Languages
Page last updated at 06:50 GMT, Thursday, 9 July 2009 07:50 UK

African view: Shipshape for Obama?

US President Barack Obama walks alongside wife Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia to Air Force One prior to leaving the US on Sunday 5 July on a week-long tour to Russia, Italy and Ghana.

In our series of weekly viewpoints from African journalists, Elizabeth Ohene, a former government minister in Ghana and former BBC journalist, looks forward to US President Barack Obama's visit to her country:

We in Ghana are going to have our "Obama Moment" later this week.

Forget that talk about Ghana being the second country in Africa President Obama is visiting. We know better.

Ghana is a truly admirable example of a place where governance is getting stronger, a thriving democracy
Barack Obama's spokesperson

That Egypt stopover does not count as a trip to Africa. He did not go there with his wife; he is coming here with Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha.

And he will be going to Cape Coast, which has been given a well-deserved makeover.

He did not sleep in Cairo and it was obvious he was using the city only as a backdrop to make a speech to the Arab world.

True, he is making a big speech here in our parliament aimed at Africa, but this is different.

He is coming to Ghana because, to borrow the words of his spokesperson: "Ghana is a truly admirable example of a place where governance is getting stronger, a thriving democracy."

Their words, not mine.

Jealous pride

We are the envy of the whole continent and as for our cousins the Nigerians, this is the ultimate humiliation.

John Atta Mills
I suspect the president will be begging people this week to demonstrate against his government

They will never be able to live this one down.

Then there is Kenya and I ought to tread gently for there might be some raw emotions here, since there are blood claims.

So we sympathise with our Kenyan brothers and sisters, but as the White House sees it, Kenya, like Nigeria simply doesn't make the good governance grade.

The trip to Ghana is intentional. It is worth quoting The White House on Ghana again:

"An extraordinarily close election, decided ultimately by about 40,000 votes, the country remained peaceful, power was transferred peacefully, and they continue to pursue a development agenda and bolster the rule of law."

The Americans probably are aware many in Africa have wondered aloud that a sitting government could not find 40,000 votes to stay in power.

With such enthusiastic endorsement, it is not surprising that the government here is over the moon and is milking the Obama magic for all it is worth.

The promotions by the Ministry of Information and the Office of the President seek to portray the new Ghana government as being on the same wavelength as the new United States government, both led incidentally by law professors.

Big party

It is a bit tricky trying to liken the charismatic and erudite 47-year-old wordsmith world leader Mr Obama to the halting 64-year-old John Atta Mills, taunted as "dull" by his mentor, ex-President Jerry Rawlings.

The Clintons in Accra Ghana in 1998
The Clintons were given a huge welcome 11 years ago

We have consequently run into some very odd incidents.

This past week, there was the strange case of the president asking, or maybe, ordering the police to allow a street demonstration by a group that wanted to protest against a litany of things.

The police had gone to court and got an injunction to prevent the demonstration on the grounds, among others, that the police were so busy with the planned Obama visit they would not have the manpower to handle a demonstration.

Nobody here imagines that President Atta Mills intervened so dramatically to ask that a court order be put aside and the group be allowed to protest because he is dying for people to protest against him.

But imagine this: Here is Mr Obama, daily criticising the Iranian government for not allowing its citizens to demonstrate; and here is Ghana, the "admirable example of a thriving democracy" refusing to allow peaceful demonstrations… Obviously that would not do.

Fluffing lines

I suspect therefore that not only will the president be begging people this week to demonstrate against his government; there will be a lull in the frantic denunciations of the former government.

Map

No former officials will be stopped at the airport and prevented from leaving the country and no former minister's car will be seized by state security officers on the streets of Accra.

My bet is there will be no such drama any more until Mr Obama has been and gone.

I have been trying to dream up the most outrageous thing I could get away with in this thriving democracy during Obama week.

But the truth is all Ghanaians are really chuffed about the visit and if only the Americans would let us, we would put on such a welcome show, the world would be astounded.

After all, this is the country in 1998 that gave Bill Clinton the largest crowd in his life, but then that was in the pre-9/11 world and these days they do not allow American presidents to be exposed to such crowds.

