Obama’s Legacy

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Obama’s Legacy

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Obama’s Legacy


[Published in the February, 2017 edition of the New African magazine]



I was probably the only journalist in Ghana who refused to be wowed by President’s Obama’s beautiful speech in Accra, during his July 10-11, 2009 trip to Ghana. In the article I wrote to welcome him, Welcome, Emperor Obama, I said: “It is true that things have changed, and that the United States now boasts a black president, but, given its history of violence against the non-white world, the onus is upon the U.S. to prove its sincerity. Africa has been treated very badly by the U.S., and this is a fact that must be strongly brought home to the visiting Emperor.

It remains both a mystery and an irritation why Western commentators always omit the role the West played (and continues to play) in the morass in which Africa presently finds herself. Our continent was just emerging from the serious dislocations of four centuries of slavery when European cartographers sat down in Berlin and sundered our societies into colonies. And just seven years after independence, the West (led by the U.S.) ganged up to remove all the progressive leaders in Africa – Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, Congo’s Patrice Lumumba, et al. In their places, they placed reprobate Quislings who sold Africa down the drain. Today, they deride us as non-achievers.

Our leaders ought no longer be satisfied with smiles and sanctimonious and totally meaningless platitudes, even if offered by a US president who happens to be black.

It is true that President Obama is handsome, urbane, very articulate, and has a wholesome family, but does he truly represent a paradigm shift in US thinking vis-à-vis the non-white world? His record so far in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan does not suggest that there is going to be any radical shift in US imperial and arrogant dealings with the non-white world.

The truth is that the worst enemy of the U.S. is its foreign policy, and our leaders should demand a total reassessment of our neo-colonial relationship with that imperial power.

It is true that Brother Obama brought a whiff of inviting, cool and fresh air, necessary to purify the nauseating and very odious effluence of Bush and his nasty gang of neocons, but the only changes that Obama has wrought so far are cosmetic at best. Zimbabwe continues to be sanctioned, even after it has satisfied demands for an inclusive government. Afghans, Pakistanis and Yemenis continue to be needlessly massacred by American war machines. The rape of our resources by American corporations continues unabated.

Instead of dancing for joy because the US Emperor came to town, Ghanaian leaders should have presented the American leader with a long list of demands. These should have included demand for reparation for slavery, of which the U.S. remains the biggest benefactor. It should also have included demand for reparation for the February 24, 1966, coup that the Kennedy and Johnson regimes instigated and financed to topple Kwame Nkrumah’s government. It should have included demand for the return of Ghana’s Atomic Reactor that the Americans took away after the coup. Electricity blackout would have been a thing of the past in Ghana, were the ambitious atomic energy programmes of Nkrumah not truncated by agents of the US government. It should have included a threat to drag the U.S. before the International Criminal Court for the overthrow of a legitimately-elected government of Ghana, if adequate compensation is not paid. It should have included demand for the return of the oil rigs the Americans took away from Ghana – also after the 1966 coup. It should have included demand for compensations for families of the victims of the CIA-instigated coup. Our leaders should boldly demand that Emperor Obama apologize to us for the crimes of slavery his nation committed against us. Thy also should insist that reparations be paid to us the way it was paid to the Jews. They should demand from Emperor Obama pledges that his country will stop negatively impacting our lives through its selfish interventions and policies.”

I ended my article with a caution: “We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Emperor Obama did not visit us as a brother from the Diaspora: he visited us in his capacity as the president of the United States of America. His was not an emotional or sentimental journey to reunite with us. Were that to be the case, he’d have chosen Kenya, where his father was born, and where his step grandmother still lives.

As a cultured African, I welcomed Barack Obama’s visit to our shores because our culture demands that we warmly welcome visitors, but I am not naïve to believe that his visit will do Ghana or Africa any good.”

Few men in history enjoyed the same overwhelming adulation that welcomed Barack Hussein Obama into the White House. All over the Globe, people danced for joy when the Man who campaigned to effect a “Change we can believe in,” swept into office on January 20, 2009. TV screens showed grown-up men and women openly shedding tears, as they witness what they thought was a Miracle – A Black Man in the White House! Even veteran stalwarts like Jesse Jackson and Oprah Winfrey wept like babies.

