Wole Soyinka on Obama's Choice

The Nobel Laureate dissects the message the president's trip to Ghana should send to the corrupt and failing states of Africa.

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Sometimes it is necessary to spell things out for the megaphones of, and pretenders to, the mantle of leadership: What the Delta insurgents are saying to the uncaring state is that the present conflict goes beyond the decades-old contemptuous neglect of the goose that lays the golden egg.

The super-patriots and national chauvinists must, however, be encouraged to continue to wallow, infuriated, in the sludge of national amour-propre, bawds to the careerists of open prostitution. We can only remind them that, outside their constricted purlieu, there are other national leaders who are not quite as promiscuous as they are, or are accustomed to encountering. They should content themselves with the representative emotion of the present selected national leader who, unbelieving that he actually sat in the presence of a former U.S. president, could not contain himself as he gushed: “This is the happiest moment of my life.”

That presidential host was George W. Bush. By contrast, this is indeed one of those instances when absence makes the heart grow fonder. For the average Nigerian, this month of July 2009, when another president did not step foot on Nigerian soil, is a month to treasure. The sentiment, after all, is only borrowed from that of the enraptured home president, for what such a Nigerian is saying, equally enraptured is also: “This is the happiest moment of my life.”

Wole Soyinka is a Nobel Laureate, the first African to win the award in 1986.