All the same, we guarantee to make the trip memorable for the Obamas.

At the moment, if we have any anxieties it has to be a collective fear that our president will falter in pronouncing President Obama's name.

He seems to fluff his lines on the big occasions, and there is a wicked rumour making the rounds that President Atta Mills has been practising the name of his host, "Bama Obarack, Marack Omaba, President Omarack"…

We are all willing him on to get it right on the day.


A selection of your comments:

I am a Zimbabwean and boy am I so jealous of Ghana right now. Imagine Obama visiting us. Wow lucky them. but I guess we asked for that didn't we us Zimbabweans. I cant last remember when we had a President of USA visiting Zimbabwe or a British one come to that. Hopefully in the near future when everything is ironed out neatly we might get a chance to see them here. Otherwise I guess I have to glue my self to the TV and watch BBC, Sky and CNN displaying Obama in Ghana. ps at least some jealousy is eased as I comfort myself and say he is visiting the home of our First First Lady Sally Mugabe . Our cousins welcome him for me.
Michelle, Harare

Ms Ohene I have and will always admire your journalistic prowess. But, as succinctly though as you written this article - there one thing I would like to know? is there any bitterness running between you and the current administration of Mr Atta Mills? You are a former Government Minister - right? Thus, portraying Mr Mills as wanting to appear democratic before Mr Obama's arrival is a step in the wrong direction, I beg to disagree with you but democracy, as the powers that be will want to see, is at play in Ghana,
Muctaru Stevens, Berlin, Germany

Ghana is Kwame Nkrumah country for us Indians. Reading about the welcome Ghanaians are going to extend to President Barak Obama of USA I am excited and happy. I want to read the full text of his speech to Ghanaians. Going by the address he gave at the Russian New Economic School graduation convocation, Pres. Obama will surely make himself an unforgettable president of America and Ghanaians are deservedly lucky to hear him him speak. Thanks.
M Krishnamachary, Mumbai, India

I don't see how Nigerians can be upset at this.

The mere fact that the author felt the need to refer to Nigeria shows that Ghanaians do recognize that their country is less powerful and important than Nigeria. Just let them have their moment....it won't last for long
Rabah, London

I do love Obama , but he should go to these countries in trouble to real understand what is going on. The are DR Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, Angola, Zimbabwe, Kenya... Kib, london UK

President Obama is welcome in Africa. But whereas he's praising Ghana, there are some Countries on the continent which are key to the USA Strategic interest on many issues such as terrorism, HIV/Aids, environment, and provision of key natural resources. These are part and parcel of good global governance! He would have considered visiting at least five countries spearheading the above US interest in Africa and beyond. Thanks,
Dukundane Emmanuel, Kigali, Rwanda

LOL, this is hilarious. Talk about pride. I don't blame the Ghanaians though. If Obama and co were coming to Nigeria, we wouldn't hear the end of it. Shoot, MJ's news coverage wouldn't even come close!!! So Ghanaians, be prideful that he chose you!!! Means you must be doing something right!
Ruby, NIGERIA

I am proud to be associated with Ghanaians or living in the country call call Ghana, i have been in Ghana since 1996 and i think that Ghana is one of the best country on the continent and they really deserve a great president visit, life is not all about wealth but peace, love respect for your fello man and that is why i have decided to stay in Ghana, i stay in Lagos for just six months, i decided never to go back. I might likely experience Obama convoy passing infront of me going to cape coast, what a moment that i will never forget, if he don't go by chapel, Ghanaians deserve this moment of my favorite Leader in the world, the GREAT OBAMA
PRINCE FALLAH, liberian refugee in ghana

I have faith in this man. President Obama's visit to Ghana has made a lot of people happy. Hopefully he will have some positive economic offers that encouraged fairer trade between Ghana and the USA... If he opens this door in Ghana he will see that the majority of them have a hard working and entrepreneurial character, not too distant from the Americans, moreover they may name that day after him. I'm waiting to see what developments take place after he's left as the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I'm expecting too much am I?
Paul Otchere, London, England

