Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Barack Obama as a historical imperative (2)

THE overwhelming landslide victory recorded by Senator Barack Obama on November 4, 2008 to clinch the ticket to the White House as the first ever-black African American to be elected president of the United States confirmed my prediction in this column on March 4 stating the obvious. I had predicted based on first hand personal assessment of Obama in debates with his other party contenders that he is the man to beat. He possesses extraordinary intelligence that has the force of history behind to propel him to the top coveted office of the United States President. I am highly elated like trillions around the world that Obama finally emerged as winner of perhaps the hottest and grilling presidential contest in the United States.

The victory reconfirms the philosophical principle that nothing is absolute and change is inevitable. America has existed for over 200 years and has been ruled by 43 white presidents. Obama's emergence marks a turning point in American history. The event in a way reinforces what the Continental Congress did on July 4, 1776 when it signed the Declaration of America's independence. But there can be no complete independence in a country where segments of the population were regarded as second-class citizens. The Obama victory has finally broken the yoke and completely made everyone free in a fully independent America. This is the critical significance of this victory.

I had said in the first piece of this write-up and I would like to repeat it. An Igbo adage says, if you wake up in the morning and a chicken starts pursuing you, you should run away because you don't know whether the chicken has developed teeth at night. The unusual more often than not happens and it is the unusual events that make the highest point in history. The events usually start like a joke. The modest initial expression of what would turn out to be a turning point often betrays understanding of the historic end point. Without such unusual events happening, history will be boring and uninteresting. The part of history in America where what Obama has done would be written will certainly mark one of the highest points that posterity would like to read.

Obama is a novice in the political arena when compared with his Republican presidential contender, Senator John McCain. The historical forces that brought him to lime light shaped him and gave him strong edge to be able to address hard issues of the time. His first-rate oratorical power made him galvanize the American people to appreciate his point of view. It is one thing to possess wisdom and astute intelligence yet it is another thing to have the capacity to convey it across and create lasting positive impression that could rise above entrenched traditional beliefs.

Certainly, Obama possessed all the pluses that ran throughout the hectic campaigns. His uncommon skill enabled him to preach the message of "change" to a nation that is engaged in avoidable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have contributed to a slow but emerging economic recession. Every historical epoch has a genius to drive it. Obama is the man of the moment and clearly no other individual could rival or thwart his unstoppable moving train of change.

Perhaps, it might be appropriate at this juncture to explain the meaning of the name Obama if that would give some insight into who the man is and what he stands for. The name Obama has its roots in Africa; no doubt his father is an African from Kenya. I think the name has roots in the Igbo word "obo-ama", which could mean a person or thing.

For example, when it refers to a thing, it means "a wide road (highway)" as it were. On the other hand, when it refers to a person it means "the one who clears or maintains the road", "a road-maker". In Igbo, names like this are given to great achievers, men who have distinguished themselves by accomplishing unusual fit. Thus, Ogbuagu means the one who killed lion. Ogbankwa means the great dancer, etc.

In the case of "Oboama", the root of Obama, it literally means the one who makes the way. Making the way also includes building bridges to connect separated communities. Senator Obama's father (Barack Hussein Obama Sr.) was a path-breaker, a bridge builder of sort. Forty-seven years ago, he built a bridge between Africa and America. This he did when only a handful of his kinsmen could venture beyond the shores of Kenya. The poverty in Kogelo, his village in Luo land at the time didn't debar him from breaking through. Thus, he was able to travel to the United States in the early 1960s and studied in Hawaii and at Harvard to become an economist. The blood of the father passing unto the son provided the pull factor in Senator Obama's exploits even though he knew little about his father. But blood they say is thicker than water.

Thus, like his father, the circumstances of his birth or immediate environment did not detract him from his focus. He studied in Columbia University from where he graduated in 1983. In 1991, he graduated from the prestigious Harvard Law School where he left a mark as the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review. In all this, what we are celebrating was given rise by the combined forces of determination, education and hard work.

The president-elect is there to clear and maintain blocked or strained relationships that exist between America and any country anywhere in the world. From the home front, the age-long paranoia between the blacks and the whites has been soothed. The evidence of this is the overwhelming support Obama received from the white voters, particularly the virgin voters. This development would certainly be a factor in future polls in the United States.

On the international front, Obama promised to extend a hand of friendship to America's "foes" and friends. The crisis in the Middle East remains a central issue, which the Obama administration should do all within its power to tackle. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which has spilled over to Pakistan with the spate of insurgency in that country require urgent attention. Astute diplomacy, coupled with an open mind to have a peaceful liveable world in all spheres could be asset in dealing with these nagging issues.

Some analysts believe that Obama should apply wisdom in what some others perceive as what would be a possible constraint to the new administration. That is with regards to how he intends to relate with the republican Bush appointees that could be of critical value to him. The desire to succeed and bring about real change in the social and economic circumstances of the American people is to me of utmost concern. Using wisdom to choose the lesser of two evils should be applied in this matter.

Americans want change and Obama is driving it. Obama should be able to select a strong team of Americans, irrespective of their political affiliation that would help him effect visible change in a short time. The team should consist of individuals of like minds as Obama himself, bridge builders, who have open mind and what it takes to realize the desire of America and the world. Americans and indeed the world are eagerly waiting to see things begin to happen as soon as Obama assumes the mantle of leadership. First impression matters. Obama should try as much as possible to begin on a high positive note that will leave no doubt in the minds of people that indeed the expected change has come.

The significance of Obama's election victory is that it has solidified the belief in American democracy. What it means is that when America talks of democracy, it is clear what is meant is democracy in its purest and transparent form. It is a democracy where the electorate determines the day. Manipulation, witch-hunting and blackmail are alien. It is democracy that focuses on issues of the time and not on stereotypes and entrenched misinformed beliefs of the past that draw society backwards.

The issues of the time include the excruciating wars in Iraq and Afghanistan followed by the global financial crisis. The Bush administration, apparently, has failed to address these issues, or has contributed to them. The failure of Bush and the Republicans gave a leeway to Obama and the Democrats. Considering the radiance represented by Obama in the way he articulated the issues during the campaign debates, the world is waiting to see Obama live up to expectation as the historical imperative that has come to bring change.