On Obama’s inauguration, I wore black!
By Obo Effanga
On January 20 2009, a black man, his even “blacker ” wife and two black daughters moved into The White House – a house built more than 200 hundred years ago by black labourers, but until now only occupied by whites! What more could be described as “a defining moment in world history” than this? A little over a year ago, many still said this day would never come. But for some of us, we saw in Barack Hussein Obama, a freshness and change we could believe in. But yet many more said “our sights were set too high”; that America “was too divided; too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose“.
I still remember Obama’s speech on January 3 2008, after winning the first caucus of the Democratic Party primaries in Iowa. He said the Iowans had done what America could do within that year – “stand up and say that we are one nation; we are one people; and our time for change has come.” He talked about the change that was coming to America and many of us added, “nay, the change is coming to the world”
As testimony to the momentousness of Obama’s presidency, a record-breaking number of television viewers watched the event across the world. It topped the current record held by the funeral of Princess Diana in 1997; man’s landing on the moon in 1969 and the final game of the FIFA World Cup 2006. An estimated 1.2 million international audience also massed at Lincoln Memorial Square for the event. I remember seeing people wave their individual countries’ flags – Canadian, Kenyan, Brazilian etc.
January 20, 2009 certainly marked one great step for America and one giant stride for humanity. It is hoped that many more states are going to follow this path to abolish segregation and other attitudes which stress our differences rather than the oneness of humans as God’s creation.
Yes, we are all differently created and turn out as blacks and whites; men and women; able and disable; Jews, Christians, Muslims etc; rich or poor; yet we are all humans and equal before God.
Can we in Nigeria seize this auspicious moment to consider what went well in the American elections that made an Obama phenomenon possible and latch onto it?
Americans listened to the message, not necessarily the messenger – a man who came along with, as he and his wife Michelle joke about it, “a funny name”. What was worse, Obama arrived the scene when his near name sake, Osama (bin Laden) had become the world’s pariah-in-chief!
The sitting president did not abandon his presidential duties and railroad everyone in his Republican Party to support any single candidate over and against all others. Even when Senator John McCain emerged the standard bearer of his party, George W. Bush did not give him a presidential jet to fly around neither did he follow, nor lead him to campaigns. That would have amounted to creating an uneven playing field among the contestants.
Ordinary folks filed out, mobilised, campaigned and volunteered to make the elections work, confident that their votes will count. If they were ever in doubt about their votes counting, they protected them. In Florida, the Obama campaign recruited 5000 lawyers to be ready to go to court if anything fishy propped up.
Because rules were properly followed and not redrawn overnight, the results were out as soon as they were tallied and the non-winner (I cannot call him loser) immediately congratulated the president elect because America and its dream are more important than any sectional and personal interests. That night of November 4 last year, McCain made one of the best speeches of the 2008 presidential elections.
The electoral body did not obstinately and convolutedly remove valid candidates from the ballot. Law enforcement agencies did not hound candidates or tie their hand to their backs while the preferred candidates of the state were let lose and hand-held by the incumbent president to campaign grounds.
On November 4 2008, I remember going to my office, dressed in white and announcing that I wore that because on that day a fellow black, was going to take the White House. Someone said I was in for a shocker. Yes, I got a shocker…a black man took the White House and we cried tears of joy.
On Obama’s inauguration, I wore a black caftan because black is beautiful and my ‘brother’, Obama his wife Michelle and their lovely daughters, Malia-Ann and Natasha (and their dog, which Obama promised the girls) were going to enter and claim the White House. And they did, in grand style. After all the White House was built from the sweat of blacks!