President Obama in Ghana. Why not Nigeria?

From the moment the US government released information that President Obama was visiting Ghana between 10th and 11th July 2009, there have been a lot of grumbling from neighbouring Nigeria. Now that the US President is just a few days away, the grumbling is getting even louder with Senator Jubril Aminu (Chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee, The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria) adding his voice. The BBC World Service’s Network Africa quotes him as saying President Obama could have made his point about Nigeria’s democracy in Nigeria’s capital city Abuja if indeed Ghana’s better democracy was his reason for choosing to visit Ghana.

Barack Obama and Michelle Obama during the US Presidential campaign in January 2008. Photo by Luke Vargas.
Barack Obama and Michelle Obama during the US Presidential campaign in January 2008. Photo by Luke Vargas.

Some Nigerians hold the view that Nigeria deserves to be the first sub-Saharan African country Obama visits as President. Such views are anchored on the illusion that Nigeria is presently Africa’s super-power. A Nigerian interviewed by the BBC World Service consoled himself by saying: “When it’s time to visit a super-power, he will… Now is the time to visit a sub-power and that’s why he is visiting a sub-power”. 😀 The cheek of it!

I hold a different view from those complaining:

1. I do not see why any one would ask why President Obama is visiting Ghana and not Nigeria. The question should be “Why not Ghana?” President Obama in an interview with clearly stated that Ghana’s democratic credentials was partly responsible for his choice. By inference, Nigeria obviously does not qualify. I believe the political leadership in Nigeria should take a cue and reform the election and governance processes in Nigeria instead of crying over spilt milk. If President Obama had started with Nigeria, wouldn’t that have been a tacit endorsement of “kleptocracy”?

2. Oil export: Oil is strategic to the US economy. Some believe Nigeria being a major exporter of oil to the USA, should be considered above Ghana. Last time I checked, Angola had become the largest exporter of oil from sub-saharan Africa. That implies that Angola can easily take over from Nigeria with the US oil business.

3. Economy: Nigeria’s economy is a major one in Africa, but it is not the largest. If the size of economy was what mattered most, South Africa should be making the loudest noise but I have not heard a complaint from South Africa.

3b. “Super power”: I ask myself, “What super power?” I grew up hearing a certain cliché about Nigeria being “the giant of Africa”. I believe that was in the past. If there was any African super power, it would be South Africa. Aside it large economy, military might, technology and better general living conditions, South Africa is globally recognised as one of the emerging countries in the same league as Brazil, Mexico, India and China.

4. African support: Some one interviewed by the BBC about this issue made a point about the amount of moral support from Nigerians during the American elections in 2008. This is mainly an emotional point. If any country would qualify using this criteria, it would Kenya! The world media descended on Kenya during the US Presidential elections and were there to cover the jubilation when Obama was declared winner since Barack Obama’s father was Kenyan.

The bottom line is simple: The President of  the United States is at liberty to decide which countries to visit or not to visit, and in what order he visits them. Most sub-saharan African countries are in the same league of under-development & corruption anyway, and if I were President Obama, I might as well throw a dice to decide which of them to visit first. Who knows, Zimbabwe might just get lucky! 🙂

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Oluniyi D. Ajao
Oluniyi D. Ajao is an Internet Entrepreneur and Tech Enthusiast based in South Africa. Follow him on twitter @niyyie for more tech updates.


  1. I agree with your judgement but Obama’s visit cannot change neither Ghana or Nigeria at once. Our destinies is in our hands.

  2. I mean to say:I agree with your judgement but Obama’s visit cannot change either Ghana or Nigeria at once. Our destinies are in our hands. Let’s strive to change Africa for good.

  3. Lol! Interesting, funny post…I also overhead the Senator on the BBC today and I was sooo amused by his comment, I am suprised he was not even ashamed when he made that comment.

