U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expected to take a tough line over rampant corruption in Nigeria -- and she seems to have the backing of "grassroots" Nigerians.
ABUJA, NIGERIA (AUGUST 12, 2009) POOL - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Nigeria on Wednesday (August 12) and was expected to take a tough line over rampant corruption and to urge Africa's biggest energy producer to implement badly-needed electoral reforms. From what is being said in the streets of the capital, Abuja, Nigerians support her.
While en-route with his boss, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson described Nigeria as the most important country in sub-Saharan Africa, but noted that a number of organisations also regard it as the most corrupt African nation. Many say that mismanagement and graft over decades have imperilled Nigeria's development, deterred investment, undermined democracy and deepened conflicts such as the insurgency in the southern Niger Delta and bouts of religious violence in the north.
President Umaru Yar'Adua took office more than two years ago in Africa's most populous nation pledging respect for the rule of law, but diplomats and analysts say the fight against corruption has faltered under his leadership.
Nigeria's former anti-corruption chief, Nuhu Ribadu, was seen as a key reformer by the United States and other foreign powers, but was removed from his post months after Yar'Adua came to power in May 2007 and has since fled the country, fearing for his life.
Abuja resident Anthony Agbo said on Wednesday that Clinton's visit was a very good thing for Nigeria and its leaders should listen to her because high level corruption was "killing" grassroots Nigerians.
Corruption and election rigging are seen by many Nigerians as the two big obstacles to development, hence the support for Clinton's agenda.
The April 2007 polls that brought Yar'Adua to power were so marred by ballot-stuffing and voter intimidation that local and foreign observers said they were not credible.
More elections are due in 2011. Abuja resident Joshua Oorgun told Reuters on Wednesday that Clinton was welcome and she should ask politicians to show how sincere they are about the next vote.
Another resident, Timothy Bello, commented: "We want her to talk to our Nigeria leaders about corruption, because the corruption is much in Nigeria, our leadership are corrupt, they are too corrupt in Nigeria."
Clinton is also likely to seek an update on the status of a 60-day amnesty period in the Niger Delta, an effort to end years of militant attacks on the oil industry which have prevented Nigeria from pumping much above two thirds of its capacity.
Regional democracy in west Africa will also be on the agenda.