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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Africa Must be Wishing George Bush was Still in Office

Oh. Just how most Africans must be wishing that George Bush was still in office! Just how even more Africans must be wishing that US President Barack Obama had his ancestral roots in a land so far than a god-forsaken poor - though changing - village in Kenya.

One year, and counting. "Brother" Obama's presence in the most powerful seat in the world is yet to be felt in Africa - charisma, optimism, race, feel-good factor, and, more optimism aside. Just what happened? Did his term in office come four-years earlier or so many years late?

When the "handsome" president worked his way so hard and earned the trust of Americans (and the world) to occupy the house located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C, so high was the optimism in the World and so astronomical were the expectations within Africa that some thought finally, finally, a saviour, in the name of Barack Hussein Obama had come to save the Dark Continent and remove from its shoulders the bondage of abject poverty and other economic ills affecting it.

But, on his first Safari to Africa after being elected US President, Obama was all to clear, about what he expected from Africa saying; "Development depends on good governance that is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places for far too long. That's the change that can unlock Africa's potential and that is a responsibility that can only be met by Africans."

"That's a responsibility that can only be met by Africans." If this statement didn't and still doesn't speak volumes to Africans on what they should expect from Obama, then nothing will till he bides White House farewell. And during his speech in Ghana, did anyone hear him say "I will do (this) to Africa." It's only the Chinese who are good at saying that to the continent - at least of late.

But just why would an American leader be good to African people if an African leader isn't good to an African person. Isn't Barack Obama's plate already so full with Afghanistan, Iraq, Republicans, Abdulmutallab (read, Terrorism), and now Haiti (read, disasters needing US support)?

In Kenya, it has been a case of tough love from a brother. Since Obama got into office and  remembered that Kenyans dared to riot due to a flawed electoral process, three words have killed the East African economic giant in the eyes of Baba Michel; Good Governance and Reforms. So many Kenyan leaders must be cursing whoever put these words in the dictionary, or better yet, in the articulate man's lips. And why shouldn't they? Whenever Obama thinks of Kenya, he breathes out and talks out good governance and reforms. This flu has even caught up with his topmost employee in Kenya, Mr. Michael Ranneberger - US Ambassador to Kenya.

So it's all been talk and talk on reforms and governance from Washington. The direct financial or developmental benefits, if there, are far and thin. Except...

Except for Obama's ancestral village, K'ogelo, which has risen from a sleeping suburb with close to zero amenities to a force to reckon with in the tourism business in Western Kenya. If visitors keep on streaming in on Mama Sarah Obama's home village, the ever-smiling octogenarian may soon enter the coveted Guinness Book of World Records as the person who has met so many people of different classes, cultures and backgrounds. From filthy-rich billionaire Sulaiman al-Fahim — the point man of mega-rich Abu Dhabi United Group, to poor students from Barack Obama secondary school in the outskirts of Mama Sarah's home, from Authors seeking to retrace the US president’s roots to visitors just dying to shake her hand. The list is endless and continues to lengthen, and so does Mama Sarah's life.

But what of other African nations? What more does Ghana has to remember besides the waning pride that she was the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa that attracted Obama. They benefited then, and now? What of Nigeria which declared two days national holidays to celebrate Obama's victory? So far, Abdulmutallab and Nigeria being mentioned in the top five terrorist nations reminds Obama of Nigeria and Nigeria of Obama.

Two things though. Either Barack is not a philanthropic President like George Bush, or he gives to those who are not only willing to receive but also to pass through to those in need.

Take for example, Kenya, Obama's ancestral land. Isn't this not a land where money meant for taking and keeping children in school to get the all important education goes on a safari to hang out with other funds swindled right from the noses of Kenyans. Isn't this not the place where the poor become poorer everyday even as they walk long distances to earn starvation wages - which are taxed - live in dingy dwellings marred by crime and grime, and no one seems to give a damn? And isn't this not one of the many states in Africa famed for an act which measures to the standards of inhumanity, where the rich become richer by proposing for increased salaries and allowances which are not taxed?

Obama seems to be the kind who never settles for something less than a clean bill of health. And which African state can claim it has one? Tanzania? Nope. Nigeria? Ghana (hmm), Somalia, oops, or is it South Africa? Really?

Whether he wins his second term or not, Obama's presidency has nothing to do with Africa. The continent has enough resources to feed itself and even have reserves for nations like Comoros and the Solomon Islands. What does an American leader has that an African doesn't? What did God - or is it Allah - give Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany or Sellapan Ramanathan and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore that He was selfish enough not to give to Mugabe or Kabila? A corrupt mind? Methinks the only difference is an African leader uses his brain to find a way to enrich himself at the expense of the majority, uses his eyes to look at what he can grasp for himself and close relatives, uses his hands to put everything he acquires fraudulently in his own pocket, uses his influence to run away from justice, and uses his legs to kick beggars from his doors. HE is the word because Africa is ruled by He's, minus Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, presidential-ly speaking.

If Africa wants Obama to help it solves its problems, there are only two ways to go about it. Good governance, and Reforms. Conceivably, they should also consider giving him a hand in Afghanistan and Iraq. Or better yet, why doesn't the African Union shelve the US the bother of having to deal with Somalia or Sudan? Don't they have trained officers who can deal with the shabby Al-Shabaab?

And by the way, the US economy was on a downfall just yesterday. The economy is now recovering, barely a year after it was hit by the recession. Can you say the same of most African countries which have had years and years to bounce back from economies beaten by inter-ethnic, inter-faith and other kinds of inter-vices?

Africa should mind about what their tribal chieftains and financial crooks are doing to them. Obama is a USA (United States of America) President, and not a USA (Unreliable, Useless Statesmen of Africa) President.

Leave "my cousin" and America alone! The guy can't just wake up from his dream of playing for Chicago Bulls basketball team, and write a bullish grant worth a billion dollars to Africa. Any funding must be of merit and needs to be vetted and scrutinized - even more keenly than it happened during the times of Bush, the man considered to have been the most philanthropic to Africa, even more than Bill Clinton.

So I won't be surprised if Barack leaves office without announcing a grant worth even one-hundred bucks to Kenya or any African country.

There's more to worry about for our flappy-eared Barack than helping a continent that is willing, but not ready to help itself. Uncle Barry, worry about how you would come to my village K'ogelo without being seen as wasting American taxpayers money. I'll be waiting.

In the meantime, do the right thing and bring the change that we believed in to the world. And don't start campaigning for 2012 elections now like some agenda-less crooks in your beloved Kenya are doing. Yes You Can.

And you Africans, you must be wishing that Bush was still in office to throw some manna from Washington. Sorry.

And that's the Steifmastertake!!