Nigeria’s foreign Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe yesterday claimed that he has received a pledge from US President Barack Obama that he will visit Nigeria ‘very very soon’
Speaking during the formal presentation of three books written by the Governor of Imo State, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos , Maduekwe claimed he personally met President Obama during the recent G8 meeting in Italy, where Obama ‘held me by the shoulders, and promised to come to Nigeria, very very soon’
Thisday reports that Maduekwe’s disclosure of Obama’s promise to visit Nigeria soon was however, greeted with cynical laughter by the hundreds of guests at the jam-packed hall who apparently thought he was pulling a fast one on the people.
But the Minister, who appeared embarrassed by the cynicism, blamed the negative response to his statement on the US President’s speech on our debased “self esteem” as a people.
The minister who was called upon to speak in his capacity as President Yar’Adua’s representative at the ceremony started by explaining that the president could not attend the event in person because he had travelled out of the country to attend a meeting of Non-Aligned Nations in Egypt .
He however struck stubborn nerves when he said that Mr. Obama spoke with him recently.
The scene went like this:
Minister: Twenty four hours before he left (G8 meeting in Italy) for Ghana, President Barack Obama told me…
The audience cuts in by bursting into a long and loud cynical laughter that lasted for over two minutes to the bewilderment of the minister.
Minister asks: This big response from the audience; is it all positive or what? I suspect there is an extent of it that is negative.
The audience follows with more annoying laughter
Minister: That again is a reflection of how much our self esteem has suffered; that if the Foreign Minister of Nigeria says that President Obama spoke with him, it will be viewed as a kind of miracle.
The audience responds with a bigger long-drawn laughter.
As the scene progressed Maduekwe stood looking helplessly with the high table watching the scene. When the drama subsided, the Minister said he was prepared to stake his honour as Minister to prove that he was not telling lie. “On a serious note, in this era of internet, I will lose my job if what I’m saying is false. It (the meeting with Obama and others) took place in a small circle not more than the hall here”, he said.
He explained further: “The Prime Minister of Italy was there; the President of France was there; the President of Russia too. I don’t want to go into too much detail here; I did what a Foreign Minister of my status can do;
I walked up to the President of United States and I said Mr. President, nice to meet you; I’m the Foreign Minister of Nigeria. Mr. Obama was very warm when I introduced myself. Mr. Obama held me by the shoulder. He told me, ‘thank you Mr. Minister I want to visit your country very soon’. The other thing he told me all within that short time is, ‘Mr Minister, whichever way goes Nigeria, goes Africa ’”.
Maduekwe said that he had since relayed the message from the US President to President Yar’Adua. Commenting further on the assertion of Obama that the fate of Africa rests with Nigeria, Maduekwe said the statement was not a blanket cheque. He said it means that the challenge before the Nigerian government and people is enormous.
He stressed: “We in government are already telling ourselves that we must improve ourselves, that electoral reform must be genuine, that there must be rule of law in place that must be applicable to all” citizens irrespective of social or political statuses.