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11.11.2008 Feature Article

From my rooftop:What Obama victory means to Africa

From my rooftop:What Obama victory means to Africa

The atrocities and hardships in Darfur, the killings and despair that have gripped DR Congo as a result of renewed fighting in that country and other conflict areas on the continent briefly lost space on our memory chips.

It was as if Africans were going to the polls to elect a continental leader. Everybody who cares about politics and appreciates the racial equations in American politics was on edge.

The question being asked at the turn of every comer was: Will it happen in our time? Even though the polls which are conducted scientifically, not like the guess work we do here, were pointing to victory, there was that lingering uncertainty that something will happen in the last minute to turn the tables and bring the African dream to a sad end.

When the results came out on Wednesday morning, the reaction was explosive, infectious and spontaneous. A whole continent, the whole Black race, heaved a heavy sigh of relief.

The Black man has finally crossed a formidable psychological carrier and can now move forward without any inhibitions or complexes. That was what the Barrack Obama victory for him to become the 44th President of the United States of America (USA) has done to a people still struggling for recognition and self-esteem.

The Obama story started about four years ago, when he delivered a fiery and thought-provoking speech at his party's convention. The party chiefs sensed immediately that in Obama, there was a potential leader. But even then, probably apart from Obama himself, I do not think there was any remote dream that four years later he would be the President of the US.

When he launched himself onto the campaign for the party's nomination for the presidency, it was like one of those things to spice the racial menu and affirm that declaration that every American has equal opportunities to aspire to any height, no matter how quixotic some of the ambitions may sound. The odds were heavily against him. He was too young 47. And, above all, had a Black man's blood flowing through his veins.

Typical of us, and drawing on our inferiority complex, we Africans were the first to dismiss Obama's ambitions. He is a day-dreamer. How can White America vote for an African-American as President to sit in the Oval Office in the White House? Most people kept asking. Others said the Whites would only tolerate him to a point to give some faint hope to the Blacks and other minorities before tossing him somewhere to return no more.

Even as the gruelling Democratic primaries between Obama and Hillary Clinton gathered steam and everything was pointing to an Obama victory, most Africans were still not ready to come to terms with reality.

We were not prepared to accept the fact that there is a big determination and yearning on the part of Americans to move away from their past and build a new national image. We did not want to believe that the present generation of Americans is not entangled in the racial prejudices of the past and that their quest for change cannot be sacrificed on the altar of racism. We did not want to believe that Obama is not a descendant of freed African slaves, but the son of a Kenyan and a White American and, therefore, he cannot be seen as a servant trying to rule over his master.

When the endorsements started to pour in from all corners, it should have given us the clue that something is taking place in America and Obama is the vehicle driving that force - a force of change.

The Obama/Hillary Clinton primaries had been described as one of the fiercest and longest and when it ended with Mrs Clinton conceding defeat, it became obvious that change was on its way. How ironical that that change should fall on the shoulders of a relatively young African-American!

The truth is that the US misused its sole superpower status to bully the whole world. It went to war against Iraq without justification or UN mandate. It went to Afghanistan under a flimsy excuse and realised rather too late that that mountainous, rugged country hastened the collapse of the Soviet Empire. The US has become like Cyclopes, a wounded, blind giant destroying everything on its path in search of solutions to its imaginary problems.

The only remedy• is for the US to break from its past and chart a new path. That was how Obama came into existence and took the US by storm. It is good for mankind that when the world came to the cross-roads, it took a Black/White man to redirect its course.

The greatest benefit of the Obama phenomenon is to Africa. Ever since Africa and its people and natural resources were 'discovered' by White adventurers, ever since Africans were shipped into slavery and ever since some Europeans met in Berlin in 1844 and shared Africa among themselves, the continent and its people have been struggling for a psychological valve to redeem their image.

Apart from its rich natural resources, nothing good comes from Africa. So intense was the brainwashing and the psychological bombardment that Africans themselves gave up and accepted their fate as third-class citizens. Their leaders are always on the move, seeking solutions to local problems from foreigners.

They are excited the more if they receive glowing praises from foreign leaders, even though they will be the first to admit that they least deserve those titles bestowed on them. Our professionals lack self-confidence, unless they attach some qualification from a foreign university to their name.

Our intellectuals cannot lead the people to self-discovery because they have become slaves to foreign cultures and values. The three-piece suit is a mark of civilisation, affluence and influence. The Africanness is gone and the search for self-identity has become the order of the day.

The Obama victory, it is hoped, has restored the confidence of the African. If great America can see something good in the African, to the extent that it is ready to entrust its destiny into his care, what about the African? How does he see himself? A miserable being who cannot survive without foreign assistance?

If Obama has been elected to govern America, why can't Africa get leaders who can shepherd it into glory? That is one big challenge for the political leadership of the continent. We need selfless leaders who have vision.

We need leaders who can nurture dreams into reality. We need leaders who can bring a change to a continent bogged down by conflicts, hunger and starvation, disease, poverty, squalor, ignorance and other deprivations.

We have a lot of Obamas on this continent, only if in choosing our leaders we will put things in their right perspective and choose leaders based on quality and no other considerations.

Some may argue that Obama is a hybrid .of White and Black. That is true. But we have many of such hybrids on the continent who are yet to make their mark. That means we have a lot of capable men and women on the continent who can move Africa from its current sordid state.

To our African-American brothers and sisters in the US and other places, they have no excuse to remain where they are now. Obama has shown that they can go beyond the boxing ring, the tracks and the musical stages just entertaining others. They can also reach the top.

That barrier of inferiority complex, that barrier of inadequacy, that barrier of self-pity and dependency has been broken. Shall we begin to see ourselves in a different world, a world of hope, prosperity and progress after Obama's achievement?

Author: Kofi Akordor; Daily Graphic

Kofi Akordor
Kofi Akordor, © 2008

This author has authored 11 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: KofiAkordor

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