When the French President Emmanuel Macron visited Nigeria, little did we know the many promises his actions would hold. Nigeria’s cultural pride was restored with his visit to Africa Shrine, his words of encouragement, giving inspiration for development in other areas. BUKOLA OGUNSINA examines Macron’s visit in the backdrop of his statements on Africa.
When the French President Emmanuel Macron Arrived Nigeria on the 4th of July, a day that corresponded with the American National Day, Nigeria’s own fireworks were the ones to rent the air, figuratively speaking. He had just finished attending the African Union summit in Mauritania.
Little did we know that Macron would once again, take us down memory lane through his visit to Fela Anikulapo Kuti’sAfrica Shrine in Lagos. His actions took many Nigerians by surprise. He was neither aloof, nor distant.
Macron’s State visit to President Muhammadu Buhari, while we can say was just like any other presidential visit in terms of the usual strings of formalities and etiquette that goes along with it, nevertheless we can also say it appeared as one of the most casual and comfortable visits from a head of state, as he not only mingled easily with the President and his entourage, but mingled also with Nigerians. Perhaps this points to the fact that he once worked and lived in Nigeria, and for him coming back was as well visiting a part of his past. And not many are aware that he had served his country in Nigeria as an intern for six months in the early 2000, working at the French embassy. No wonder he felt at home.
Whatever the case may be, his visit was one that did not seem to put pressure even in these times of security fears and seemed to say, ‘We are with you Nigeria,’no matter what, bringing colour and succour in a time of tears at the loss of our fellow citizens to the crisis in Jos, and then the tanker explosion in Lagos, and the killings of service policemen in Abuja, among others, it was a welcome distraction, aninterlude, a soothing balm, a comic relief all wrapped up in one, that came with a relentless silent message of hope, ‘believe in Nigeria’.
The French President’s one time infamous speech regarding Africa, still leaves a bitter taste to the memory, when he fell under heavy criticism for calling Africa’s problems civilisational, and its women having seven or eight children, and as such constructing problems that hinder the continent’sdevelopment, while, all in the same breathe failing to acknowledge that colonial rule was not a figment of Africa’s imagination.
This singular visit of Macron may perhaps have redeemed his image in the most populous black nation, however it can not be said what several other Africans feel in light of that notorious statement. Which makes him a tad bit complex to understand. Who is Macron and what message is he trying tosend out to Africans? Is he a friend or Foe? He stands the most controversial European leader in the context of African matters. What he is to Africa, perhaps time will tell. He was on national TV, as President Muhammadu Buharireceived him, he responded warmly with the customary French greeting, a kiss on either cheek.
He had hinted to media that regional security and the fight against Boko Haram would be prioritised in his meeting with the Nigerian President.
And then after his visit to the State House, he headed off to Lagos to visit Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s Africa Shrine. The latefamous musician Fela, it is said, preferred to be called ‘Anikulapo Kuti’ as opposed to Ransome Kuti. Again Macron surprised us all, tie and jacket gone, sleeves rolled up and in ‘relaxation mode’, one could hardly miss the eagerness and excitement in Macron’s face and voice when hearrived the shrine in Lagos in company of the Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode.
He had positive views of Nigeria’s movie industry Nollywood. And immensely enjoyed the performances which included an African fashion display which highlighted models trotting down the runway, and traditional dance performances among others. He even joined in beating the African drum,and attempted to dance with Femi Kuti on stage.
On a solemn note the French President had mentioned that Africa had to build a new common narrative, recognise the negative pages of history and move on forward. And to this end, Nigerian youths should be involved in politics. Yes it was clear he savoured the moments, this was evident in the way he indulged some guests at the occasion by taking a selfie them. It has been said that he is the First president to have officially visited the home of Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
However the highlight of his visit to the Africa shrine was little eleven year old Kareem Olamilekan. Kareem had drawn a portrait of the French president in just two hours prior to the visit, an exact image of Macron. Endearing it was to watch as the portrait was presented to the French president, and even more endearing was the little boy walking confidently across the stage to Macron, the exchange between the president and the child prodigy, as Macron leaning down, his hand behind the boy’s head in a fatherly gesture, drew him closer, and foreheads touching, whisperedperhaps his appreciation and some words of encouragement to little Kareem.
And so that would be the course Macron’s journey took. That of encouragement and advice to Nigerians. Talking to young entrepreneurs in company of Tony Elumelu, even mentioning the disturbing rate at which African migrated illegally when they had so much potentials to develop themselves in Africa. Born Emmanuel Jean-Michel Federic Macron on the 21 of December 1977, the French president is also an ex officio Co Prince of Andorra. His educational background includes studying philosophy at Paris Nanterre University. He also graduated with a Masters of Public Affairs at Sciences Po, and Ecole Nationaled’administration (ENA) in 2004. He worked at Inspectorate General of Finances as a senior civil servant and afterwards became an investment banker at Rothschild & Cie Banque.
In 2012 he was nominated Secretary General to the President. He was appointed Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs in 2014 under the Second Valls government and resigned in August 2016 to launch a bid in the 2017 presidential election. He won the elections on 7th May 2017 and became the youngest president at 39 years old, in the history of France.
Long after his visit to Nigeria, the image that would remain carved in the hearts of many, is the memory of President Macron’s fatherly engagement with little Kareem, his hand behind the boy’s head drawing him closer as their foreheads touched. The exchange that ensued and what it would mean to Kareem several years to come.
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