Ghana, Africa is taking pride in hosting the first black President and family of the United States of America through you! We are behind you in prayer and well wishes.
Akiror Harriet Ariko, Kampala, Uganda

You can think what you like Elizabeth, Obama's first Presidential visit to Africa was Egypt and we are justifiably proud of that. To say this country is nothing more than a gateway to the Middle East is actually quite insulting. We participate in the majority of sporting and political African nation events and consider ourselves fully integrated into Africa in that respect.
Khalid Jamal, Cairo, Egypt

I like the commentary it sounds familiar and the blogs all seem so similar. Is this a developing nation scenario where we clean and prepare for the leaders of the developed states. The same sentiments were echoed in Trinidad and Tobago for the visit of the Fifth Summit of the Americas and particularly the presence of President Obama.
Antoinette Matthews, St Augustine, Trinidad & Tobago

Will the visit bring the much anticipated boost in Ghana's flagging "ecomony", or should say economy? Mills' government should get it right and not fluff it.
Samuel Gyamfi, Bracknell, UK

Here at home, nobody thinks this is other than a stunt calculated to extend influence to counter China's. The president faces a growing backlash in the USA due to the lingering recession and what many see as high-handed meddling with the Constitution. Let's pray this cynical influence-peddling visit does not leave the hangover that his election did.
Pat, Carthage, USA

Obama's visit to Ghana is NOT in any way Humiliation to Nigeria or any other africa nations.....OBAMA is Not JESUS CHRIST simply a president who chosed and decided to visit Ghana and may decide to Visit Nigeria some day. He can not visit all Africa nations same day same moment, Ghana is down to inferiority complex that makes them to see themselves as Brazil of Africa When Nigeria had beaten the real Brazil in a major football competition.
marcel eze, abidjan

My dear writer, we should concentrate more on what unites us than wasting time an energy on trying to whip up sentiments. What does it matter if Obama visit Ghana or Nigeria, better still Togo. We are supposed to be united rather than making claims or utterances that will not engender oneness. A black man is a black man, that should be our ethos. No place in the whole wide world that do not have its problems; we cannot deny the problems of democracy and corruption in Nigeria but all these are surmountable. Our prayers should be how both Ghana and Nigeria or any African country should develop together. When Ghana had its problems in the late 70s they ran to Nigeria. It will be easier and feasible for Ghana to help Nigeria or Nigeria help Ghana, for a non-African country to help. I don't care if is USA, UK or what have you; they are all after their interests. Please wake up!
Moses Akinmuyiwa, Birmingham, UK

Moses Akinmuyiwa, Birmingham, UK - Your comments are meaningful to Africans. You all have made my DAY.
Ahmed Shaibu, London

Ghana wan an obvious choice for President Obama. Numerous African countries have had elections where the opposition won outright but never got seated. Ethiopia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe to name a few. Ghana is one bright exception. Thank You Mr. President for sending a strong message to African despots.
Tariku I, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Bravo Ghana, if all africans can do like ghana them there will be no problems like nigeria, kenya and others i wish am in ghana to welcome my humble african bro. African leaders should try and emulate ghana of there good governace so that the continent can enjoy its wonderful resources.
halima jatta, banjul the gambia

I am a Liberian, and very happy for the visit of US President Barrack Obama to Ghana. And i hope that the President will make another visit to Nigeria. Nigeria is Africa's super power. All of the blood shells that took place in Liberia, Nigeria was the first African countries that arrived. Especially, in 2003 when we (Liberian) were dying in blood shells, Nigeria was the only and first African countries that came to our aid. So in this light, I will like for President Barrack Obama to pay a special visit to Nigeria. And i also want him to come to Liberia.
Sekou S Sheriff, Monrovia, Liberia

I really am disappointed at our Nigerian brothers for crying foul about Obama's visit to Ghana......The secret simply is...good governance, respect for human rights hospitality and above all the home and origin of African Americans...that's what we are
Nana Tutu Yeboah, Accra

