BY MUYIWA ADETIBA
I couldn’t stay up to watch the re-election of President Barak Obama. Much as I wanted to, I knew from my racing heartbeat, that it wasn’t the wisest thing to do.
The last debate I watched, I had spent more time watching the voter’s reaction to the comments instead of enjoying the quality of the debate. I knew then that I was, contrary to my profession, more involved than I needed to be. During the day, I had spent time getting in touch with my friends in the US and the UK. All, and I mean all, wanted Obama to win.
By 5.30am, I was roused from my sleep by ecstatic calls, telling me Obama had won. The relief that flowed through me was so strong that I wondered why. Obama in the final analysis, is an American who will always put American interests ahead of any other interest including that of Kenya, his ancestral home. His last four years neither benefited me nor my country.There are no indications that the next four will. So why am I so involved? I tried to tell myself that his policies were better and more inclusive; and that Mitt Romney was too shifty. But so what? Its still an American election.
After all, Al Gore was to me, a better candidate than George Bush. But I lost no sleep over his loss. I also felt that the dour Scot, Gordon Brown, was a better man to lead Britain out of its recession than the glib, handsome and empty David Cameron. America suffered economically, and in global perception, for its choice just as Britain is suffering economically for the decision to pick Cameron. For me, a bystander, nothing spoil. So why am I so passionate about this American election? Could it have something to do with the colour of Obama’s skin?
Later that Wednesday, I had a meeting with some veteran journalists. Those who had stayed up for the re-election, were bleary eyed from lack of sleep. But they all had this feel-good thing and they all expressed joy at the outcome of the election. Some were so passionate that I again wondered if it would translate to anything positive for Nigeria. These were veterans who had been trained to be objective, even cynical sometimes. Yet, they couldn’t see anything wrong with Obama or anything right with Romney for that matter. And I thought, uneasily, if we were all routing for something other than the content of the head here.
Later, when the demographic analysis came on CNN, it was discovered that over 90% blacks and over 75% Hispanics voted for Obama. Now, that is block voting. And all of us who are delirious, should ask ourselves if Obama would have won if the whites who constituted over 70% of the eligible voters, had block voted too. Our hero, reverend Luther King, admonished us to look at the content of the head (heart) and not the colour of the skin. Is that what we have done? Is that what we do? How many of us have turned on our TV sets to find a white guy and a black guy fight in a boxing contest and instinctively want the black guy to win? Same thing in a tennis tournament. These are not things to be proud of in the twenty-first century.
We must be honest and admit that, of recent, the whites have been more welcoming of content and more tolerant of colour than we have been. Britain has been so tolerant of different cultures that its own culture has been down played. It now proudly calls itself a multicultural society. The other day, France said it didn’t want the use of veils in schools and all hell broke loose. Can any female go to the Middle-East and not cover her head no matter how westernised or feminist she claims to be? I think we should learn to be less sensitive and more tolerant of other people and culture.
While we welcome the second coming of Obama, we must applaud the system that brought the son of an immigrant to the White House. And emulate it. In Nigeria, we are all still consumed with primordial politics of ‘it’s the turn of the North’, ‘it’s the turn of the Igbos’, ‘the Yorubas are maginalised’ etc. The kind of ancient, tribal politics that had not led us anywhere, and will never lead us anywhere.
We should be concerned with what you bring to the dinner table and not who you represent at the dinner table. A country that wants to prosper must look for visionary leaders who have ‘something’ between their ears. Colour, tribe and gender are accidents of birth,and should have no role to play in the new world.
The American white voters the majority – chose content over colour. Can our tribal war lords rise up to this ideal? Can our journalists preach it?
The day a gifted and visionary South African white rises up with the support of the majority of black voters, to legitimately contest for—and win—that country’s highest office, will be the day Africa (and maybe the rest of the world) would have come of age.