My Star oped this weekend:
When Barack Obama beat all odds to become America’s first black President, all eyes were on him, not in just how he would perform, but how he’d tackle problems the Blacks have faced as a group for hundreds of years.
For their part, the Blacks — at least those most affected by these problems — expected Obama to find solutions overnight. That was a pipedream.
On the other hand, some saw the election of Obama as the messianic fulfillment of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
Non-progressives, meaning conservatives in White America, viewed the election of Obama as a passing cloud and the elected among them, especially those in Congress, swore to frustrate and obstruct Obama for the duration he’d be in power, which they did.
Racists, among them, mobilised to ensure Congress had the numbers to achieve this objective such that in the midterm elections of 2010, Obama suffered what he called a shellacking: The Democratic Party losing more than 60 House seats and a half-dozen Senate seats as well as Republican gains in state and local elective offices.
Despite this massive defeat at the polls in 2010, and continued united obstruction by Republicans, Obama went on to be reelected in 2012.
Obama has now exited the presidency after eight years in office with a record of accomplishment that arguably puts him at the top tier of the most successful US Presidents.
Did Obama, as first Black President, make a difference in Black America in his two terms in office?
The answer depends on who you ask. Average Black Americans will tell you he did if anything in breaking that ceiling telling their young the colour of one’s skin is no longer a barrier to achieving greatness in the US.
Black intellectuals such as Prof Cornell West see the Obama presidency as a failure not just for the Black community, but for America, they argue, Obama did not break from being beholden to Wall Street as all Presidents are in favour of Main Street.
There are parallels between Obama and NASA flagbearer, Raila Odinga.
Just as a presidential bid by a Black was resisted for hundreds of years until Obama came along, so too have Kenyans resisted the presidency of a Luo solely based on tribalism no different from the racists’ attitude in America. Like Obama in 2008, Raila is now poised to finally break this resistance to a Luo presidency, which has been cleverly exploited by those in power, and their henchmen, who stand to lose the most when Raila is sworn in as President.
Like Blacks in America, the Luo and others, who so fervently believe in Raila expect him to solve all their problems overnight once sworn in as the Fifth President.
Like Blacks in America, they, too, will be disappointed when Raila completes his term in office as president. For as Obama was not elected to become President for the Blacks only, this too will be the case with Raila. He will not become President of the Luos or NASA strongholds only.
This is the major and irreversible mistake Uhuru Kenyatta and his Number Two William Ruto made when they were sworn to lead the country, namely, assuming and acting as though they were elected to be President for their own tribesmen and strongholds, or, more accurately, to be President for a subset of their tribesmen and henchmen from their strongholds.
To allow these henchmen to use their presidency to loot and further suffocate all other Kenyans, who are barely trying to survive thanks to the historic looting, apathy for their suffering and incompetence of the Jubilee government.
Nobody is saying it’s going to be a walk, but all indications are Raila will be once again elected but this time be sworn in as our next President. When that happens, let everyone be on notice that he will be a President for all Kenyans, not for the Luos, or NASA strongholds.
This is just but one reason why a Raila presidency is most welcome and will be transformative.