Eye of the beholder

By By Ana Breton

By Ana Breton

Almost everyone has received at least one of them-spam e-mails from wealthy business owners in Nigeria willing to give away their fortune in exchange for private information.They are sent to so many people that even the ambassador of Nigeria has received them.”If you get one of these letters, call our embassy and ask if it’s from a genuine business,” said George Obiozor, ambassador of Nigeria to the United States. “If it is, reply quickly because maybe you’ll get lucky.”Spam e-mail was just one of the topics discussed by Obiozor during a Hinckley Institute of Politics forum featuring the ambassador on Thursday. Obiozor said perceptions about Nigeria are a lot like spam e-mails. Unless they are researched and verified, they will most likely remain a misconception.When the Nigerian civil war ended in 1970, conflict was the focus in relations between Nigeria and the United States, he said. Consequently, relations between the two countries seemed cold, unfriendly and even hostile from other parts of the world, he said.”The reality is that there will always be areas of conflict and competition between Nigeria and the United States,” Obiozor said. “However, in pursuing their foreign policy objectives, nations do not allow all issues of competition to degenerate the issues of conflict.”A crucial issue, Obiozor said, is the demand the United States has for Nigerian oil. Nigeria supplies a minimum of 15 to 20 percent of the energy requirement in the United States.Therefore, he said, the United States needs Nigeria as much as Nigeria needs the United States. “And as the euphoria over South Africa dawns on them, the Unites States will realize that Nigerian contributions will continue to be indispensable,” Obiozor said.Besides relations between the two countries, gender issues within the Nigerian government are also a common misconception in the United States.Women in Nigerian politics are extremely powerful, he said. The ministers of finance, drug control and education have all been women for the last four years.”Gender sensitivity definitely frightens our government for positive reasons,” he said. “(Women) are so effective because they are powerful, strong and fearless.”Oluwatoroti Umuerri, a graduate student in biology, agreed.”Most people are narrow-minded about Nigeria and women there,” said Umuerria, who was born in Nigeria. “And I think clearing misconceptions should be a responsibility.”

Kim Peterson

George A. Obiozor, ambassador of Nigeria to the United States, answers a question about fraudulent letters at a Hinckley Forum on Thursday in OSH.