Monday, July 13, 2009

Obama's Visit: A [trenchant] View from Ghana


It was always going to be difficult writing an entry about Obama, when all around me had written theirs, and I was found wanting.

For me, never in the short history of this twenty-first century has so much airtime probably been dedicated to one single person. From the blogs to the regular news—both opinionated and otherwise—everyone has been talking Obama—and whether you like him or not, he is the twenty-first century superstar President of no less than the United States and, who happens to double as a black man.

In the centenary of Osagyefo Dr.Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president, who advocated and promulgated the concept of the African personality, Obama’s meteoric rise could not have been more poignant. In my view, he has come to represent by becoming not just the 44th president of the US, but the first African-American president: the epitome of the post-modern African personality.

Forget the fact that the Black Man no longer has any excuses for getting where he wants to, and maybe consider this: with Obama, no longer will myopic white anglo saxon protestants and people of that ilk obsessed with the rigid preservation of division -- where blacks go this way and whites the other—be confronted by the distorted reality that Blacks are inferior, and that they cannot also have nuclear families with 2.4 children.

With Obama, no longer will it be cool to skip school, to feign helplessness in the assistance of those less fortunate than you; to pretend that your communities do not matter. With this man, no longer will it be cool to display machismo, disrespect the concerns of the opposite sex, and be polygamous in a marriage. With the "yes, we can"-grandmaster, no longer will it be a uncool for the Black man to be happily married, with a supportive wife by his side, who might also be educated. Nor will it be an issue for his progeny to be "only" girls.

For those of us who have been brought up to feel that having a son makes you great, let it be clear that your greatness does not depend on the sex of your progeny, but what you accomplish in your life.

Do they not say that it is not the degree that makes a man great, but the man that makes the degree?

When I set all this against the backdrop of President Barack Hussein Obama’s visit to Ghana, I cannot help but wonder whether his visit was more spiritual than political.

I couldn’t help but wonder whether it was not now cool to be a Black man; be happily married with kids that are girls; be highly-educated; be a listener and an engager?

For so long, the West has managed to perpetuate a picture of Africans being polygamous; having loose sexual morals and being uneducated. Despite the fact that many Africans have gone and come back home to improve the lot of their people’s, it has still taken an awfully long time for the rest of the world to cotton on to the fact that an African is also capable of managing his own affairs. To wit: be well-educated and have a good marriage, where the woman is supportive despite being herself a professional.

The insistence on this side of Obama may belie my sub-conscious—for I too aspire to have a good woman by my side who may be in a good job. I have never espoused the idea that a woman has to be kept at home before doing a good job with the children, and I am slowly and surely accepting that not having a son will not kill me.

As someone who greatly aspires to be a father some day, I believe that the significance of Obama as a family man must not go unnoticed. That he can visibly share intimate moments with his wife and children is a reflection of how far the African personality has come. And by extension, the post-modern African personality.


We know the politics already, and it has been discussed to the death. I am proposing that we use his visit as a filter through which we examine the African family, which for too long has been plagued by the absence of an omnipresent father.

His visit is also about giving hope to the youth, and empowering them to push the envelope in as many ways as possible. It is a serious irony that only this year, the AU declared 2009 to be the beginning of a decade that celebrates the youth of Africa.

I do not know about you, but I am hopeful.

We have always had change, but what ultimately we have with Obama is the quietly-confident capacity of the unsung hero towards existential change that is profound and transformative in a way that he can whisper in the shadows...

yes, we can!

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