ON 17 MAY, THE VENERABLE New York Times reported: “Mr. Obama will travel to Accra, the capital of Ghana, on July 10 for an overnight stop at the end of a trip that will first take him to Moscow to meet with Russian leaders and then Sardinia for the annual summit of the G8 powers. The president and Mrs. Obama look forward to strengthening the US relationship with one of our most trusted partners in sub-Saharan Africa, and to highlighting the critical role that sound governance and civil society play in promoting lasting development …”
Yes, Obama-ists around the globe received the news of President Obama’s visit to Ghana with glee. The itinerary to other countries was packed and clearly stated but for the Accra trip, there was only one item. Visit to Cape Coast Castle. C’est fini? I thought my eyes were playing games. I asked a colleague to read the press release again. What’s on the agenda for Accra? Visit to Cape Coast Castle. Period.
There is more to this than meets the eye, so off I went to my friend the ink seller to check if the Obama itinerary had been written in invisible ink. He confirmed there was some invisible writing but confessed it was beyond his ability to decode. So I made an appointment to meet with a wise old friend to shed some light on this matter. We agreed to meet up at our favourite joint, the Obama Inn in Accra, renowned for its enticing menu. My friend suggested the reason the Accra itinerary was empty was because matters regarding the visit were too heavy for ordinary eyes to behold and that if the agenda had been openly stated, it would have incited and excited all sorts of anti-imperialists and anti-capitalists, as well as conspiracy theorists.
What heavy issues could be heavier than a large bowl of fufu, I wondered? I listened in shock and awe as my friend began to decode the invisible agenda on the itinerary. It was deeply coded in menu-speak: Washington–Accra, July 2009; Banku and CIA Okro Soup; AFRICOM and Palaver Sauce; Fufu with Crude Oil Soup; Kenkey and Slavery is a Crime Fish; Jollof Rice with Climate Change Stew.
According to my friend, as Commander-in-Chief, Obama is scheduled to inspect, in Accra, the largest US embassy in Africa which also doubles as CIA headquarters on our beloved continent. This is where the US government will centralise all its activities in Africa. My friend went on to say that after Al Qaeda bombed the US embassy/CIA HQ in Nairobi, they relocated to Accra. He swears the Accra embassy has underground bunkers complete with a tunnel direct into Kotoka International Airport. “Haba”, I said, “see how people exaggerate.”
AFRICOM and Palaver Sauce
My friend said the visit was to lobby the new Ghanaian president on AFRICOM, America’s Greek gift to Africa. AFRICOM again? I thought we had finished with that matter, that Africans (except our sister in Liberia) made it clear AFRICOM was not welcome anywhere on the continent, and Africans were not interested in hosting foreign bases. My friend revealed that American military doctors have diagnosed AFRICOM as being unsuited to European weather, inherently allergic to German cuisine, and have advised them to relocate to Africa by any means necessary, apologies to Malcolm X. The doctors helpfully suggested a location very close to the Gulf of Guinea would instantly improve the health of the ailing AFRICOM. “But”, I said, “Barack is our brother, he would not be part of a neo-colonial conspiracy against Africa. Or would he?” There was a pregnant silence…
Fufu with Crude Oil Soup
The next item on the invisible agenda was Fufu with crude oil. Normally one would eat fufu with palm nut or groundnut soup, but the American government prefers it with crude oil soup. Yes, good old black gold. Apparently, my friend thinks the Obama visit is to “twist” the new Ghanaian president’s hand on the matter of oil concessions to secure America’s interests.
Kenkey and Slavery is a Crime Fish
My friend could smell a rat and two cats behind the publicised visit to Cape Coast Castle. How come our brother Barack did not see fit to attend the United Nations World Conference Against Racism recently held in Geneva to support the groundbreaking declaration by the UN that slavery was indeed a crime against humanity? Ironically, the same Black man is publicly scheduled to visit slave dungeons in Ghana. “What is the purpose of this visit”, my friend asked?
A publicity stunt? An attempt to whitewash a grave historical and political error recorded in the memory of Africans on the continent and in the diaspora? A peace offering to apologise for not standing up for the historical question of reparations for slavery? I had no answer for my friend.
My first visit to the Cape Coast dungeons affected me in a profound way. My mind and the pain therein did not dwell on the unimaginable tragedy of the Maafa, the Holocaust inflicted on our great ancestors. Rather I was struck with deep sadness at the realisation that nothing had changed after all. Slavery was not over, it had merely changed its modus operandi.
Jollof Rice with Climate Change Stew
Our great continent is home to all sorts of people. Some are joyful about the trip while others are in mourning. While folks in Ghana began to practise new dance steps to welcome Obama, others in Nigeria quickly changed from their flowing robes into sackcloth and began the proverbial wailing and gnashing of teeth. Why are some Nigerians in mourning? They are sad that Obama has decided to visit Ghana while bypassing the “Giant of Africa”. What did Ghanaians contribute to Obama’s election, huh? Have folks forgotten the frontline role played by Nigerian-Americans and American Nigerians as campaign volunteers and mass mobilisers to get him elected?
Or that Nigerians in Nigeria, courtesy of the cash-madam at the Nigerian Stock Exchange, mobilised thousands of dollars for the Obama campaign and were just preparing to jet out, albeit unsolicited and uninvited, to deliver the money in raw cash, Nigerian elite style, before the enemies of progress stepped in to sabotage the transaction? Has Obama forgotten the Nigerian fingernails that scratched his back on his way to victory?
A close look at the Nigerian situation reveals a mood of envy amongst the political elite. They are upset that Obama would bypass them for a “small country” like Ghana. This is tantamount to insult laced with injury! Some Nigerian opposition elements, on the other hand, are celebrating this “insult and injury”. Apparently, they are of the view that the “Obama snub” is due to the undemocratic character of Nigeria’s ruling party and that as a paragon of democracy, America does not condone dictatorship, oppression, electoral fraud, etc. Makes you wonder if folks are conversant with American history, politics, allies, and national interests. Methinks Nigerians doth have short memories, but like elephants, Americans do not— Folks have forgotten that President Yar’Adua, after agreeing to host AFRICOM during a visit to the US, returned to Nigeria and made a full moon turn, declaring rather militantly, excuse the pun, that Nigeria would oppose the hosting of foreign military bases in Nigeria and anywhere else in Africa.
In truth, Yar’Adua’s about-turn was as a result of pressure from political activists and other members of civil society in Nigeria who referred him back to Nigerian history in the 1960s when militant students confronted the government over plans to host a British military base in Nigeria.
Like his predecessors, the Yar’Adua government “advised itself”, as they say in Ghana, and reversed gear 100% on the matter. America has not forgotten that rejection and now seeks friends in warmer climates. Let us wait and see if there will be any climate change on the West African coast on this AFRICOM palaver.
Back to Ghana
In Accra, preparations are at fever pitch. Prayer warriors are speaking in tongues. Hoteliers are chanting the hallelujah. Restaurateurs are in stew. T-shirt sellers are in bloom. Artists are in song. Dancers are in step. US flags are en vogue. Rainmakers are deep in trance. Pure water sellers are in stock. Traders offer supplication to the guardian angels of business to let their American souvenirs sell like hot cakes. Taxi drivers calculate how much to hike up fares, especially for anyone who speaks with a slight twang. The deeper the twang, the higher the fare.
But above all, my 10 pesewas contribution to Brother Barack’s mysterious itinerary. Don’t leave Accra without visiting the Obama Inn. The menu is delicious, boldly displayed, and openly stated. In clearly visible ink! Enjoy …