This Obama guy - In the context of Ghana’s
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
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
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
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
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.
www.ghanadot.com, Washington, DC, July 11, 2009
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