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« I want to find God, and, Reflections of the Warrior of the Light VIII | Main | Neurotic Idealism and Unhappiness »

November 14, 2005

Where is our National Pride: Bill Clinton and Abuja Airport

by Uche Nworah (London, UK) --- President Bill Clinton I have nothing against William Jefferson Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States of America and the Damansani Ushaffa (title for someone who has distinguished himself intellectually and contributed to the welfare of his people, given to him during his visit to Ushaffa village in Nigeria), if anything; i admire his zest, ageless youth, intelligence and rhetorical abilities.

My perception of him while he was at the White House though, was that of a showman who had lost his way and suddenly found himself at the White House, a lady killer and charmer. It must have been during the short days of John Francis Kennedy that Americans last saw a youthful and an exuberant Commander-In-Chief.

However, beneath the façade, when we peel off the flamboyance, boyish looks and sweet rhymes, what will history and Americans remember him for? Did he leave any tangible legacy behind?

From our small vantage position in Nigeria, we would indeed struggle to point out anything his 8 years at the White House did for Nigeria and Nigerians, but for the entertainment value provided by Billy Boy’s trial for that infamous affair with Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern, and all the media frenzy that surrounded his star performance at the hands of Kenneth Starr, the independent prosecutor. His trial was the next best thing after the O.J Simpson murder trial, and helped to keep the rumour mills alive, The trial also helped to keep many beer parlours and restaurants in Lagos and in other parts of Nigeria in business, as pundits debated and argued over Billy Boy’s guilt or innocence over bottles of odeku and mortars of isi-ewu (goat head), pepper-soup, nkwobi and other local delicacies.

Bill Clinton’s administration was generally regarded as the one that favoured African-Americans the most since the country’s independence, he appointed many African-Americans into key governmental positions, most notably retaining Colin Powell as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff before his eventual resignation, and also appointing his son, Michael Powell as the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It was also during Bill Clinton’s government that Ron Brown served as Secretary of Commerce until his tragic death in a plane crash in 1996.

Bill Clinton will also be remembered as the first American President to make an extended visit to Africa, his millennial visit to Nigeria in 2000 may therefore be the reason why the Nigerian government has named the road leading to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja Bill Clinton Drive. This ‘eye service’ gesture is typical of past governments in Nigeria irrespective of the tier.

At this stage of our national life, when Sign Announcing  Bill Clinton Drivethe federal government through the Federal Ministry of Information and National Orientation is attempting to whip up our lost sense of patriotism and national pride, which have sunken so low as a result of our distrust of our governments, its officials and structures due to our past experiences, as their policies seem to work against Nigerians rather than for Nigerians, what better way and time to start this Nigeria Aware sentiments, than now by reclaiming some of our national landmarks which have since been auctioned off to individuals whose contributions to our national development and well being are questionable.

Bill Clinton may have shown his ‘blackness’ by setting up his post-presidential office in Harlem, New York. He may have also done this and that for Americans and African-Americans but my folks in the village in Enugwu-Ukwu don’t seem to have benefited in any way from his government, likewise other Nigerians in the rural areas.

Though his administration sponsored and passed the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) into law, it would be another couple of years before Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain and his Commission for Africa team will influence the process of debt cancellation for Africa’s Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC), of which Nigeria is one. So in a way, Nigerians and Africans in general have benefited more from Mr. Blair than from Mr. Clinton but then we haven’t rushed to rename national monuments and landmarks after the British Prime Minister.

If Abuja is Nigeria’s capital and gateway city, what sort of impression does the government think that visitors arriving in Abuja by air would have when they leave the international airport and drive through Bill Clinton drive on their way through Lugbe to the Abuja capital territory?

The road leading to the airport

There is absolutely no reason for hoisting Bill The road leading to Abuja AirportClinton on our national psyche, because roads, avenues, streets and other such city landmarks are usually used to honour heroes and people who have truly distinguished themselves and impacted on the lives of the local people. If the government wants to honour Bill Clinton by naming a road after him, they should choose any other street in Abuja, but not this symbolic road that leads to our national airport.

It would be unimaginable for America or any other western country to name the road leading to their capital and national airport after Olusegun Obasanjo or any other Nigerian leader who may have paid a state visit to the town in the past.

We should have some sense of pride and stop selling our selves so cheap to the outside world. Charity must now begin at home, especially now that we want to re-brand Nigeria.

If the government lacks worthy names to use in replacing Bill Clinton drive, they should go to Ikene in Ogun State, where I am sure the ghost of Tai Solarin may be willing also to suggest the name of Pa Michael Imodu, both national heroes, friends of the poor, the down trodden and Nigerian people in their days.

This matter is really of national importance and should be investigated or looked into by the National Assembly. It is surprising that the honourable members frequently pass through the stretch of road on their way to and from the airport, but have never found it odd, that such a strategic and symbolic gateway is named after Billy boy, a foreigner.

Uche Nworah is a freelance writer and branding scholar.

Posted by Administrator at November 14, 2005 02:15 PM


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