Barack Obama: Irrational Exuberance, Irrational Optimism

It is impossible to deny the historical significance of the Obama victory. At the very least, it gives hope and joy to all those who works for the actualization of a “more perfect union.” And indeed, the Obama victory is a testament to the idea that in the United States of America, dreams do come true. And especially for African-Americans, this is an immaculate moment — a moment not many had dreamt will be possible in their lifetime.

This is a joyous age in the history of the United States. Of course, it is easy to understand the source of this exuberance considering the history of race relations in the US. All the same, this victory, this epoch making event, is not for African-Americans alone. No. It is belongs to all those who believed in his postulations, in his essence and in his vision. This victory is for the living. And for all those who died fighting for such moment.

And so, this is not just a victory for the Blacks. No. It is a victory for all. Even so, the Obama victory means more for and to the African-American community. As a result, should some African-Americans go into trance or trance-like state on inauguration day, no one should be surprised. And then there are the Africans. History shows that the last time a single event had this much impact on the continent was in 1957, when Ghana gained independence.

Nkrumah’s Ghana was a period of hope and possibilities for all Africans. Africa came alive. This was the period before the false promises, the false hopes, and pipedream. We know how Ghana and every other African country turned out. The Obama candidacy, and eventual triumph, is making Africans feel whole and alive, again. In spite of the sorry and pitiful condition of the continent, the Obama victory — in so far as the continent is concerned — reminds one of that eon, of irrational exuberance and irrational optimism.

Frankly, Senator Barack Obama make Africans feel good about their lot in life. Their dreams are anchored in one man, and in one single historical victory. For a period during the campaign, and all through the election, some Africans actually spoke and acted as though Obama was contesting the “African Presidency.” Whatever his human qualities, skills, and qualifications were, Africans wished it on their respective leaders. Whatever his vision and articulations were, they wished same on their presidents.

For Black Africa, what they had hoped and prayed for in their leaders seems abundant in Barack Obama. For several years, they have longed and prayed for such a man to lead them to the mountain top. For the African-Americans, it seems as though the glory and the expectation of giants such as Martin Luther King Jr., Andrew Young, Malcolm X, Jesse Jackson, and many others is manifested in Barack Obama.

The US elections demonstrated to the Third World, especially Africans that they have been unfairly and dishonestly dealt with for most of their lives. It affirmed the notion that African leaders have been abusing and disrespecting them for quite a long time. It affirmed the reality that they have been living under subhuman conditions ever since their independence. It confirmed, once and for all, that their leaders are rate-rate — men and women with no leadership skills; and that for as far back as most of them can remember, they have been ruled by nincompoops and savages.

Something else: should history favor the Obama Presidency, Africans may be able to shed a universal belief which states “Africans are incapable of complex tasks, incapable of productive leadership, and incapable of living their lives without supervision and guidance.” For these and other reasons that are not articulated here, Barack Obama has become the Black Man’s Hope. What a burden!

The Obama phenomenon has also brought into focus a trait that is common amongst Nigerians: taking medication for other people’s pain and agony; going into frenzy over other people’s problems. In a country where one can hardly find fitting, qualified and visionary leaders, a sizeable number of the people were going gaga over leadership tussle thousands of miles away.

The same people who will not volunteer their time or donate to just causes in their own country were throwing their time, energy, and money at the Obama campaign. Nigerians who will not go on the campaign trail in their own country were having sleepless nights over campaign issues in the US. Nigerians who had written off their own country suddenly came alive with pride and devotion towards the US. How ironic!

Month after month for several months, Nigerians acted, spoke and wrote as if the 2008 election was a do-or-die event. Some wrote as if their lives, their happiness, and their prosperity and the lives, happiness and prosperity of their children and grandchildren depended on the outcome of the election. A few others coated the electoral contest in religious terms: Obama the Messiah. It was silly, just so silly and preposterous.

Not to be outdone, Parliamentarians in Abuja and elsewhere suddenly found their voices talking about democracy and its ideals — all the while referencing Barack Obama. The Executive branch was not to be outdone: for weeks and months on end, Aso Rock was glued to the media — all the while praying for Obama. Did it ever dawn on them to aspire to the level of accountability and transparency that marked the American process?

Not to be outdone, even President Obasanjo pontificated about the US electoral process. He, like all African leaders who had spent a lifetime abusing and raping their own people was talking about democracy and decency. As with all African leaders who had spent lifetimes asphyxiating emerging dreams and stars, Obasanjo was claiming and hugging Obama — forgetting that he snuffed the daylight out of many Obamas in Nigeria.

How ironic that Mr. Obasanjo, who had presided over the weakening of Nigeria’s constitution and its institutions, was going into rapture over the US political system and its historic verdict. But of course Obasanjo was not alone in this regard. Even the Kenyan president, Mwai Kibaki, who presided over the slaughtering of his own citizens (over disputed electoral results), was jubilating. A murderer celebrating the emergence of hope.

It is doubtful any Nigerian leader will learn from what transpired in the US. Whatever lessons were there to be learnt will not be learned. Within ninety days of the inauguration of the Obama/Biden Presidency, Nigerian leaders will return to their old ways: raping the people, stealing from the treasury, and usurping the constitution.

With the coming of Senator Barack Obama, Africans are looking to Washington DC for warm and meaningful embrace. Unfortunately, nothing extraordinary will take place in or towards the African continent. Whatever change that is going to take place and take hold in Africa must come from within, fueled by internal factors. Positive change, positive growth, and positive development must be proffered and driven by Africans themselves.

Barack Obama is an American, elected to be the president of the United States. In that capacity, his overriding intent will be to further the national interest of his country. Beyond that, he will look to Europe, to Asia, to Latin America, to Canada and the Middle East. As with his predecessors, Africa will be an after-thought. Then — may be then — it will finally dawn on Africans that their destiny is in their own hands.

Written by
Sabella Ogbobode Abidde
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1 comment
  • Sabella

    Very good and thought provoking article and well written.

    I honestly don’t understand why Nigerians and other Africans are celebrating Obama’s victory in the U.S. They have failed to realize that Obam won this election based on his promise on what he will do for the United state of America and not for AFRICA!!!

    Africans now think that Obama is going to tripple aid to the African continent – How Pathetic!!!!

    One thing that we Africans fail to realize that is that if this same person – Barack Hussein Obama was living in Africa, in Nigeria or Kenya. He will never become president – Why? First of all if he was living in Kenya, he could never rise this high on the political scene simply because he is a luo – one of the minority tribes in Kenya. The same will happen if he was in Nigeria – The chances of electing a president from one of our minority tribes is very slim. You either have to be a yoruba or Hausa. The same Africans rejoicing because America now elected it’s first black president will hardly even give him a chance if he were back in Africa. We don’t value intellectual individuals at all. One has to come from a very influential or affluent family to engage in politics. You hardly see a simple middle class individual getting any support if he wants to run for public office.