Tuesday, July 28, 2009

6. Obama vs Ampem-Darko--the Direct and Indirect Link

Title: Dreams from My Father
Author: Barack Obama
Genre: Memoir
Publishers: Three Rivers Press
Pages: 442
Year: (this edition 2004)

I have been reading and still reading Obama's 'Dream from My Father' and there are several phrases and lessons we can learn from that Memoir. But believe you me, I am not going to review that book for at least three basic reasons:
  1. It is not a novel, it is a memoir (an account of the author's personal experiences) almost like an autobiography, though from where he's come from and when the book was written this is no complete autobiography: the man is now the president of America. There would definitely be one when he hits the seventieth mark (that is, if he is still alive);
  2. Obama is not an African (oops! that hurts) he is an African American. Okay he is an African or a Kenyan bu I am not reviewing that book; and
  3. I am still reading it (not a strong point, I know; but that's why it is the last point).
However, there is something in that memoir I wish to share with you presently, taking into account what I read yesterday. Yesterday, I read from a fellow blogger novisi about the unfortunate plight of the GBC boss Mr. Ampem-Darko. He has been ordered by parliament to render an apology for either insulting a parliamentarian or parliament (as an institution) or parliamentarians. I couldn't get it even though it was the parliamentarian involved (one who calls himself K.T. Hammond) who had started the insult. What a pity!

This morning as I was coming to work I had the opportunity of being driven in a commercial trotro by a 'professional' driver. Not that I drive myself or even own a car, I don't! So, whilst been chauffeured to work (not exactly to the workplace, because I have to get down and board another car, alight at a certain junction and walk the remaining miles) I had the chance to gobble down some few lines from Obama's first book, 'Dreams of my Father' and there it was: Obama's 'insult' to the honourable men of Ghana. Those same individuals who are eager demanding to be respected but who are refusing to do honourable things. It was there in black and brown (nope!, what is the colour of those recycled paper?). But it was just there.

Did you see those parliamentarians including ex-presidents snapping Obama during his visits? Did you read about it? Or perhaps heard the debate (or argument) on radio? Well, I saw it on T.V. at least since I am not among the well-known or the highly in the country. If you should arrange it in that order I would be the first from the bottom or perhaps the penultimate famous man. The last time I was recognised as a 'big man' was during the 2004 congregation for the 2003 graduands of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately (unfortunate because I added unto the pool of unemployed graduates (UG) already gallivanting and cavorting along and around the major cities searching for work) I had inherited my mother's high IQ and so I completed with a first class, top my class (I am not boasting; only making a point, so don't begin to have funny ideas about me) and you know all the invited guests had to stand up, remove their hats, and shake the hands of the first class students. And can you imagine who was there? You are right! John 'the gentle giant' 'sexy-eyes' Agyekum Kufour. Yes, the man stood up, shook my hands and I told him 'I am glad to meet you', though I wasn't glad...my mind was on the unemployment issue. I stayed home for two years without job. Imagine the types of jobs one can get in Suhum (where I was staying). So that was the last time I was treated as a 'big man' and man it was so sweet. Sweeter than honey, I tell you. As I was saying I wasn't there else I might also have taken Obama's picture and today I would have cursed my stars for being there. Note I am not saying that all those who took picture of Obama have in one way or the other been insulted. This goes only for the leaders. Get me and don't be worried.

Coming back to the point (I have digress too much), in that section of the memoir, Obama was talking about how he came to Chicago wanting to be a Community Organiser and working hard to form groups of local folks for a racially divided South-Side Chicago. During the success periods, they had invited the first black Mayor of Chicago, Harold, to innaugurate a job centre for the Roseland community. The leaders of the organisation who had been tasked with the responsibility of convincing him to attend their next rally were all eager taking pictures of the man and with the man. Thus, they (the leaders) forgot to invite him. Here Obama was extremely frustrated and vent his anger on the leaders of the organisation. To quote those paragraphs:

"Did he agree to come to our rally?", I repeated.

The three of them looked at me impatiently. "What rally?"

I threw up my hand and started stomping down the street. As I reached my car, I heard Will coming up from behind.

"Where you off to in such a hurry?" he said.

"I don't know. Somewhere." I tried to light a cigarette, but the wind kept blowing out the match. I cursed, tossing the matches to the ground, and turned to Will. "You wanna know something, Will?"


