama to use Ghana as a platform to address Africa by laying down where he wishes to take the US.
President Obama is ultimately interested in expanding America’s interests, America's commitment to seeking collaborators around the world in the search for global peace and an end to world terrorism.
Yes, as Kukah also pointed out:
Obama will politely but firmly speak directly to the leaders of Africa, calling for an end to corruption and the need for an equitable distribution and allocation of the continent's resources. He will call for an end to violence and the need for Africans to hold their leaders accountable and responsible. These may be nice sound bites. The real challenge is that as he may realize, Africans have heard all this before. What they are yet to see is a clear signal from the US and the international community that they are truly committed to helping Africa. For, to do this, they must be ready to expose their multinational corporations and other corporate crooks, the sponsors of strife and violence in Africa in the course of the exploitation of mineral resources and the need to energise and support civil society groups.
But please Africans, don’t look up to an Obama as a saviour of the continent!