United States’ Secretary of States Hillary Clinton flew into Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, last Tuesday night, August 11th, to spend nearly three days in her 11-day, seven-country tour of the African continent. As might be expected, the Nigerian blogosphere was quite active with commentary regarding the details and implications of Clinton’s visit. While Nigerian journalists and bloggers have disagreed both as to the details and the implications, there has been a common lament that the visit was so short and that there has not been a visit yet from our African American president, Barack Obama.
As initially reported by both the BBC and Peter Clottey of the Voice of America, Clinton’s itinerary for her visit to Abuja included meetings with politicians from across the Nigerian political spectrum prior to meeting President Yar’Adua. Suleiman M. Bisalla and Aisha Umar of Nigeria’s Daily Trust wrote on Wednesday, August 12th, that the Nigerian administration took offense at the itinerary which Secretary Clinton’s staff had put together without first consulting them. Such an arrangement does run contrary to diplomatic norms, but Secretary Clinton’s itinerary also manifested her understanding of the complexity and dynamism of Nigeria’s multi-ethnic political landscape.
In my own post on Thursday morning in Life Cycle Analysis, I lamented that Secretary Clinton had too few days allocated to Nigeria for her to absorb the roots of the nation’s political complexity among the people in their local environment. As it turned out, however, Clinton had not been cloistered in the company of politicians during her admittedly brief visit. Her town hall meeting at the University of Abuja, for example, was boisterous and provided an opportunity to identify with the hopes and ambitions of Nigerians beyond the grubby doings of her weak and clumsy political leaders.
A full transcript of Clinton’s town hall was provided late Thursday by Sahara Reporters. Secretary Clinton was quite effective in turning critiques of both the Nigerian administration and U.S. foreign policy to her own advantage.
The president of the West Africa Bar Association, Femi Falana, lambasted the World Bank and the IMF for maintaining the underdevelopment of Nigeria and other modern African nation states. Secretary Clinton managed to draw applause from the crowd by merely commiting to a “redesign of our international financial structures.” She wants Nigeria to be added to the G-20 but she wants her to cure her corruption problems first.
Another high point in Secretary Clinton’s visit to Nigeria occurred when she landed an Interview with Mo Abudu of Moments with Mo. Here Secretary Clinton returned to the topic of sex roles and the importance of education for raising the status of women in Nigeria and throughout the developing world. In my opinion, Clinton managed to provide moral inspiration and political motivation here without sounding at all condescending.
By and large, Nigerian bloggers were favorably taken with Secretary Clinton. Imnakoya’s post Hillary in Nigeria appeared in both African Loft and his own Grandiose Parlor. Generally positive in his assessment of Secretary Clinton, Imnakoya did hit a more sour note in his remarks about abuses of the public trust by Nigeria’s politicians. Writing in his blog Nigerian Curiosity, Solomonsydelle challenged the United States Secretary of State to make up for the “glaring omission” of Nigeria as a destination for either Barack Obama or other ambassadors of good will and counsel during the current administration.
Dade was particularly impressed by the strong words which Secretary Clinton delivered at her Town Hall meeting. His post entitled Hillary in Nigeria forewarned of strong messages which the Secretary of State might prove capable of delivering, having demonstrated her inner fire and strength in her outburst over a mistranslated question in Kinshasa on Monday. Beauty struck a more strident tone, asking Mrs Clinton, how will your visit benefit Nigeria? The implication here was that very little of substance would actually be offered to Nigerians by the United States during the course of the visit by our Secretary of State. Through exploring his rhetorical question, Mr. Beauty challenged Africans to question the motives of both the United States and Nigerian politicians as their talks progressed. By linking to Bloomberg News, however, he also appears to surmise that the entire Africa trip was intended to stimulate business for American mining and fossil fuel interests. An even stronger statement of this altogether plausible view was made by Firoze Manji, writing on Thursday, August 6th in Pambazuka News. Manji analyzes the focus on economic development and promotion of the interests of U.S. corporations by Clinton in picking countries to visit and issues to raise with African politicians. In a more lengthy and generally positive narrative of Clinton’s trip, the ‘Super Size Me’ tour in his Jewels in the Jungle, Bill places it in the context of a number of previous trips which Hillary has made to the dark continent, mostly accompanied by her husband and former United States president William Jefferson Clinton.