By Donu Kogbara

I HAVE just read a fine, thought-provoking article in Time, the American current affairs magazine.  It was composed by a brilliant writer called Joe Klein, shortly after President Barack Obama achieved an epic victory by successfully pushing a radical healthcare sector reform bill he initiated through Congress (the US equivalent of our National Assembly).

Klein tells Time readers how Obama passionately addressed legislators from his own Democratic Party the day before the vote was due, in a bid to encourage them to cast aside any last-minute doubts they may have had about his controversial proposals and support him to the hilt.

After making the substantive case for the reform package, Obama reminded the Representatives why he and they had become politicians and Democrats. He talked about the sacrifices and pressures they’d had to contend with as public officials – the endless meetings, the difficult compromises, the long hours, the painful criticisms from detractors and the considerable amount of time they spent away from their families.

Obama went on to say that the legislators may, in the midst of all this constant stress, have sometimes wondered why they got involved in politics in the first place. He concluded this pep-talk as follows:
“…But you know what? Every once in a while, you have a chance to vindicate all those best hopes you had about yourself…And this is one of those moments. This is one of those times where you can honestly say to yourself, Doggone it, this is exactly why I came here.”

Klein’s verdict is that Obama’s stirring homily was “a perfect balm, after a season of unrelenting scorn and derision [from conservative opponents of healthcare reform – Republican Party members, insurance companies].“…The [Democratic Party] caucus was frightened and exhausted.

The President emphasised a common humanity with his peers…[and] appealed to the battered sense of honour and idealism that still resided beneath their scar tissue. He was seeking not only to inspire his colleagues, but to comfort them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a President do that before…

“…The speech solidified him in his party’s esteem – just as the vote would anchor him in history.”
Mere words cannot sufficiently express my absolute admiration for President Obama’s integrity, compassion, vision, persistence and courage.

Democrats in the United States are ideologically committed to assisting the disadvantaged; and Obama, by proving that he is equal to the task, has outshone many of his predecessors. He flatly refused to cave in to the powerful and selfish interest groups who aggressively lobbied against his plans for the poor and has, after only one year in the White House, kept a promise he made to the ‘Have Nots’ when he was seeking election.

Healthcare reforms will, as Klein puts it, “rectify an astonishing injustice in American life”, being that millions of American citizens are not guaranteed medical treatment because they cannot afford to pay for it.

How I wish that Nigerian leaders would regard my beloved Barack as a role model and take a leaf out of his book!

Many of our politicians come from extremely humble backgrounds and yet display no genuine concern for the suffering brothers and sisters they left behind in impoverished, infrastructurally undeveloped villages that are still stuck in the Dark Ages. Nigerian leaders need to arouse their dormant consciences from slumber and embrace idealism. They need to go into politics for morally upright reasons. They need to create an environment in which folks who have progressive agendas and hearts in the right place can play key roles.

Nigerian leaders should stop hiring completely useless or mediocre subordinates who are slavishly loyal rather than competent or honest. Nigerian leaders should perform well, so they can win elections (as opposed to inflicting themselves on unwilling constituents via rigging).

Nigerian leaders should quit their obsession with wealth acquisition. How many cars, houses or boxes of jewellery does one man or woman need, for crying out loud? How can they go to church or mosque every week – and start and end every government meeting with pious prayers – and then callously fail to do their duty? Do they think they can fool God?

I and most of the Nigerians I know are seriously disillusioned. We desperately need heroes we can look up to and enthusiastically follow. We need a home-grown Obama clone to lift our spirits, deliver practical benefits, transform the society and provide us with a bright future.

Dr Goodluck Jonathan has been given a golden opportunity. And I pray that he uses it well. If the PDP’s annoying, unconstitutional, unfair internal zoning agreement stands, Jonathan will have to hand over to a Northerner in 2011. But he can, like Obama, achieve a lot in one year.

The first Black President of America looks set to become one of the greatest Presidents that America has ever had.  And I as a Niger Deltan will be filled with pride and joy if the first Niger Deltan President of Nigeria turns out to be the best President that Nigeria has ever had.

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