By Wesley Ngwenya
Let me start by confessing that I was not particularly a Barack Obama fan but was rooting for Hillary Clinton until she refused to apologize, in a New Hampshire town hall meeting, for authorizing the war in Iraq. It was then that I switched camp and followed Obama’s democratic candidacy. I fell in love with the candidate and loved to listen to how he articulated issues. At one time I came close to attending his big announcement rally in Springfield, Illinois having been living in Indianapolis at the time.
That is all history now. Come January 2009 he will be the first black and white president United States of America has ever had. Yes, I have to remind you that Obama is not purely black. In fact, he was not raised as a typical African American kid. He was raised by his white mother and white grandparents. Nonetheless, he is the first president with a different color that the country has ever had. This is quite a milestone and deserves a bottle of champagne for especially the African American and Africans in Africa.
In Kisumu, Kenya , the hometown of Barack Obama’s father, there were celebrations for days. I hear the President there declared a holiday in honor of Obama’s victory. Even here in Lusaka, Zambia we had an Obama victory party. After all the hype and celebrations, I started asking myself questions like—Why are Africans so excited about Obama becoming president? Is it because we expect him to be our savior for the many troubles that we face here? Or is it because he has broken a ceiling and consequently inspired millions of us and we can equally shout yes we can?
Personally, I sympathize with Obama because he faces many challenges that his predecessors never faced in the United States. His expectations, I fear, are so high that after four or eight years it will seem like he never did anything at all. He has the global economic crisis on his shoulders, the war torn Somalia and Eastern Congo, there is Iraq and Afghanistan, North Korea, emerging super powers China, India and Russia. Obama’s to-do list is endless. Let’s not forget the racism and how blacks don’t have similar opportunities that their white counterparts have.
Obama’s expectations at home are as high as those abroad. Even after Obama takes over in January, African Americans, unfortunately, will still have to face the same challenges that they have been facing for over three hundred years. There will still be crime and poverty in Gary, Indiana. There will still be unemployment in Detroit, Michigan and the many white bosses will not be hiring anytime soon. On the highways, the state police will still enforce the Driving While Black law. Right in the soon to be Obama’s neighborhood—Washington DC, black schools have dilapidated infrastructure, overcrowded classroom with low paid teachers.
What therefore should Africans look forward to with a new administration in the United States? I say let’s forget about expecting anything from the Obama administration and continue with our own business. Besides, his laundry list is too long and it is bad manners to bother someone when they are busy. Even if Obama had to try and help Africa, in one way or another, it will be a daunting and dreading task since he has to deal with Africa’s finest leaders such as the Mugabes, Kibakis, Odingas, and Bandas.
Finally, although I was equally excited about Obama’s win, on the other hand, I was saddened because a week before we also had elections, here in Zambia, where we elected a president. The contrast though, is that here in Zambia there were no celebrations about the leader we elected—in fact, it was like a funeral. It is the trend across Africa. We have to blame ourselves for the endless problems we experience because our choice of leaders remains much to be desired. Maybe Obama is our consolation or we should just put Africa for sale. Hey, who knows the Americans maybe interested and we shall be the fifty first state. Even better we get to vote for an American president.