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Nigerians Solidly Back Barack Obama, Hope for Change


With the possibility of an American president whose roots extend to the African continent, Nigerians are rallying to the cause of Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa in Abuja reports on the Obamania that is currently sweeping the West African country.

If Nigerians could vote in the November U.S. election, then Senator Barack Obama would win the White House in a landslide. Nigerians are solidly behind the history-making Obama when asked which U.S. candidate they support. Few support John McCain.

The enthusiasm for the more charismatic Obama is understandable. An American president with an African background has clearly captured the imagination of most Africans.

Elvis Agukwe heads a group known as Africans for Obama, one of several in the pro-Obama movement in Nigeria. He rejects the opinion that Obama's appeal is borne out of the fact that he could be the first black president of the United States. Agukwe says Nigerians find Obama fascinating because he represents a big change from the unilateral approach to foreign policy under President George Bush.

"When there is democratic election in any part of the world, America takes part," he said. "We are also now interested in what America is doing because whoever emerges in America will play a leadership role and influential role in world affairs. So America must begin to bring the right caliber of leadership that would make the world to love America. We are trying to help America to get it right and know that the world is interested in whoever emerges in the leadership in America. We are tired of wars, we are tired of confrontations."

Nigeria to Send Delegation to Democratic National Convention

The Nigerian senate is sending a high-level delegation to the Democratic Party national convention. Some pro-Obama groups in Nigeria say they will also travel to the United States to honor and support Senator Obama.

Even Nigeria's most prominent armed group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, offered last May to declare a ceasefire following an appeal by Senator Obama, describing him as "someone we respect and hold in high esteem."

Mr. Agukwe says Nigerians are hoping to make their support for Obama count in the November polls.

"If we are legally allowed to make financial contributions, we are going to assist the Democratic Party, to make our modest contributions," he said. "Secondly, we are helping the Democratic Party nominee Barack Obama by praying, by fasting and by urging friends and well wishers and the Americans to support this particular candidate because this candidature will bring peace, will bring change and will bring a new order in world affairs."

Analysts say whoever occupies the White House in January, Africa will be a bigger priority than it has been in recent years. The hope is that an Obama presidency would reinvigorate United States' Africa policy in favor of a strategic partnership.

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