"We're trifling. That's what we are. Trifling. Here we are, with a chance to show the mayor that we're real players in the city, a group he needs to take seriously. So what do we do? We act like a bunch of starstruck children, that's what. Standing around, cheesing and grinning, worrying about whether we got a picture take with him--..." (Dreams from My Father, Page 225/226)

So when Obama came, instead of our leaders showing him that we are the real players in Africa, one that he has to take seriously and work with what did we do? Answer: We acted like a bunch of starstruck children, standing around, cheesing and grinning, worrying about whether we got a picture with him or of him. Our problems defined. Did Obama take us serious? His speech had already been prepared so whatever he said had nothing to do with what he saw and whether he took us serious or not. In line of the picture-taking nerds and androids were pa*l***men*arians (before I am summoned to answer) and many exses (ex-this, ex-that). Those required to make a bold statement as Obama had required of mere community leaders not country leaders. So why should we be shocked beyond our imagination if after a parliamentarian traded insult with a media mogul, parliament asks the latter to render an apology to the former on all national radio stations, on T.V. at his cost? We shouldn't, for Obama has defined them for us.


  1. I am just thinking, are you toying with the idea that there is no freedom after the speech? That would make me so sad, because I have demarcated Ghana as my barometer on African Democracy (That elusive word!)

    I was also a bit embarrased by the photo shoot scenes that characterised Obamas visit. Are there no qualified photographers in Accra? Is Ghana that poor as to fail to afford mere photographers? I dont think so.

    You also raised an important point, how does Obama view us now, after the visit. Was his belief rewarded, strengthened, weakened or erased? The quote you have here should send shivers down our spines. Did we get him to do something for us, or we just got a photo of him. Warped priorities! but let me shut, lest I am made to proffer an embarrasing apology, and possibly get kicked out of Ghana too!

  2. Hmm...nope I think there is freedom before and after the speech. I am comparing the behaviour of our 'honourable men' with that of the community leaders in Obama's memoir of which he was frustrated and perhaps bored. They both took pictures of people instead of getting things done.

    I am not saying that there are no qualified photographers in Ghana. In fact there are but the 'honourable men' were starstruck that they forgot themselves and decided to be their own cameramen. Get it? It is a pity, but that was just what happened. As for Ampem-Darko what brought him in is his supposed insult to the parliamentarians. And then again, if you should apply Obama's reaction to the leaders in his memoir to our 'honourable men' then Ampem-Darko is right.

    Yes...it's better we shut up (me inclusive) before they ask me to spend my meager salary on radio apologies...Pen Powder thanks for your comments.

  3. I was so freaked out when i heard Obama!

    on one hand i thought it was a lil someway for the character that he is (unlike the Chavez or Castro-like). but on other hand i love Chavez and Castro like characters too- they tell it as it ought to be told.

    so interesting dynamics there for me. but hold. i'd be back.

  4. talking about Obama's comments on the Gates issue. I think he said what he feels in his heart and later came out to do a damage control because then he is the president...hahahahaha I like such people. They would say it just as it is like Evo Morales, Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro etc. There is no single path to development. People practice what works for them.

  5. You have a most wonderful blog Nana! I appreciate your effort to read more and more African writers and to write about them.
    Unfortunately, I have never read a book by a Ghanian author, my knowledge of African literature includes Nigeria, South Africa and few other countries on the big and wonderfully diverse black continent.

    I know that some of my readers don't speak Italian, but that's my mothertongue and sometimes I feel the urgency to use it. It is a dilemma for me: I don't know if I should use my mothertongue in which I am most confident or if I should use English and reach a bigger audience. I think I'll keep both languages...

    Why do you say that I don't have the follow widget? I thought you could add my blog from the homepage (blogger.com). I could find some easier ways to have some followers anyway... :-)

    PS: Good luck for your manuscript, I really hope that you'll manage to publish it!

  6. Thanks Stefania. Try reading some Ghanaian Writers. You would be glad you did. In addition to the Ayi Kwei Armah, Kojo Laing, Alex Agyei-Agyiri, Efua Sutherland, Ama Attah Aidoo, there are the younger generation of writers such as Ayesha Harruna Atta and Amma Darko. Try any of these.

    Post in both languages. Don't worry! English has only come to make us prisoners of our thoughts. It has decimated our mothertongue and has rendered us useless, yet we cannot express ourselves fully in it...neither her nor there.

  7. i'm back like promised and i so so so get the diferentiation you make between actions of leaders the 'ordinary' citizens.

    our parliamentarians just hide behind laws and procedures protecting them as MPs to unleash stupid*ity on us. i hold no brief for Ampem Darko, but that kind of punishement is more of an insult than what Ampem Darko said.

    and worse of all, they have little sense of proportion, their own KT Harmmond is such a disgrace in same matter!


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