Sunday, November 23, 2008
Creating An International Policy of Change by Akindele Akinyemi
We have witnessed the coming to power of President-Elect Barack Obama. They way the Democratic ticket crushed the Republican ticket was not even in comparison. The world is still rejoicing in a manner never seen in the election of anyone in any country. Such celebration will be going on all the way up to January 20, 2009 when Obama officially becomes President.
Where does this place urban conservatives. Like many say where do we go from here?
While people are celebrating Obama and his Cabinet picks urban conservatism can be highly celebrated also. When urban conservatives began to redirect their energy on policy issues it will place us in a greater position of power as well.
Will urban conservatives have an easy start under an Obama Administration? Yes and No. But we hope our urban conservatives will start off maturing into the role of leaders and 21st century scholars so that the expectations are felt beyond the borders of the United States. For Africa, a stronger sense of connection may ensue for various reasons raging from lineage to economics to education.
Since Africa has had one of the longest connections with U.S.A. but one yet to gain materially and substantially from such relationship, does this mean the arrival of the Big One? Another expectation hard to tell. How will urban conservatives coming to power under this administration benefit Africa? That all depends if we can get past the dead issues of the past and focus on the future.
Urban conservatives cannot give to the African Diaspora what the Diaspora does not want for itself. If help comes to those that dutifully pursue good things for themselves, it is likely that another will help as a reaction and response to the strides and efforts being made. Urban conservatives should neither in act nor design be seen as serving the interest of Africa.
While Obama should not immediately embrace the African cause until maybe the third or fourth year into his first term urban conservatives should jump on this now because it can help redefine what we want to do policy wise.
Our first priority should be implementing plans, platforms and running for leadership in our local and state conservative organizations and consolidating our leadership roles so that the hands that headed his platform are strengthened and those hands can step forward and do well without others telling us what to do.
If urban conservatives want to enhance our chances during Obama presidency, we should not just wait for Obama hand-outs, but employ the manners of effective cultivation of relationships to access the resources of the United States and beyond. Available statistics show that African governments are the least effective in lobbying U.S. government and when they do, they often use the wrong approach. On the flip side, urban conservatives are not even lobbying at all for interests across the Diaspora to build an economic engine to connect urban communities across the United States.
I will give you an example. Jewish people lobby for Israel. It does not matter if you are a Democrat or Republican with Jewish people their whole purpose is to make sure Israel is safe and secured with our tax dollars. Where is our lobbying groups to create an engine for us across the Diaspora?
Here is another example that I researched.
In 1997, according to State Department sources but in an article styled 'Making America Love', in George; now a defunct magazine of the late son of JFK, Nigeria under former military leader Sani Abacha, received about $29 million in AID and spent about $3.8 million in laundering its image, nearly 8%; far more than anyone else. That was the highest spent both as a percentage of what was given and in amount by any foreign government. During that same period, Indonesia received $136 million but spent only $2.05 million on its image and India received $297 million and spent about $1.7 million. So why did Nigeria spent more but got less? Even though Jessie Jackson was the de facto emissary of America for Africa, Nigeria's standing in U.S. was shot? It was more a situation of 'take the money and do nothing'.
This is an example of how Nigeria do not know how to lobby our U.S. Government. Cases of missed opportunities are outlined in many books including one by former Secretary of State Warren Christopher in his 'Chances of a Lifetime'. There is a given approach to getting mileage out of any relationship, and with U.S., certain approach spells success. Nigeria/Africa, appear not to care for such and as a result, end up with less when they should be seen as making out big time.
The American system of government is such that Congress and businesses have enormous roles in deciding how, where and when resources are doled out. If urban conservatives are going to work with diplomats in Africa we must embrace the style of best practices for best results.
Urban conservatives should expect times to be difficult under an Obama Administration. I am still not convinced that Obama is the "change agent" that he claimed during his historic run for the Presidency. However, there are now many urban conservatives that can help promote African interests in America but Africa must woo these resources and pay them for service. The geo-political interest that tends to shape things in Washington D.C., requires that those courting her, must recognize how the game is played and use the proper referees to get the game called in their favor.
Furthermore, policy actions are needed globally for improving Michigan's economic infrastructure and creating an environment conducive to investment, and for strengthening the macroeconomic framework and sheltering the poor from the adverse consequences of the crisis.
We have an opportunity to transform the electorate to help build better international and economic relationships across the Diaspora. As long as we cling to old ideas and dead issues we will never be able to influence policy in the long run.