Washington, DC, Aug. 4, 2014 – President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria this night scored a major cultural coup d’etat at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts at 2700 F Street, Washington, DC. If I didn’t witness it, I wouldn’t have believed that thousands of Nigerians, Africans and Americans, would have jam-packed the Center to listen to an extravaganza of Nigerian cultural and traditional musical performances.
I don’t know how Jonathan’s other days are going to be for the U.S.-Africa Leadership Summit, but tonight he was a darling of the thousands of people who were at the Center.
After receiving my African Diaspora Bridge Builders Award from the African Union Diaspora Africa Forum at the Washington DC Marriott Hotel at the Metro Center – by the way Hon. Abike Dabiri, Chairman of the Nigerian House of Representatives Diaspora Committee received one with some members of her committee – we rushed over to the Kennedy Center just as the performances were in the last throes of coming to an end. People were cheering the performers especially the acrobatics of the flutist who normally accompanies the Atilogu dancers.
It had been a magnificent performance for the artists who were cheered incessantly.
At the end when President Jonathan appeared, the crowd jumped up and roared with cheers. Tonight, he won the hearts of Nigerians, Africans and Americans who had come to savor the cultural heritage of Nigeria. This was a part of the transformational agenda of his administration in its attempts at rebuilding the international image of the country.
Outside, as people streamed out, I took the opportunity to talk to some of the people. “Excellent,” “Fantastic,” were the words people used to describe their experiences of the night. At the reception, it was the same encomiums of praise that people lavished at the performances. A group of ten white people just labeled the night, “Amazing.”
“This was simply excellent,” according to Mr. J.K. Randle, OFR, FCA, and Chairman and Chief Executive of the firm, “but we need to show this to the world, not to ourselves.”
“I think the event was a pinnacle achievement of Nigeria presenting itself in a positive light here in America. That the effect was so positive that even the persons from Ethiopia and Kenya that I sat between both said that they were never so proud to be Africans, that their spirits were so raised by the Nigerian presentation,” Mr. Robert Brunner, Vice President and General Manager, Arik Air North America.
After the rousing welcome, Jonathan came out and thanked the audience. He paid great compliments to President Barack Obama of the U.S. “Fifty-three years ago, our Prime Minister Sir Tafawa Balewa was here in Washington DC, as guest of John F. Kennedy to lay the foundation of Nigeria-U.S. partnership, which has been sustained over the years.” We will bring you the whole speech when it is published.