Vanguard (Lagos)

17 November 2012

Nigeria: What We Failed to Take From Obama

opinion

To say that US President Barack Hussein Obama is an orator is to say the obvious fact, but to think that leaders, especially those who pretend to be leading us, have not taken something away from the most powerful political office holder in the world. This puts a question mark on our capacity to learn that which emphasises the spirit of service.

Political speeches are the art of communicating and connecting with the public a matrix of different demographics, with diverse levels of orientation, reasoning capacity, ability to discern and act. Such speeches are tiny threads that knit together our diverse make up, into larger personal that gives its mandate to a select few that supposedly offered to serve the public. When such men and women speak, you expect them to embody the collective aspiration of the people that they represent. When they speak, you expect to connect with what they are saying, not just for the sound bites that come from their mouths, but also because they say what they mean and mean what they say.

This was the line Obama dropped into the crowd of supporters he met in Ohio, Florida, New Jersey, Michigan, etc. ahead of the November 6 poll. It was to tell the American people that trust is an important cornerstone in public governance. The issue was, can the people of America trust 'a flip flop like Mitt Romney?' The Republican candidate came from the Anglo-Saxon, white male American political establishment, a solid credential against a man who is a direct descendant of a blackman from Kenya in Africa, with Muslim and broken family background? In the end, Americans chose a man who they trust, a man who embodies their hopes and aspirations. Obama thrashed Romney comprehensively with 332 Electoral College votes to Romney's 206, a wide margin of 126 votes. This was a much better performance than what Obama did to Sen. John MaCain four years ago. Obama also got over two million popular votes to silence his opponent. The election was flawed in many areas, but neither Romney nor members of his campaign grumbled.

Petraeus: The general and jealous mistresses

What would have happened to the Obama campaign if the General David Petraeus and General John Allen scandal had broken out before November 6? That is a question we may never be able to figure out as President Barack Obama has collected 332 electoral votes and Mitt Romney has no trouble with that. But it would have been a major distraction to the Obama campaign and the administration that two four-star generals were caught in extra-marital affairs, and some secret service chiefs believe they should be investigated to ensure that national security was not compromised.

Petraeus, the former CIA director, is credited with ending the war in Iraq and was well respected within and outside power circle.

He resigned penultimate Friday and is to face investigation for his relationship with Paula Broadwell, who jealousy sparked the whirlwind that swept Petraeus out of power.

Paula was obsessed with another woman, Jill Kelley, who she suspected was romantically linked with Petraeus. Although Broadwell is married and has been known to be the general's biographer, investigations revealed that she had close relationship with Petraeus. Jill, 37, is equally married to Scot Kelley, a cancer surgeon, and both of them live in Tampa, Florida.

It has not been established that Jill was sexually involved with Petraeus, but she was known to organise rich and fancy parties for officers at the Mac Dill Airforce Base where the officers appeared fully dressed with all their ribbons and medals.Petraeus was known to have attended one of such parties in a 28-car motorcade.

Jill has a twin sister, Natalie Khawam, a lawyer with a troubled marriage. In a letter written to a Florida judge in support of Natalie's child custody case, Petraeus stated: "My wife and I have known Natalie for approximately three years, getting to know her while serving in Tampa, Florida, through our relationship with Dr and Mrs Scott Kelley".

According to Petraeus, "it is clear that the child would benefit from much more time with his mother and from removal of the burden some restrictions impose on her when she does get to spend time with the child".

Allen was also reported to have written a similar letter to support Natalie's custody claims. These are women pulling powerful strings, to have their way.

Along the line, Paula got jealous and fired threats through unnamed emails and the rest is history. Petraeus now has to manage the damage to his public image, his marriage and the agony of sitting in front of men and women posturing to be puritanical and playing god over the same matter that they are not above board.

A former House Speaker Nelof Gingrich was busy womanising with his secretary, whom he later married as his second wife, at the time he was calling for Bill Clinton's head over the Monica Lewinsky affair.

