The former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi has advised Africans and African leaders to stop brooding over President Donald Trump’s speech describing African countries as Shitholes and focus on development to prove Trump and others sharing the same view wrong. He said such speeches questioning our fundamental being and existence called for introspection and self examination to see where we have gone wrong and make amends. In Obi’s words: “While President Trump’s expletive comments on supposedly world’s poorest countries which includes most in Africa, is derogatory and worrisome, as a student of philosophy, I see his remarks as a clarion call for reflection and reexamination for African citizens, and their leaders especially, on how to build a better future for their people.”
Obi was speaking Thursday on the topic: “Contemporary issues in Africa” at Yale University, Connecticut, USA
Amidst thunderous applause, Obi who said he was privileged to speak at the 317 year-old Yale University that had produced five USA presidents, 19 USA Chief Justices and over 20 billionaires, described Africa as a continent full of opportunities that must be treated with respect and understanding. He encouraged foreign direct investment into the continent, especially with assurances that Nigeria remain the best place in view of her population of about 180 million, industrious people and availability of untapped raw materials.
He subtly urged the international community to help Africa not from the point of view of grants, but by discouraging the saving of stolen money in their countries. Obi also protested the news that the President of the University, Peter Salovey, is visiting Kenya and Ghana, while leaving out Nigeria. He said that Nigeria should actually be considered first for such visits, considering her critical position in Africa.
Obi disagreed with some participants who located African problem as mainly absence of democracy, by arguing that Africa’s major problem is the absence of leaders with good and practical knowledge of the economy. He said that once the economy of a country was got right, that education would improve thus reducing all manner of agitations.
Exhorting Americans on the need to encourage good leaders in Africa, he said that such leaders could do for Africa what good leadership did for countries like Singapore and China.
Obi then went into comparison of Nigeria with China as follows: “Comparatively, the population in China was twice the population of Nigeria in 1980 and to date, remains about 200 million more populated than Africa (In 2015, China’s population was 1.371 billion while Africa’s population was 1.186 billion). In 1980, China, with a population of 981 million, recorded a GDP of USD341 billion, translating to a GDP per Capita of USD347, while Africa, with a population of 478 million, recorded a GDP of USD556 billion, which translated to a GDP per Capita of USD1,168.”
Obi also recalled the efforts of China towards achieving the MDG and lamented how African countries lagged behind, but he expressed strong optimism that Africa, especially Nigeria will get it right with the on-going Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and its 17 Global Goals with 169 targets aimed at transforming the world in 2030.
Describing the SDG as “a universal call to action that will end poverty, protect the planet and ensure peace and prosperity (2015-2030)”, he called on African leaders to mainstream it into their policies as China had since done.
As part of the visit, Obi had strategic meetings with the principal officers of the school, namely: Prof. Jim Levinsohn, the Director of Jackson Institute for Global Affairs; Casey King, the Director of Capstone Projects; Asha Rangappa, the Director of Admissions; Elizabeth Gill, Director of Career Services; Tim Stumph, Director of the World Fellows Programme; Sen. Russ Feingold, former Senator and the School’s Senior Fellow; Prof. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of the Institute of Management; Eddie Mandhry, Director for Africa and Larisa Satara, the Deputy Director, Jackson Institute for Global Affairs.
Senator Russ Feingold said it was nice and fulfilling listening to Obi and that people like him looked longingly to his speech because of his overwhelming positive reputation as a public servant among Nigerians.