I get it. History has been made. America has done what only America will lead the developed world to do – choose a black man (for the first time) as its leader. He’s a smart, eloquent, charismatic and seemingly sincere young man. Good for him! Good for America and, maybe – just maybe – good for the world too.
From all indications, Barack Obama will be a great leader. The change he promises to deliver is exactly what his country needs. The world cannot wait to see the back of the man Obama will be succeeding. So, maybe, the world needs a bit of the Obama magic to get rid of the suspicions among nations, to end the wars and essentially help the world get along.
But, forgive me, am I missing something here? I do not understand why men and women as well as boys and girls from Nigeria to Namibia, from Libya to Liberia and from Kenya to Gambia are so happy that America has elected a new leader. I don’t get it.
I perfectly understand why Americans will travel from every corner of their country to converge in a park in Chicago to hear their new leader deliver a victory speech. But it doesn’t make sense to me that the Kenyan government declared a public holiday to celebrate the election of a new American president – simply because the new leader’s runaway father was a native of the African country.
Africans suddenly want to hijack Barack Obama and make his success their own. Some people are naming their kids after him. Others are changing their names so that they will have either ‘Barack’ or ‘Obama’ somewhere in their passports and other official documents. Musicians are singing about him. Politicians around the continents are claiming to be the African equivalent of Barack Obama. Obama is here, Obama is there… Obama is everywhere and it’s getting to me. Seriously!
Ask the next man you see on the street in an Obama T-shirt why he loves the American president-elect so much and most of them will tell you that he’s a “fellow black brother” or something to that effect. In essence they support Obama simply because he’s black. When I say I am not an Obama fan, people look at me as if I had made some derogatory remark about their mothers. One person wrote to me: “don’t tell me you don’t believe in anything black.”
Others also think that with Obama in charge of the most powerful nation on earth, America will be more benevolent towards Africa. “He will do a great deal us,” I heard a Kenyan man say on the BBC.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
First, on the issue of race, I don’t feel I am under any obligation to support anyone simply because of his race (or ethnicity for that matter). This ‘he is one of us’ attitude is one of our biggest setback on this continent and it has be nipped in the bud. Obama is a good guy, but I saw a better candidate in John McCain – even though I knew he would lose. You think otherwise? Great! Your side won. But let it not be said that you settled on Obama for the simple reason that he is black.
Secondly, let’s not kid ourselves on the issue of what Obama’s victory means for Africa. He owes Africa nothing. We didn’t vote for him and the fact that his runaway dad comes from this part of the world does not mean that he owes us any special favours.
Since it was the American people who elected him, their needs will be his priority. Africa will definitely not be top on his agenda. He might push some new initiatives to support African countries with funds for development – as all his predecessors have done. But he will not do us any favours because we are his kith and kin. He definitely will not make it easier for us to gain American visas. He cannot end the wars on the continent if our leaders continue to take great delight in divide and rule. Obama will not provide us with water, hospitals, schools and good, sensible governments. That’s not his job.