James Hardly Chase once wrote that you never know with women and its no use trying to figure out what makes them tick. Paula's fury has splashed mud in the face of two generals and the spies are at work.

Obama's new cabinet:

A peep

Justling for top posts in Obama's new administration has began and the time has come to fish out men and women that would take America to the next level. With the exit of Gen. David Petraeous as the director of CIA and planned retirements of Leon Panetta as secretary of defence and Mrs Hilary Clinton as secretary of state, the names of Senator John Kerry, Gen Collin Powell, UN Ambassador Susan Rice and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon have been thrown up. Kerry, from Massachusettes, is the chairman of Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, and may be seen as a natural replacement to Mrs. Clinton given his vast experience on isues of diplomacy and foreign relations. He played vital roles in preparing Obama for the second and third debates. He was instrumental to revealing Romney's closure of coal mines in Massachusettes. He also helped to ensure that Romney lost the state where he was once governor.

Kerry's appointment may be better received by the Arab world which has not seen the appointment of women as the US secretary of state as culturally sensitive. From the time of Madlene Albright to Condy Rice and Mrs. Clinton, the Arabs have been forced to talk with women whenat such top level in their own domains, they have not seen the need for women to enjoy such high public profile.

The name of Rice has been mentioned. Her appointment as secretary of state,just like Mrs. Clinton, may not go down well with the Arabs in the Middle East where the US has to find a way to stabilise the rising tide of anti- America feelings. Rice's performance in the Benghazi crisis also would put her through difficulties in the hands of Republican senators.

In the defence department, two top runners are Pentagon's former policy chief Michele Flournoy, who may be the first female defence secretary. Panetta's deputy Ashton Carter is also in the race. Some have mentioned Powell, a Republican and former chairman of joint chiefs of staff, and a former secretary of state, Donilon, who was Obama's National Security Adviser. Danilon is a lawyer and an insider who could head the CIA or any other top office in the national security community.

Obama humanised the White House and America's presidency. He could share a bear with a police officer that allowed racial bigotry to over take him while performing his duty.

Obama could eat his burger in front of battery of cameras and video recordings. He could be lifted off the ground by a loving supporter in a bar. Obama could weep and shed tears publicly, because he cares for his country. When Gen. Muhammaduy Buhari was caught shedding tears for Nigeria, we mimicked him and made mockery of his pouring of emotion in public. But who is crying today in Nigeria? Those in Aso Rock or those who Obama would refer to as being on the side streets and walk ways of Abuja, Lagos, Yenagoa, Calabar, Maiduguri, Kano, Kaduna, etc.?

What we failed to take from Obama is leadership, a sense of patriotism. Our leaders cannot connect with their people. As Dr Olusegun Mimiko, governor of Ondo State, told the audience on the US election night in Lagos, , "it is the attitude and disposition of the president that determines the out come of elections in Nigeria. The mentality that election is a do-or-die process ensures that the party in power at the centre uses the security agencies, the electoral institutions, and the judiciary to manipulate election.

Any leader that emerges through a corrupt election process will not connect with the people. His speeches will be just empty sounds that signify nothing. That is what our political actions have failed to take away from Obama.

The last US presidential election was not without blemish. There were problems in Florida as usual. A voting machine in Pennsylvania had problems as it was said to be rejecting votes for Obama. The blunder was later identified to be caused by a technical bug and the machine was taken out of service.

There were areas controlled by Republican governors, where voting materials were not delivered to areas known to be dominnated by Democrats. Florida had a combination of clumsy electoral laws and voting process to battle with by people who spent between 3 to 7 hours to vote. In other places, voters went back, yet there were no cries of cheating, no legal contests. Romney accepted defeat and congratulated Obama.

Mr Jeffery Hawkins, the US consult general in Lagos, told Gov. Rauf Aregbesola and a group of eminent Nigerians that had breakfast with him on the US election day that the beauty of the American democracy is that the process works and the people trust their institutions. That is what we have failed to take away from Americans. We always go there to empty their garbage yard and bring home junk ideas and crooked ways of leadership.

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