My Ghanaian friend, I am a Nigerian and don't envy Ghana even if President Obama and his disciples visit your country everyday. President Obama is just another American president looking after American interests. In this case, it is your newly acquired oil shores. Your comments justifies my views about Ghanaians. Let me add that Ghana is the same size as Lagos Nigeria if not smaller. Good luck with your thriving democracy and good governance. I am happy that you are basking on something that is already in Africa.
Simms, Umuahia, Nigeria

SO sorry to see that the fact of choosing Ghana is a source of debate. Wherever Obama visits in Africa, he's a guest of the whole continent. It is high time we stopped thinking as Ghanaians, Nigerians, Senegalese, Kenyans etc. We have to believe and work hard to bring African Unity into reality. Still, let us all congratulate Ghana for the efforts made to implement true democracy and let us hope this example will be followed by the remaining African countries. Ghana, welcome President Obama as a guest of mother Africa, and let him and his family remember that even if we are poor, we know how to treat our guests. Thanks
Alphousseyni DIAMANKA, Dakar, Sénégal

As we all aware that water always flows following a specific course of its current, the fact that Ghana has demonstrated undisputable state of good governance and democracy throughout the African Continent is a yard stick which has set a precedent in determining the tour of the high profile World leader of this century.
Lucas Phillip Kiswizah, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

He's just going there because there are US oil interests there. Enough said.
Michelle, Dallas, TX

Never thought a political piece could be so funny! Thank you, my day is made.
Kholofelo, Johannesburg, South Africa

Whom the Lord love He chastise. Obama's refusal to visit Nigeria at this time is a clear body language, demonstrating his love for Nigeria. He say it best when he said nothing at all. It is now left for Nigeria to return Obama's love by amending her ways.
King, London, England

Ghana deserves all the accolades and time in the political limelight. Obama is not naive to Africa's inadequacies. Kenya failed big time to think big and reap from what she deserved. Their primitive politics is so repellent to forward-looking leaders like Obama. Ghana may not be perfect but it is the effort and intention that counts. Nigerians may be smarting from sour grapes but Obama knows the deceptive cord running deep inside. Congrats Ghana and please bask in the sunshine responsible.
Taabu, Eldoret, Kenya

A mere 40,000 votes unseated an African government!? Wow, a lesson in good governance to all African countries who must choose the rule of law going forward. It took a month plus, to reconcile a huge gap in Zims elections to a 0-0 draw last May, and that for a country that boasts a literacy rate of 90%. Ghana is the cradle for African democracy and its a shame some dictators refer to the legendary Kwame Nkrumah as their inspiration. Obama must use this opportunity to lash out at such leaders, Zim & Kenya included.
Gadama N, Bulawayo, Zim

I am certainly failing to understand why all the fuss about the President Obama's visit to Ghana. What do people in Ghana and Africa stand to benefit apart from disrupting their businesses? Nothing and this trip will not change Ghanaians lives in any way. Observing and respecting democratic institutions in Ghana has not in anyway been influenced by President Obama.
Esperança, Luanda

Give Mr Mills a break. Mr Obama probably cant pronounce a number of Ghanaian names. And why couldn't he come to Zambia? Our political tolerance is truly remarkable in my view. And our peacefulness is legend.
Rose Phiri, Lusaka, Zambia

it is indeed great news that Obama has chosen Ghana as one of the first countries in Africa to visit. the euphoria in the small West African country is so high i suspect Friday might be an unofficial holiday. my only problem is that major businesses will be closed for 48hrs because of Obama's visit and this is going to make a lot of business people lose money running into millions. Is Obama really taking us forward?
Selase Attah, Accra

Aw pulezzzz!!! Whether Obama comes or not, Nigeria is still the giant of Africa. It is okay for Obama to encourage Ghana's democracy. In spite of our current woes we still have a profound influence across Africa. Imagine what happens when we work through our problems....the whole world will come to our door steps.
Ono Vu, Abuja-Nigeria

To be sincere, I admired the true democracy in the Republic of Ghana. I live in Ghana for four years consecutive and not a day I was humiliated by any law implementers. Even though some of our Liberian friends once complained of human right abuse but I believe that Ghana being a law abided state, you are only trouble if you trouble the law and that's what make the nation what she is. Ghana, you deserve all the world class leaders visit always.
Tamba Kpakima, Monrovia, Liberia