    As a Ghanaian, I think Obama’s visit is a good PR coup for the country but beyond that…nada. However, all PR is good, right? Especially positive ones so Welcome President Obama, or as we Ghanaians say “Akwaaba”

  4. Ghana? Nigeria? Neither of them should have been first – that’s an honor that Kenya should be complaining loudly that it lost. Nigeria could’ve had rights to it back in the late 1970’s but not now.

  5. i share most of the ideals Obama stands for but and a big but:

    Obama’s own admissions that this Ghana trip is to underscore democracy is useless for me! it’s not up to him or America to mark who is doing well or who is not and to present us with the results!

    Is Obama telling us that he will only visit countries that have good democracy??? what was he doing in Egypt recently then??? such childishness i can’t support!

    democracy or no democracy let Obama visit whoever he wants to visit. afterall what kind of democracy would give us a Florida??????????

  6. another example i did not add:

    what democracy is there in Saudi Arabia where he visited?????

    let us be spared the craps (the Kenya’s and Nigeria’s foolishness) and the childish admission of Obama himself.

    let there be some real sense here!

  7. I don’t usually do this but this is exceptional. Someone naming himself “Yemi” gathered the courage to email me this morning after the article above was re-published on GhanaWeb:


    Its very suprising that instead of you to use your handwork to promote your fatherland encourage others to do the same, you are using your hand to disgrace and put shame on your own country.

    Nigeria is my country and he will always be.I am not a bastered that will say anything against my beloved homeland. Because you are enjoying free Ghana girls and other things you don’t have advantage back at home,that is why you are writing rubbish to gain cheap popurlarity here in Ghana.I am disappointed in you.But you are here in Ghana, have not you see Ghanaians negative ways of life too?No wonder Ghanaians hate us so much because of what they are hearing from you faceless fake-nigeria(s).Cheap man.

  8. Yemi – being patriotic does not mean you do not criticise your country, the people who love their country the most are the ones who point out the areas which need improvement. In this post, Ajao points out that Nigeria’s democracy leaves much to be desired.

    I think you insulting the author of this post in uncalled for and moreover shows you in a very bad light

  9. i’m happy Yemi made his voice heard!

    and i’m happy you put it on your blog though i’m not particularly sure how you are dealing with the emotional bit!!! but i urge you to feel blessed by this!!!

    i disagree with Yemi ‘head-on’ (collision) but he the happiness i derive from his views is so sweet i cannot let it pass!!! he must be a wonderful human being just like all the others who are making such ‘foolish’ comments!

    i urge every man and woman to do away with attributes as ‘patritism’, ‘loyalty’ and so on! These have the ‘natural’ tendency to make you a Zombie (even against your own wish)!!!

    didn’t Nigerial nearly get split up into two by ‘biafra’???? didn’t a large chunk of the volta and northern region nearly get to be part of Togo???? so what? so why all these unnessary hanging on to these artificial creations we call countries???

    Yemi has very bad thoughts indeed. he must look for good thoughts to exercise his brains own! why all these tags called NIgeria, Ghana, Togo and what?

  10. David,

    What Yemi portrayed in that mail is not patroitism. It is something else I prefer not to name here.

    But it beats me how people seem to think that it is wrong to point out what is wrong with someone or with a nation. It beats me how being able to judge between what is right and wrong (which used to be hallmarks of good sense and soundness of mind) is now generally translated as a negative thing.

    I probably never will understand.

  11. @Yomi Adegboye,
    Patriotism??? what is the definition???
    i bet it’s a useless ‘thing’ to uphold! just nebulous!

    in any case Yemi did not say explicitly (or in the nude) he was on a course of patriotism! we are reading meanings into his statement to such effect. so let’s grant him his due!

    Yemi does raise a good point about Ghanaians also having “…negative ways of life too” and i agree with him and you and i know you all agree with him too on that point! there’s negativity everywhere!

    so that is an example of an instance where we can hardly have disagreement! so why don’t we reach such middle grounds where we are very clear in our minds, body and soul that we uphold a truth! instead of playing around uselessness such as who is more patriotic and who is not!

    1. you can hardly be sure about what patriotism is cos your definition of patriotism may be that it lies in wearing a lapel flag on your suit to show! and the absence of which people like Obama get bashed for not being patriotic simply because he did not wear the American flag on his suit! (Obama suffered that during the campaign, remember?)

    2. or your definition of patriotism may lie in making sure nothing bad is said about your country like Yemi is displaying! and if so then all well and good. Yemi is patriotic! he can’t be said not to be on that basis! so you are wrong there! the fact that he doesn’t make ‘logical’ sense (or common sense) doesn’t matter! he is defending his ‘fatheland’ alright and that’s the kind of zombie patriotism could do to you! it’s a natural tendency borne out of a good dose of brainwashing. it will blind you!

    meanwhile Yomi, whatever is beating you; i wonder if you can say:
    “It beats me how being able to judge between what is right and wrong (which used to be hallmarks of good sense and soundness of mind) is now generally translated as a negative thing.”
    and it would be truth! that needs some scientific proof and i’d rather not go there! i don’t think the principle of being able to judge between what is right and wrong has changed from “hallmarks of good sense and soundness of mind” to “negative”.

    the principle doesn’t change! it’s the human beings who just do so well, beautifully well and wonderfully well to make nonsense of these principles! Yemi cannot just by his thoughts change the principles!

    the principles will remain! they are age old like Obama admits (his inaugural speech) and we either uphold them or we make nonsense of them or ourselves!

  12. @Wayan,
    those thoughts of yours are pre-historic indeed! why waste your brain power on such trivials????

    it is petty and i urge you to stop it!!!

    it doesn’t matter where Obama visits first!!! in any case Obama was in Egypt first in Africa! so what’s the point???

    let’s clear the chaff and throw such that make heaps of rubbish into their rightful places so that we can reserve our energy to build!!!

  13. I value Obama’s speeches more than a million dollar as an aspiring Motivational speaker. Pls keep sending the link to his latest speeches here for me to download.
    Thank you Michelle!

  14. Can’t help but agree with (almost) every bit of this article. I simply don’t see what all the fuss is about regarding who the president chooses to visit.

    Another rather annoying phenomenon lately is the delusion of many that Obama, simply because he is of African descent, will somehow transform into the “saviour” of Africa. Absolutely ludicrous

    Barack Obama is President of the United States of America and his interests are the US’s interests. “Africa’s future is up to Africans”- the sooner people get that the better.

    Why Ghana?
    America presents itself to the world as a supporter of Democracy, so it is only natural that the president chose to visit a country which has seen three consecutive handovers to a political party other than that in power. What better example of multi-party democracy is there?

    Make no mistake about it though, Growth and democracy is one thing, but until that growth is directly linked to the development of the communities whose welfare the “democratic” process is meant to serve, it remains an excercise in futility.

    @David couldn’t have put it any better-

    ..Most sub-saharan African countries are in the same league of under-development & corruption anyway..

    … being patriotic does not mean you do not criticise your country, the people who love their country the most are the ones who point out the areas which need improvement…

    Couldn’t agree more. There is no sense in playing the Ostrich when you see your country “playing the fool”. I am a Nigerian by birth, and I have always been proud to call myself a Nigerian, but the truth of the matter (from my perspective) remains that Nigeria still leaves a lot to be desired which is partly why you still find many Nigerians spending huge fortunes relocating to European countries who themselves would give the world to have only a small percentage of the natural resources that country is endowed. Sigh!

  15. ignore the criticism from “Yemi” and his ilk. the content of your great post and the various responses point to our collective frustration with what we see as inflated egos refusing to accept their diminished influence and standing in African affairs.

    I am proud to be Nigerian and will always argue in our favour but our leadership leaves a lot to be desired and cannot be held up against the light as a model other than a broken, kleptomania-driven one.

    Obama has shown the Emperor the mirror so he can now see himself for what he is. naked and shameless.

    Let Ghana enjoy her status. it is by merit.

  16. @obifromsouthlondon,
    to say that “ignore the criticism from “Yemi” and his ilk” is bad.

    that is the problem of humanity, i won’t say Africa to blind you! we lack tolerance! and it is very very very bad indeed! and that is what our leaders also lack and the reason for all the “inflated egos refusing to accept their diminished influence and standing in African affairs”, to quote your own words.

    so don’t ignore Yemi, pay respect to his comment! if you disagree with him, that’s fine! even with all Yemi’s ‘failure’, you can’t disagree with him that Ghanaians also have “…negative ways…” too! can you? just a lesson or two and then we all move on! is that too difficult?

    by the way,
    now let’s look @your last line and see ‘something’:
    if to say: “Let Ghana enjoy her status. it is by merit.” is in reference to Obama’s visit, and that Obama’s visit to Ghana is something that gives some kind of status that is obtained by merit which we should let Ghana enjoy, then if i were a Ghanaian…
    (i’m Ghanaian by birth and i hold a Ghanaian passport, but i don’t hang on to it like a ‘zombie’ (i love Fela). i’m disloyal and unpatriotic. i owe allegiance to no country created by man or woman. I believe i’m a free spirit!!!),
    …i would have felt insulted by you saying that “Let Ghana enjoy her status. it is by merit.”
    because, i don’t believe anybody visiting me is something that should give me a ‘kind of status which i should merit’ prior to the visit! i would have felt ‘happily’ and ‘sadly’ (combined) insulted!!!

    so you see, just relax and respect Yemi’s view instead of saying it should be ignored just like that! the word again, is tolerance!

  17. novisi tolerance and sensible discussion is reserved who show some respect and refrain from hurling insults. “Yemi” in this instance deserves nothing and is a coward and a fool, hiding behind an IP address calling people names. obviously the guy reads this blog so what stopped him from making a comment here?

    @my last statement. it is not meant to be condenscending and imply that a stately visit is “merited” and apologies if it was seen as such. merit here was in reference to the Ghana’s growing economy, good stable democracy which is a view widely held here in the UK by the African diaspora. status is not bought it is earned.

    We as Africans don’t need Obama or anyone from the west to validate us. trust me I’m not Obama blinkered. only our peers can do this (when they are busy not inflating their egos). Ghana please lead the way

  18. As a pan African i am truly shocked by all this competing silliness. I always tell my friends, i am an African first and a Ghanaian second. Lets face it when Nigeria “used to work” i was always proud to point to Nigeria as a model economy that Africa can be proud of. Today, Nigeria is a miserable place, a place that don’t work. in case you are wondering many Ghanaians were not fans of their own country, we never hesitated to take the slightest opportunity to damn Ghana for not being able to produce simple pleasures as toilet roll. Nigeria today is in the same predicament.
    you don’t do your country any favor by trying to hide the obvious. Ghana today is a symbol of Africa coming of age. Obama could not have chosen a better place in sub Saharan Africa to visit. i say Akwaba!

  19. @obifromsouthlondon wrote on 13 July, 2009, 0:45,
    your condition for tolerance for freedom of speech is frightening! lol. i wouldn’t want to have you as my leader on that bases!

    i’d rather you give more space! like i said before, you can’t disagree with Yemi that Ghanaians too have negative ways! that is truth that Yemi states! and that is positive from his comment! in other words he may not get it all right today, but tomorrow, you never know!

    @your last statement, never mind! i just raised it to add to what i was saying about Yemi’s failure. Thus we all have difficulties which we must be ready to admit. from there we can move on!

  20. I don’t understand why we Africans are agruen on an issue like dis!! This is the time for we Africans whether Ghana, Nigeria or Kenya!! we have to maintain crisis to love each country!!! We should rem we were once old and we are new.

    Obama visit has to do with none of business!! He fills like as we also fill like doing any thing we like, eg. travelling, and etc.
    Notice!! Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya etc. we are one.

