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Written by Joseph Ifeanyi Chikunie, Nigerian News Special Column   
May 26, 2008 at 11:01 PM

 Barack Obama is about to cause one of the greatest political upsets in the democratic world. This first time junior Illinois Senator, who many pundits never gave a chance against Hillary Clinton,  the wife of a former USA President and Senator will soon be officially crowned as the nominee of the Democratic Party.

The political contrast between these two personalities is a clear testimony that we are witnessing a political miracle of some sorts. Let us consider the great political gulf that existed between these two democratic candidates.

The Clinton machine in the Democratic Party of America is a very formidable one. During his tenure, Hillary’s husband, Bill Clinton provided his country with qualitative economic gains. Looking back now, many Americans despair at their present economic woe.

The Clinton family moulded and shaped the political careers of many democrats who still owe them allegiance. They appointed a great number of them to exalted political offices, strengthened others politically while creating space for others to grow into political mavericks.

After Bill Clinton left the Oval office of the White House, it was easy for his wife to win a Senatorial seat to become New York Senator. Soon after that, she started preparing the ground for a Presidential career and understandably so. As a benefactor to so many democrats; coupled with Bill’s performance as President, it was widely assumed that it will be a roller coaster for the Clintons. Who will dare stand in the way of the great Clinton fast accelerating machine? The one opening for anyone to challenge Hillary was her vote for the now discredited Iraq War.

Enter one African American, named Barack Obama, a totally political neophyte, without a political name, deprived of important political loyalists and above all without the much desired cash needed to enter the Presidential fray. He had one thing though and still has it: A focused vision, strengthened by hope, so eloquently explained to those who listen; an oratory that makes butterfly fly in your stomach once you hear the forty-six year old young man speak. His father descended from Kenya only to meet Barack’s white mother when he sought academic prowess in the United States of America. This makes Obama a political bat. White Americans see him as African while the African Americans feel that he is not truly one of their own. In fact, at the beginning, more African Americans backed Hillary than Barack. It only took a political blunder by Bill Clinton to alienate them in favour of Barack.

He had grown up with his mother’s people in Hawaii thereby having the Whiteman’s orientation and history. To further accentuate this fact, he attended two of the best institutions in America: Columbia University and Harvard Law School.

Religiously, whereas he professes to being a Christian, many were and are still in doubt. His middle name is Hussein and this pins an Islamic identity on him no matter the arguments. The truth however is that for over twenty years, Barack Obama believes in Christ Jesus and derives his faith from Him. He has so many political baggages that should ordinarily weigh him down and he is some kind of a political orphan.

Such was the political setting: a sixty year old political war horse with an intimidating family name and great political pedigree backed by her former President of a husband, assisted by their daughter, Chelsea and the great many influential democrats and money bags against an African American, whose weapons are hope and eloquence. This was a fight between a political Goliath and a black David. If the biblical David was Jewish in the least, this skinny guy with a funny name is a mere interracial hybrid with black colouration.

It was no surprise therefore that no one dared bet on Barack Obama to beat Hillary Clinton in the Democratic nomination battle many thought will be a landslide for the latter. Hillary also believed so much in her arsenal that she arrogantly carried herself with a body language of one who will not just beat this inexperienced aspirer but perhaps totally obliterate him politically. That she will win was a forgone conclusion.

We now know who has virtually won the nomination as we wait for a coronation of Barack Obama as the Democrat who will do battle with Republican John McCain for the White House come this November.

However, in our Nigeria of today, this will sound a fairy tale to many of our politicians. The probability of this scenario being replicated in any of our main political parties is zero. This is most regrettable considering the fact that Nigeria has many unheralded Barack Obamas who are suffocated once they begin to show signs of challenging the status quo.

At a time, Nigerians need the injection of fresh blood and faces into our national life; the environment is not yet conducive for any Obama to miraculously upset the apple cart in the political stage. Those political nobodies are unusually giving any chance to prove their mettle.

In our polity, any rising Obama-like greenhorn politician competing against a well known political family will be asked to listen to the Garrison Commander of his constituent and step out of the race. If the aspirant resists, three likely things will play out: he may be killed by assassins masquerading as armed robbers or he may be allowed to contest while losing heavily after a rigging of the electioneering processes. He or she may also be subjected to trump up charges bordering on corruption. It is instructive to note that Barack Obama has been enjoying the services of State Secret Service quite early in his ambition. Under our circumstance, can any incumbent political party give protection to a member of opposition with a rising profile? I still remember how Olu Falae’s flight was prevented from landing at the Maiduguri Airport during his campaign period prior to the 1999 Presidential election.

Whereas Barack Obama found people who believed in his Hope leading to an investment of their time, energy and money in his campaign, in Nigeria, this will be a foolish action. Knowing that the elections will be skewed against any hoping Obama, very few will contribute money to fund the campaign. The result is that any such Obama will be a still born aspirant, unable to make any progress politically despite a wonderful vision and regardless of any Malcolm X-like oratory.

