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This Obama guy - In the context of Ghana’s history
E. Ablorh-Odjidja, Ghanadot

Well, I thought there was something that I liked about “this Obama guy” other than his blackness and I found it in his speech to the Ghanaian parliament.

He said, “"Now, make no mistake: History is on the side of these brave Africans, not with those who use coups or change constitutions to stay in power. Africa doesn't need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.”

The proof for this historical statement is already in. This year, Africa will celebrate the centennial of Kwame Nkrumah. However, who remembers the date of birth for Kotoka or Afrifa?

The days for brute force to rule Africans are gone.

For those who campaigned on the message of Obama’s “change”, this is the real change that Africa needs: a metaphysical change that requires no sweat other than the use of our God given brains (Pardon my expression but apply this only to those who believe in the existence of a Supreme Being).

There has been much need by some to use coup as a catalyst for “change,” and others to justify it for the good things that may follow: Without this coup, they will argue, we would not have had a strong constitution, or freedom of the press, etc.

The problem with this reasoning is that it is fallacious. Seizing the keys to another’s bathroom is an event. But it should not necessary follow that if one should subsequently have a need to use the bathroom, after the event, you, the strongman, would be the one who gave him the ability to urinate!

The same sense should apply to our need for democracy and freedom. Freedom is natural to the human being. Much has been said about this, so I need not belabor this point. Freedom is good for proper human behavior and dignity as Obama implied.

“I've come here to Ghana for a simple reason: The 21st century will be shaped by what happens not just in Rome or Moscow or Washington, but by what happens in Accra, as well.” He said.

The often talked about “Global Village” has been here for much longer than we think. Our behavior in “tiny” Ghana or Africa has always been under a microscope. Our village idiots, the Sergeant Does, the Idi Amins (you can add the rest for "good" company) who took the stage or microphones without our consent, were as much a reflection of our reality as those who were more sane. No need to encourage these individuals any more.

The essence of Obama’s speech is that it contained much that many of us have sometimes thought about, agreed with or have been afraid to say openly. We have glorified coups. He has put the final nail to that coffin.

Obama’s statement that “We must start from the simple premise that Africa's future is up to Africans,” has been said in many forms by others; our own George Ayittey for instance.

Ayittey coined the phrase in response to the situation in Somalia when he said “'African solutions for African problems.”  He has been given very little credit for that except to be referred to as “Afro-pessimist.”

Or, in the famous words of Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, a man easy to love or hate, when on his visit last year said “baloney”, to a question whether America intended to establish a military base in Ghana to subvert our independence. Of course, he meant “you are on your own buddy,” in case you missed that.

Good old George is from Texas. Obama is one of us.

Continuing with Obama, he said “I say this knowing full well the tragic past that has sometimes haunted this part of the world. After all, I have the blood of Africa within me, and my family's …… my family's own story encompasses both the tragedies and triumphs of the larger African story…. Yes, a colonial map that made little sense helped to breed conflict. ….. But the West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants.”

Colonialism has been used as excuse for much of our problems. Less is said about our inability to use our minds, rather than brutal force, to create and checkmate the effects of colonialism. Colonialism drew the boundaries, but we have not been able to undo these markers.

Witness how this excuse of colonialism has turned us into a flock of chickens placed under a historical basket, with neither the will nor the intelligence to free ourselves!

The applause to our collective Ghanaian-self came when Obama said “ the people of Ghana have worked hard to put democracy on a firmer footing, with repeated peaceful transfers of power even in the wake of closely contested elections.

“As I said in Cairo, each nation gives life to democracy in its own way, and in line with its own traditions. But history offers a clear verdict: Governments that respect the will of their own people, that govern by consent and not coercion, are more prosperous, they are more stable, and more successful than governments that do not.”

Yes, we managed the transfer in Ghana, but it did not come easy. Now let’s see what happens next. Will the politics of intimidation threaten to keep those who won in power forever? Will institutions, instead of protecting us according to our constitution, be turned into machineries of political coercion?

“But make no mistake” Obama said “… For just as it is important to emerge from the control of other nations, it is even more important to build one's own nation.” (Not with a coup. Emphasis mine)

With this, I tip my hat to President John Agyekum Kufuor. He is the first after Nkrumah to gain a full grasp of this concept.

E. Ablorh-Odjidja,Publsiher, Washington, DC, July 11, 2009

Permission to publish:  Please feel free to publish or reproduce, with credits, unedited.  If posted at a website, email a copy of the web page to . Or don't publish at all.





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