  21. i challenge the idea about us seeing ourselves as one!

    we are definitely one one, as in we are not the same! even twins have their differences!

    let us not mortgage truth for fantasy just because we want to achieve peace and cohesion and unity whatever!

    our differences must clearly appreciated and acknowledged all the time.

    what we need is respect and tolerance for each other. think about it anyone: i don’t need to love you to respect you. i don’t need to be ‘one’ with you to tolerate you.

    so let’s forget the ‘false’ massaging or our egos and rather work to tolerate one another especially those who don’t agree with our opinions (opinion is emphasized).


  22. President Obama visit or not will not solve our problem in Nigeria neither is our problem, honestly if he do visit we are the one who is going to lose because Nigeria government will intertain him which will wort huge amount of money like they said they spent on QUEEN of England visit last time, so please let President Obama stay back and take care of USA because i don’t think he own us anything.

    Our problem is in us and living in us also will die with us so let it be, i think if we need foreign authority help we have to run to British to release us or leave us alone because their hands still on the problem of Nigeria today, you can as me why, thanks

  23. WHO CARES, Obama can choose to visit any country ofcourse. Nigerians shouldnt complain bc by right Obama is supposed to visit Kenya his dear country first b4 Ghana or any other country. Obama visiting Ghana doesnt mean Ghana is better than Nigeria or Kenya. I am a foreigner in Ghana I have been to many parts of Nigeria and Kenya and can tell you ghana is too poor and is very far behind Kenya and Nigeria in everything.
    Obamas visit to Ghana didnt bring any thing positive to ghana, it wont put food or money on ur tables, it wont incrase tourist inflow or foreign investment.

    • After enjoying the peace in Ghana for all these years you open your mouth and say Nigeria and Kenya are better than Ghana in EVERYTHING!!!! Man go wash your face! Kwasea

  24. Nigeria is a shameless country.I am a Nigerian but i always wish that those useless fools that call themselves Nigeria leaders will perish one day.They keep their own children in good countries all over the world and make other children suffer here.God will punish everyone of them AMEN.MAY YOU ALL NOT ENJOY ALL YOUR LOOTS AND ALL DIE IN PAIN AND SHAME.WE ARE COMING FOR YOU SOON.

  25. Obama visit is no body’s bus, jibril aminu minister of 4rin affair 4 dat matter am highly disappointed on ur speech.

  26. lets stop fusing over things that is absolutely unnecessary. just like president Gudluck is of nigeria , so also obama is 4 the u.s. get this into ur awareness that he , obama is not of the world but 90perc. of the united states.90 perc. bcos of his half decent. if he decides to tour round the world,i consider it a little bit of show off of status. i am a nigerian, so proud to be one, but not blind enough to support economic and social inbalance. obama has not done bad by visiting ghana but be u a nigerian or ghanian have it in mind that the both countries still have a long way to go. lets stop going crazy about prophet obama as u are now tagging him and face reality. nigeria and ghana stands d chance of being 2x better than the u.s and that is, let nigeria learn from the possitive side of ghana and .ghana from nigeria. i ve been to ghana i will not pretend there is nothing gud about them but ghanians would be wicked if they say there is every thing bad about nigeria, MESSAGGE TO NIGERIAS IN GHANA AND DAIASSPORA-HOME IS HOME learn to rebiuld a patriotic sense and lets think how we can join hands 2geder and make balance this nigeria that i still call an incomparable one. remember,1. a child is not born to start walking he first must crawl then the next follows2.nigeria is estimated for about 150million,ghana is not up to half of that. that simply means that a mother with 2 children deffinitely has lesser work to do compared to that with 5children — naija i heil.oo.—– naija 4 life

  27. Everyday i say, only if ghana and nigeria could put away their differences for once, guess what? we could lead the whole of Africa and maybe be ahead and richer than most european countries or even america.Nigeria refining thier own oil, ghana making chocolates out of their own cocoa so we dont import, growing our own crops and feeding our nations before exporting. guys lets start to make things better so the nigerians and ghanaians who have left home can wish they were back home. Godbless Ghana and Nigeria

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