I have consistently argued that the difference between African states and their Western counterparts are the opportunities created for citizens in the latter and the lack of it in the former.

We continue to grope in darkness because successive governments in many African states do not want to provide a level playing field for all citizens to live out their passions, ambitions and visions. The environments are so unfriendly that some African youth would rather die in the desert while trying to migrate illegally to Europe than to remain in a continent where rulers literally eat their young.

In nearly all spheres of human life ranging from politics, economy to different professions, the older generation has refused to open up the space needed for anyone to actualize his or her ambitions. While many steal the resources meant for the generality of the people, others are obsessed with ensuring the financial security of their lineage including those unborn.

There is no doubt whatsoever that no Barack Obama can spring up in Nigeria’s politics. We must begin to ask why this is so. We must begin to clean up the messy electoral process such that anyone without the slimmest of electoral chance can aspire to ruler ship, run a vigorous campaign filled with articulation of issues and possibly clinch his or her party’s nomination nay even the Presidency.

The worst thing that keep happening to us as a people is that from independence up till now, power has always been thrusted into the hands of people who never prepared for the great task. Did Tafawa Balewa prepare to govern? What about Aguiyi Ironsi? Olusegun Obasanjo (on both occasions)? Shehu Shagari or the incumbent, Umaru Yar’Adua?

This situation is most pathetic considering the fact that we have always had capable Nigerians who took time to prepare for the presidency, who took time to map out strategies on how to move us forward and whose dreams were dashed not by the electorate but by a corrupt political system. The list is endless: Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Olusola Saraki, Moshood Abiola, Olu Falae, and Ahmed Makarfi, just to mention a few. The circumstances surrounding the surrendering of their ambitions or at other times the murder of the ambition is heart rendering.

The negative consequence of giving power to unprepared overnight candidates is the formation of government of strange bed fellows, with no clear focus or vision and one, which rules by trial by error.

Many Nigerian commentators have rightly begrudged the slow pace of development and governance under President Umaru Yar’Adua. I always laugh at such complaints. How on earth can we expect a leopard to give birth to a human baby? Our quiet president did not really prepare to run the affairs of the Nigerian state. He needs time to settle, study the intricacies of ruling over 140 million people and the challenges of satisfying people with contrasting and conflicting interests.

Whereas Obama and Clinton have been campaigning now for over 15 months, debating issues over twenty times, it took just a few weeks for Umaru Yar’Adua to prepare for the great task of ruling over Nigerians. That he is slow in his governance can only be expected. He who fails to plan, plan to fail.

How can we forget that Olusegun Obasanjo’s first term of democratic office was more or less wasted? We can not miss the point that the reason why he fared better in his second term than the first has to do with the way he was also hurriedly dusted up, out from prison, flown around the country; executive style and finally planted in power despite what we wished. He started settling down meaningfully after four years but never purged his military ethos.

The current President was rushed into power by different interests who seek self protection and preservation even at the expense of generality of Nigerians. The way and manner the present government came into being is a misnomer and this is reflected on how government is run presently.

This logically brings us to the efforts by the present government to reform our electoral processes. The Justice Uwais Committee holds the destiny of Nigeria in their hands. The greatest legacy the Yar Adua government can bequeath us is the provision of a credible political system, which will allow the kinds of Barack Obama to live out their dreams and vision.

True democracy is a nation’s tap root, which gives rise to qualitative leadership, good governance and economic gains for the people. We have never enjoyed true democracy as the system is always skewed to produce the powerful but unscrupulous. Taking advantage of a most dysfunctional system, fraught with gaping holes; our citizens have been repeatedly subjected to second hand ruler ship. The result shows everywhere: Deprivation in Niger Delta leading to pipeline vandalization, killings and insecurity, corruption, erratic power supply, widespread poverty across our nation, inept government functionaries, brain drain, youth unemployment and indeed the worst any people can get from bad ruler ship.

We have not even started laying the foundation for greater tomorrow as we are still being bugged down by faulty multi-systems. Beginning with the constitution, we observe clear manipulation by the military, which drafted it. We cannot even freely elect our rulers as the last exercise showed when many of us where disenfranchised.

There is lack of continuity at the centre and in the states as successive governments ineptly discontinue the few people oriented policies of their predecessors. Corruption still reigns supreme even as no one understands what is happening at EFCC presently.

Under this very corrupt and dysfunctional system, it is easy to see why a Barack Obama cannot have a foothold in our polity. Any would be Barack Obama will be frustrated, handicapped in many ways and if not eliminated will simply exist hopelessly no matter the eloquence or organizational skill. His mantra, “Yes we can” will die naturally on his lip as he will realize that he just cannot defeat faulty systems that have been institutionalized.

Such would be Obamas today languish in their little corners, their thought processes filled with what would have been if the environment is conducive to live out their dreams of making Nigeria a prosperous country, which ought to be a pride to every Blackman and woman.

This is the story of our lives, an unending story told by my grandfather, my father and perhaps generation to come except we do something to change the faulty status quo.

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