By Maximus Attah (Accra, Ghana)
President Barack Obama makes a historic visit to Ghana on July 10 and 12 2009. The epoch-making visit has already made international news headlines – especially because President Obama chose Ghana ahead of his father’s native homeland, Kenya.
President Obama’s visit to Ghana is his first to sub-Saharan Africa after becoming the first black President of the US. This comes just on the heels of his historic speech to Arab leaders in Egypt last June. Officials in Ghana who are optimistic the visit would leave in its trail a lot of investment opportunities are making frantic preparations for the most powerful president’s visit. According to the officials, publicity is in top gear and they are not leaving anything to chance.
Already there are huge billboards splattered all across the city. Some have the portraits of both the visiting US President and his host John Evans Atta Mills of Ghana. Others have the portraits of Michelle Obama and Naadu Mills of Ghana side by side.
Indeed some of the co-branded adverts have the inscription 'Akwaaba', to wit in Ghanaian palace, welcome. This might perhaps tell the visiting first family from the US that Ghanaians want to extend that legendary measure of their hospitality to the first son of the African soil to become the Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful military in the world.
However, on the streets, President Obama's expected visit is not making enough buzz to the ordinary people. Some residents of Accra believe that the authorities should have done more in terms of publicity. Some believe that the expected visit is a 'class thing' – where only the rich and politically connected are going to benefit. Some are also of the view that the Ghanaian President should have used an Executive Instrument (EI) to declare Friday, July 10, 2009 a holiday – those people also believe that it was possible for Ghana's Republic holiday which fell on July 1, to have been shifted to coincide with President Obama’s visit.
A development however expert believes that Obama chose Accra ahead of all other African capitals for his first formal visit to sub-Saharan Africa because it represents the hope for a new Africa.
Apart from being the trailblazer in the independence struggle, Ghana is relatively more developed with a working democracy and quite an advanced infrastructure.
All these varying positions tell you one thing, ‘that Ghanaians are expecting the visit to be grand’.
Other politically well-informed citizens are also theorising that the US President chose Ghana ahead of all her peers because of the recent discovery of crude oil in commercials quantities here.
A careful observation of the streets of Accra is however enough to tell a first time visitor that Accra is preparing for a celebration. Almost all the street pavements are being fixed in readiness for the visit. Streetlights are being repaired and almost all the streets are being draped with the colours of the two states. There are also other wall hangings with the inscription 'partnership for change'.