Tuesday, November 11, 2008

If America Can Change...

BARACK Obama’s sweeping victory that makes him the first black president of the United States broke barriers that could finally make America the real great nation its founder dream about.

The popular vote was close — 52 percent to 47 percent - but not the count in the Electoral College, where it mattered most. Obama won with 349 electoral votes, well over the 270 needed for victory. McCain had 147.

It was a race against race, religion, minorities, rights of immigrants, and questions about how American one should be to seek the highest office in the world. Americans decided on a president of colour – in more ways than the skin shade of Obama.

He had colour in conduct, speech, focus, dreams, posture, and handling of tricky issues Americans threw on his way. With his victory, America is on its way to liberating its peoples from the holds of racism, an issue that rules America.

Son of a Kenyan father and a white mother from Kansas, Obama’s victory over John McCain was stunning in other ways. He captured Virginia and Indiana, the first candidate of his party in 44 years to win either. Obama overcame accusations of inexperience, religion (some claimed he was a Muslim, though he was not) links with terrorists (he was deliberately confused with Osama bin Laden) in his meteoric rise from a state senator to president-elect in four years. In 1990, Obama became the first black president of The Harvard Law Review in 104 years.

He admits tough challenges ahead. “Even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime - two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century,” he told about 240,000 people who listened to his acceptance speech in Chicago.

“The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term.”

McCain in congratulating Obama on his profound achievement said, “His success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance. He managed to inspire the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president is something I deeply admire”.

Although the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) prohibited voting discrimination, most southern blacks and minorities throughout the USA had effectively no vote until the 1960s. Not until the Voting Rights Act (1965) did all African-Americans in the United States win the right to vote.

Based on the Voting Rights Act, Shirley Chisholm in 1968 became the first African-American woman elected to Congress and served seven terms, until 1983. Chisholm was the first major party black candidate for President of the United States in 1972 and received 152 electoral votes and lost the Democratic nomination.

Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988 presidential bids surpassed expectations but did not win a nomination.
“I have a dream that my four little children will...not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character,” said Martin Luther King Jr. more than 40 years ago. Obama is the first deep steps in realising this dream.

Nigeria buffeted by lines of division can dream of change, for the survival of this country that is on the throes of nothingness since those who get their hands on the reins of power, think little about the country and its people.

Americans have made a choice that would reshape their world, at a time America is in dire need of change. Nigeria can change if conservative, racist America can change. It starts with the realisation that the greatness of Nigeria and its people is more important than individuals, and their blinkered beliefs.