Thursday, August 5, 2010

Nation seeks U.S. help over negative stereotypes

Nigeria yesterday called on United States to assist the nation in countering some negative and destructive stereotypes about the country.

Addressing the Council of Foreign Relations (US most influential non governmental organisation), where he presented a paper on "Challenges and Prospects: Perception and Reality of Nigeria at 50", Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Odein Ajumogobia, said negative perception is a significant challenge Nigeria faces as a nation.

He cited as example, a scathing indictment of the country by a journalist, Richard Bowden, in his book : Africa Altered States, Ordinary Miracles", where he described Nigeria as a country with a terrible reputation, and where foreigners dread to go to.

Noting that such negative reports about the country may not be true reflection of situation on ground, he said negative stereotypes represent part of the challenges the nation faces in trying to build a better, stable, prosperous and just country founded on rule of law.

He said such negative perceptions do not also create opportunity for the acknowledgment of the efforts of the Nigerian government in addressing problems militating against the development of the country.

He said: "The unconstructive and prejudicial negative portrayals, images and generalisations of the country that are syndicated through global media networks and by journalists with new stories to tell totally ignore the progress that the country has made against all odds."

He therefore called for America's support for the country's efforts in getting things right. "For one thing the US can help us in countering some of these destructive negative stereotypes. America's perspectives and official pronouncements influence opinions and decisions in board rooms around the world", he said

While acknowledging that Nigeria, like some other countries, may have missed some opprtunities, he said the dawn of a golden jubilee celebration calls for a certain amount of introspection.

"Taking a stock, five decades after Nigeria gained independence from great Britain in october 1960, many of its friends and well wishers have continued to wonder why a country endowed with so much - a large vibrant population and landmass, an array of mineral resources and vast arable land, easy access to the sea etc., has been unable to harness and deploy its huge material and human endowment and potential into rapid development and prosperity.

"There is infact palpable frustration, even anger, amongst some of Nigeria's best friends that progress has not occured fast enough in a country that providence appears to have favoured. To those friends and well wishers, let me say this: we truly appreciate and understand your concern and sometimes visceral criticisms of our suboptimal performance as a country", he said.

Yesterday's event, presided over by former US Ambassador to Nigeria Princeton Lyman, was attended by present and former top US officials and foreign diplomats. Ajumogobia who arrived in US on Tuesday also met with the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Mr. Johnie Carson, yesterday and will be meeting with Secretary of State, Senator Hillary Clinton, and the National Security Adviser, Gen. James Jones, today.

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