So much was the global expectation for a peace in our time under president Obama that the Nobel Prize Committee awarded him the peace Prize in 2009.

As Mr. Obama entered the twilight of his political career, it is only fair to assess his performance, and try to answer the central question of why he chose to squandered all the global goodwill he had, and ended up leaving the world in much worse shape than he met it.

Obama’s compatriots in his country are the best judge of his domestic policies, so we shall confine our analysis to his foreign policy.

Although we in Africa claimed and welcomed him as our brother, even the most rabid Obama-admirer among us will be hard-pressed to name a single thing our half-brother in the White House did for our continent in his eight years in office.

Although we do not ask or beg for handouts, it nevertheless hurt to remember that our brother failed to render a helping hand when he was the most powerful human being on earth.

Although he delivered high-falutin rhetoric in his travels across the continent, Obama leaves no enduring legacy for which we shall fondly remember him by. We can contrast his lamentable legacy with those of his immediate two predecessors.

Thousands of Africans still reap benefits from The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) signed into law on May 18, 2000 by President Bill Clinton. AGOA was an initiative to help African businesses gain entrance into the US market. And, as they travel on the Georg Bush Highway, Ghanaians will give praises to the much-maligned President George Bush jr. who donated it to them.

It does not make us cheerful to note that while the Chinese are all over our continent building railroads, highways, air and seaports and other economic infrastructure to lift our people out of poverty, our brother in Washington, along with his Western allies, continue to invest in the militarization of our continents – see New African excellent coverage of the militarization of the Sahel region in the magazine’s January 2017 edition.

It is also instructive that the single largest US infrastructure built in Africa under Obama was the US$100million Drone facility in resource-rich, but impoverished Niger – source: https://theintercept.com/2016/09/29/u-s-military-is-building-a-100-million-drone-base-in-africa/

It is also perhaps not a co-incidence that it was under our brother’s rule that the US Military made its most significant inroad into Africa. From a few bases few years ago, AFRICOM today ringed our continent with more than 60 outposts – source: http://www.blackagendareport.com/node/4844

It is probably in the case of Libya that history will be most harsh on Barack Obama. We will never be told what led Obama to join France, Britain and the Netherlands to abuse a UNSC resolution to invade and destroy the most prosperous of African nations – Libya.

Obama’s Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton was shown on TV gloating like a demented hyena over the killing of a de jure and de facto leader of an African nation: “We came, we saw, he died.”

That is an image that will forever blemish Mr. Obama, even though he called his misadventure in Libya the greatest folly of his administration.

Ok, granted that we are all capable of making mistakes, but what condemn Obama in perpetuity is his not making amends for his grievous error in killing Muammar Ghaddafi, and rendering Libya a Failed State.

Ordinary people across the world, who were totally fed-up with the social, economic, ecological and environmental devastations neocons and neo-liberalisms engendered, believed and trusted the man with a beatific smile, who promised us a change we can believe in.

Sadly, the expectations for a better world under President Obama were misplaced. For reasons best known to him, he chose not do anything different from his warmongering and murderous predecessors. Obama actually upped the ante in the amount of sheer ruthlessness he brought into killing perceived enemies of his country. The New York Times informed us that Obama maintain a secret kill list: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/world/obamas-leadership-in-war-on-al-qaeda.html

And the man to whom the Nobel Prize was awarded, with the hope of bringing peace to a war-ravaged world, approved more drone attacks than all his predecessors combined.  “As a result, the number of estimated deaths from the Obama administration’s drone strikes is more than four times what it was during the Bush administration — somewhere between 1,494 and 2,618.” –  http://edition.cnn.com/2012/09/05/opinion/bergen-obama-drone/index.html

According to investigative journalist, John Pilger in his documentary, “The coming War On China”, Obama spent more money on modernizing American nuclear weapons than any president in history. Obama’s geopolitical thinking is clearly spelt out by his Secretary of Defense Ashley Carter who bluntly stated that the: “US policy is to confront those “who see America’s dominance and want to take that away from us” – http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/12/02/the-coming-war-on-china/

