Will Trump correct Obama’s African mistake?
In our African culture one never speaks ill of the dead. But then former President Barack Obama is not dead, just out of office, so we will deal with his deficiencies nevertheless.
One of the irrefutable, yet unwritten, laws of nature is that despite earth being so vast, there are some things that you can’t hide.
The once most powerful man in the world discovered this almost to his peril when a relative who was classified as ‘lost’ in African parlance, resurfaced rather embarrassingly after committing some traffic violation in 2014. And asked to ‘call the White House.’
Barack had just been elected into the Office of the President of the United States (OPUS). On the face of it, there was nothing wrong with Obama senior asking to call the White House, not if the guy was caught driving way over the alcohol limit. The cops must have initially had a great time.
“Sir, if you are the president’s uncle then I must be Osama Bin Laden!” the cops must have responded, falling over each other laughing.
Omar Okech Obama, otherwise known as Onyango, found himself detained because he was also suspected to be an illegal immigrant! Apart from showing how porous the United States borders are in keeping freedom illegals outside, a point President Donald Trump seems to be making in his own convoluted way, the police showed a shallow understanding of African culture.
Let us tackle the points as they appear to us. First, I learnt quite quickly while growing up that while one can choose his friends, you can’t surely choose your relatives. In other words, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with ex-President Obama having a wayward relative somewhere on the totem pole. I can name dozens of relatives that I wished I could do without, but my tradition dictates that I stomach them no matter how obnoxious they are.
They are blood even when they seem to make bloody mistakes.
Every family has one. A black sheep, I mean, square pegs in round holes. The kind that when the family is indicating to turn right, they have already left. I had an uncle who would never agree with his brothers.
He would say that it was as a attribute only admired in sheep. The older people in the clan felt so offended by his antics that they resolved to exclude him from family gatherings ‘for the sake of progress.’
However, no matter how hard they tried, he would sniff them out whether it was downwind or upwind. To add insult to injury, he would then proceed to give them his piece of mind. Come to think of it, there was never a single instance that he attended those meetings sober.
This explains why Omar Onyango was found drunk as a skunk. It’s common trait among uncles who happen to be black sheep at the same time. Never mind the fact that he ran a liquor store in Framingham.
Looking at these incidents in hindsight, I have come to accept that no matter how irritating my late uncle was, he always had a point and could have prevented some of the most disastrous decisions the family elders made in the name of conformism and have come to bite later generations on the butt.
In other words, the whole noise about former President Obama having an unruly relative playing havoc in the countryside should not have been dumped at his White House door like the press at the time did. Understood, they were still grappling with the prospect of a black president by the way.
Even if Omar asked cops to allow him the mandatory one phone call to the nephew he had never met, we can forgive Barrack for being born into that family.
This brings me to my second point. In his book, Dreams from My Father, Barrack Obama mentions the uncle who got lost in the states. He writes that Onyango was something of an enigma. Just like those relatives of ours who went overseas all those years ago, and never came back.
The Soul Brothers, that ageless South African Mbaqanga (pronounced with a click) group composed a best-selling song about this phenomenon. They sang about people who set out for the bright lights and forget where they came from. Onyango was ‘swallowed’ by America and, for all intents and purposes, lost the right to be called Kenyan.
1963 is more than a lifetime ago for the United States government to spend resources trying to deport the guy. They should instead have granted him honorary citizenship just for having evaded detection for all those years!
A stay of deportation should also have been declared for humanitarian reasons. It would surely have been difficult for him to blend into the community he left in Kenya after all those years. It would have been akin to releasing an animal that has long been kept in a zoo back into the plains of the Masai Mara.
Another issue I would like to interrogate is why Onyango continued to keep himself under the radar when his nephew, Barrack, had become the most powerful man on the planet? If I were him, and I say this with all honesty that I can master, I would have elevated my bar room bravado by giving him a call on a speaker phone in the presence of the patrons of the local pub I frequent.
It’s not every day that one becomes a relative to the high and mighty. It is very African to take advantage of a family member in a position of influence. In Zimbabwe, we are never embarrassed by it. Nigerian author, Elechi Amadi called the herd instinct. Once the bull is in the pen, you know that the rest of the heard is likely to follow.
In the same way, Obama should have made judicious use of CIA and Homeland Security resources to search for any potentially embarrassing relative holed up in the states, given them US citizenship, found them a good job and kept them within spitting distance so that they do not unwittingly get him into the headlines like what Onyango did. Well, opportunity lost.
Incredibly, President Donald Trump clearly does not understand our African culture, but might correct the anomaly that Barack left behind. I am not packing my bags in anticipation, though. Simply because I am not President Trump’s long lost relative. Not by a long shot.