Nairobi, Feb 15, 2008 (The Nation/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX)
-- His presidency could, besides pursuing a pro-African foreign
policy, influence US transnational corporations, the Military
Industrial Complex and scientific institutions to be fair to the
continent, writes OKELLO OCULI, Nation Writer, Nigeria
Barack Obama, now leading Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Party
presidential primaries ahead of key battles in Texas, has come like
rain on American politics.
His campaign theme - 'the source of new hope on a parched land' is a
cleansing agent in a land weighed down by crusted blood of Iraqis
murdered in their own territory by Americans who came to save them
from "weapons of mass destruction".
Obama has come as rain from a Kenyan cloud that seeded in the plains
of Iowa and fell in Hawaii, but refuses to be tied down as just
another "black candidate" pushing primarily for the restoration of
justice for African-Americans by reminding white America of its
Instead, he insists on the freedom of a collective American Messiah
who has come to mobilise all disillusioned children of American
democracy to open up a new frontier in politics. This is Obama's
venture of building hope using the power of hope.
Like rain, Obama must rouse new winds that will blow away drought,
which drought will not depart without a fight. The first facet of
the drought he must shove aside is the old establishment
African-American politicians like Andrew Young in Atlanta and
Charles Randle in New York whose powers rest on being called to the
White House to carry forth addresses to black church congregations
and assemblies of The National Association for the Advancement of
Coloured People (NAACP). These workhorses are seasoned in lobbying
Congress for legislation in favour of black America. Andrew Young
gave that power a voice in a libidinal flavour when he said Bill
Clinton was blacker than Obama because he has had relations with
more black women.
Others put it differently, saying Obama will simply not be nominated
by the Democratic Party when it assembles in its rainbow complexity
at a convention and remembers that those who landed at Plymouth,
Massachusetts, in 1620 aboard the Mayflower and established the
first permanent English colony were White Anglo Saxon Protestants.
To them America is an un-melting rock of racism that will always
melt down everything dressed in idealism.
The new winds in black America are talking of a change of guard.
Arthur Clarke, a classmate of Obama at the Harvard Law School,
believes that those who hold that Obama is unelectable and therefore
will not waste their vote, say exactly what a Caucasian American
would be vilified for if they used the argument for the opposite
purpose of wishing away the very possibility of a black American
president. In his view, there is a fear of getting hurt which
becomes the very cause of perpetuating injury- in this case,
historic injustice against a racial group.
In Nigeria, Obama draws similar conflicting perceptions. There are
those who wish he would win but will not want to bank on his victory
because they believe he will be assassinated by an irate American
racist. The image of America in which even school children mow down
fellow children with guns simply looms like a huge monster.
The prospect of a black man as the president of the most powerful
country in the world is like a deluge that would wash away all the
centuries of decay that slavery (which took millions of people from
Africa) brought. Against this school of thought are those who are
miffed by a sense of historic cheating that Kenya would achieve by
being the African country from which this historic Obama has popped
Obama's history does not help here. His father travelled to America
as a post-independence beneficiary of the Tom Mboya - John F.
Kennedy diplomatic and scholarships rumba. Nigeria's earliest known
migrant to America in search of education was the venerated Nnamdi
Azikiwe. He studied at Lincoln University and the closest that a
Kenyan became associated with his legacy there was when in 1994 when
Kenya's Prof Ali Mazrui was invited to give a lecture on Azikiwe.
The Rockefeller Foundation probably awarded fellowships for training
academics for Nigerian universities and the University of Nairobi in
a ratio of one hundred Nigerians to one Kenyan. By way of subsequent
levels of exodus from Nigeria to America, the figure now probably
stands at over two million Nigerians domiciled in the US. It is
little wonder that a sense of daylight robbery would be felt by
Nigerians if Obama, a Kenyan, grabs the biggest prize.
There are those who worry about other things, notably what to hope
for from American foreign policy when, not if, Obama wins the
presidency. A point of departure is the current perception of Obama
as the John F. Kennedy of the new millennium. Kennedy brings back
memories of his order for the brutal murder of Patrice Lumumba and
the termination of democratic politics in newly independent Congo.
Charles Devlin, an operative of the Central Intelligence Agency,
CIA, would have Joseph Desire Mobutu stage a coup whose consequences
would ruin that rich land till his cowardly flight in 1997 to Togo
and then Morocco where he died of prostate cancer in 1997.
That tradition of military coups would hurl Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah
out of power in 1966 and threaten East Africa with coordinated coup
attempts in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania between 1964 and 1965. It
would bring civil war to Nigeria.
An Israeli newspaper would boast that Israeli intelligence recruited
Aguiyi Ironsi as a coup plotter when he was serving in Nigeria's
military contingent to the UN peace keeping mission in the Congo.
In 1971 a coup booted Milton Obote out of power in Uganda when the
American ambassador there was an African American. Uganda's most
barbaric rule under Idi Amin from 1971 t0 1978 was Obote's reward
for running one of the few African countries that was free of
American foreign policy, like their version of football, has little
patience for players without brawn.
When Obama talks of a wind of change that will make American power
an agent of positive world diplomacy, it is not clear to this group
of Nigerians how he will turn the country's military-industrial
complex away from weapons and their usage abroad as tools of profit.
Obama grew up in Indonesia. It was an Indonesia which could never
have anticipated the Bali bombings as long as memories of the
slaughter of over one million "communists" by a CIA-foisted Suharto
regime remained hidden through his regime's economic miracle. When
it faltered, the social cost of the regime bred an anger that became
responsive to poisonous sermons from Saudi Arabia. It is not clear
how Obama will tilt the sails of American's multinational
corporations, conservative fundamentalists and their surrogates in
the Muslim world.
Obama's African ancestry is seen to hold great potentialities. For
one, it holds the promise of a return to the truncated will of
Africa's peoples to re-domocratise a western world whose legacy of
pursuit of human freedom had been cut short by records of enslaving
Africans followed by genocidal colonial invasions, settlement in,
and administration of Africa. Bursts of liberation wars in Algeria,
Kenya, Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa were
countered by cynical exertions by NATO countries --- including
support for military invasions by apartheid South Africa.
Basil Davidson and Susan George have asserted that deliberate
efforts were made by Euro-American banks to paralyse new
administrations in Africa by promoting widespread corruption. The
resultant debt trap sounded the death knell for millions of
Africans. The call by the first nationalists for ending poverty,
illiteracy and disease" in their countries, let alone Nigeria's
dream of building the "black atomic bomb" for projecting Africa's
power, is paralysed.
Undeterred, new voices have continued to call for Africa's rebirth.
The New Partnership for Africa's Development, NEPAD, is drawing more
than yawns. As Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United
Nations, sat in Nairobi to sort out the tragic conflict in Kenya
over a presidential election dispute, Kenya's Bethuel Kiplagat was
in Nigeria to inspect records of governance within the framework of
Nepad's Peer Review Mechanism, a self-assessment tool invented by
Africa's rulers themselves.
Muhammar Gaddafi's dream of being crowned Africa's first emperor
continues to serve the useful purpose of keeping alive, to a new
generation of Africans, the old dream of Kwame Nkrumah's generation
for creating a United States of Africa.
Barack Obama is uniquely placed to support the fruition of this
dream knowing, as he now does, the sublime challenges of conducting
political rain on a scale as grand, in terrestrial and human space,
as the United States of America.
May his rain come down to sprout a Union of Africa. To which some
Nigerians say "AMEN."
Africa Insight is an initiative of the Nation Media Group's Africa
Media Network Project.