Although the United States is technically not at war with any country, Obama continue to keep the Military-Industrial Complex on a nice roll: In President Obama’s last year in office, the United States dropped 26,171 bombs in seven countries. This estimate is undoubtedly low, considering reliable data is only available for airstrikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, and a single “strike,” according to the Pentagon’s definition, can involve multiple bombs or munitions. In 2016, the United States dropped 3,027 more bombs—and in one more country, Libya—than in 2015.”http://theantimedia.org/nobel-peace-26000-bombs-2016/

That was the from a man who told the world in his speech at the University of Cairo on the 4th June 2009: “The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God’s vision. Now that must be our work here on Earth. Thank you. And may God’s peace be upon you. Thank you very much.”

Sadly for those that believed in him, Barack Obama betrayed their trust. To the eternal regret of his well-wishers, Obama reacted to foreign policy challenges exactly the same way his predecessors did – by continuing with deploying American military power to solve problems.

Those who touted Obama as a brilliant scholar will have to answer the question of how the Russian leader, Vladmir Putin, managed to make him look like a clumsy, clueless, unimaginative amateur in all their encounters in the international arena.

Take the case of Syria. Obama drew a line in the Syrian desert over the use of chemical weapons. When it came to actuating his threat, he managed to peeve even his Western allies. Putin came to his rescue with an imaginative masterstroke – agreeing to ship the chemicals out of Syria.

That was the beginning of the end of US relevance in Syria. Today, Mr. Putin is emphatically calling the shots in Syria, so much so that a critical meeting to settle the Syrian crisis is going ahead without US participation.

Obama might not be the architect of the US debacle in the Middle East, but it was under him that Russia, and to a lesser extent China, become major player once again in the region once considered the exclusive preserve of the US.

Observers also cannot but note that under Obama, the US lost the respect of many once considered solid allies. The Philippines shifted their gaze to China with his president using very foul languages in describing Obama. Turkey and Egypt have pivoted towards Russia. Even the leader of a client-state like Israel treat Obama with utter condescension.

Outwitted, outclassed and outplayed by the Russian leader, Obama was reduced to sulking and acting like a petulant schoolyard bully.

It will take years before social scientists will be able to unravel the mystery of why Obama managed to scam so many people. There is no denying the fact that he faced many obstacles, but, were his mind to be on it, he could easily have accomplished a lot more for those who believed in him. Sadly, the Obama illusion left the Black world reeling from huge disappointment, and vividly recall the lamentations of the Great Sociologists W.E.B Du Bois, in his Classic, “The Souls of Black Folk”: “The Nation has not yet found peace from its sins; the freedman has not yet found in freedom his promised land. Whatever of good may have come in these years of change, the shadow of a deep disappointment rests upon the Negro people, – a disappointment all the more bitter because the unattained ideal was unbound save by the simple ignorance of a lowly people.”

It is probable that Obama did not set out to create any enduring legacy for himself in the world at large, but the election of Mr. Trump ensures that whatever domestic legacy he wishes to be remembered for will be speedily repudiated. At least, that much the erratic Trump has promised us.



About the Author

Femi Akomolafe is a passionate Pan-Africanist. A columnist for the Accra-based Daily Dispatch newspaper and Correspondent for the New African magazine. Femi lives in both Europe and Africa, and writes regularly on Africa-related issues for various newspapers and magazines.

Femi was the producer of the FOCUS ON AFRICANS TV Interview programme for the MultiTV Station.

He is also the CEO of Alaye Dot Biz Limited Dot Biz, a Kasoa-based Multimedia organisation that specialises in Audio and Video Production. He loves to shoot and edit video documentaries.

His highly-acclaimed books (“Africa: Destroyed by the gods,” “Africa: It shall be well,” “18 African Fables & Moonlight Stories” and “Ghana: Basic Facts + More”) are now available for sales at the following bookshops/offices:

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