Right on! Absolutely like it is. I haven't read such a cool opinion in a long time, haven't laughed so righteously on 'Bama Obarack'...
Andy Zimmermann, Berlin Germany

Ghana is a leader in Africa whether people like it or not. Ghana was the first sub-Saharan country to gain independence. Ghana has been holding credible elections. Corruption not rampant. No xenophobia attacks on fellow Africans. Ghana is indeed a BLACK Star. There could be no better country for Obama and family to visit than Ghana. Make us (Africans) proud our dear brothers and sisters in Ghana. If for any reasons you wont host him (Obama), could you recommend MALAWI - The Warm Heart of Africa as an alternative destination. Viva Ghana, Viva Africa.
Sam Gonthako Nganjo, Blantyre, MALAWI

What's the talk about Obama's visit to Ghana being a humiliation on Nigerians and Kenyans? His visit to Egypt to douse the fire of religious fiasco should be considered a political obligation, and that to Ghana; a start point of political tour. That doesn't imply that he's not going to be elsewhere in Africa for the same purpose for which he's in Ghana. After all Ghana hasn't the best political culture and practise in Africa-good governance grade or not, is all a front. Therefore, the amiable president has his reasons for starting with her. So, no noise.
Solomon A Akande, Lagos, Nigeria

It is a shame really that the first American Black President will not be visiting Nigeria,(the self-acclaimed giant of Africa) but Ghana, on his first African tour. I hope it is a big lesson to the Nigerian leaders that democracy can truly work in Africa with total commitment and will of the leaders and the citizens alike.
OLALEKAN OMOTAYO, LAGOS, NIGERIA

Loved it! especially the part about Mills begging for demonstrations against him to happen :)
Mustapha Hamoui, Tema, Ghana

I don't see the humiliation in Obama not visiting Nigeria. Its just a matter of choice. After all important and powerful world leaders, some of who Obama consults over major world issues have visited Nigeria of recent without reaching Ghana. The only difference between him and the other will just be his 'oratory wizardry'.
Ekpo Anieteye, Abuja, Nigeria

I am happy that Obama is visiting Africa.
Nwagwu b nkume, Umuahia Nigeria

Lucky Ghana, the don't have much stakes in African affairs and they are presently enjoying peace , but they should also remember the sacrifice of other nations and respect what Nigeria has done to the continent and take this as an opportunity to be humble and not be fooled by a mere visit by Obama.
Ishmeal, Newton Abbot

As an American who loves living in Mali, I totally get this hilarious piece combining true patriotism along with lingering fears of inferiority (real or perceived). I'm sure Ghana will delight the Obama's and the rest of the continent they will so admirably represent.
Gordon Roedding, Bamako, Mali

President Barack Obama, visit to Ghana though a plus to the thriving peaceful political atmosphere in Ghana, should not be a source of taunt to deride other African nations such as Nigeria and Kenya which the Obama's has not put on their agenda to visit, while the dice rolled let everyone in the comity of nations take their chances
Pastor Patrick Ehapa, Limerick Ireland

It's good Obama has skipped my country Kenya. It's time Kenyan leaders stopped outdoing each other and humble themselves and try emulate there brother Barrack Obama. We as African continent should know that the USA govt is not a one man show as our leadership in Africa is. Whatever the USA govt do is questioned by both Republicans and Democrat. Therefore the president wont just visit any country even if he has a blood relation its all about the USA people policy that matters.
Louis Kundu, Nairobi Kenya

Our Obama moment is here. Nigerians should clean their house before expecting Almighty Obama.
Dominic Bitlegma, Accra



Print Sponsor


AFRICAN VIEWPOINT
LATEST
British National Party leader Nick Griffin (left) talks to local resident Suzan Olivacchi (right) as her daughters look on during a campaign tour in Dagenham Migrant amnesty?
And other reasons why UK election matters to Africa
PREVIOUS COLUMNS
March 2010
 
February 2010
 
January 2010
 
December
 
November
 
October
 
Sept
 
August
 
July
 
June
 
May
 


RELATED BBC LINKS

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific