On the eve of welcoming a new American President, expectations of what Barack Obama will achieve as Commander in Chief are colossal. People from all corners of the earth followed Obama's campaign with close enthusiasm. His electoral victory was welcomed the globe over with jubilation and festivities usually reserved for religious celebrations. However, as Obama becomes the latest inhabitant of the White House, enthusiasts, and especially Nigerian enthusiasts, must remember that he is an 'unknown' upon whom high expectations must not rest.
Nigerians were arguably more clued in to the US presidential campaign than they had been for their internationally condemned elections of 2007 which brought President Yar'Adua to power. 66% wanted Obama to win the elections. Non-voting Nigerians also created highly visible organizations to show their support, such as the 'Africa Initiative for Obama', the 'Obama Nigeria Initiative' and the now infamous 'Africans for Obama'. These groups were just the tip of the iceberg in the respect and admiration Nigerians displayed for Barack Obama.
Admiration for Obama was at an all time high in May 2008 when the militant group Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) was duped into publicly considering a ceasefire because it received an email from a character claiming to be Obama. The group announced that it would stop attacks of oil installations due to the email request because Obama is "[a man] we respect and hold in high esteem." All this respect for an individual who is relatively new to the global scene and who has not had many, if any, public links with the country.
HAVING REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
No matter how much Nigerians, and other Obama supporters around the world respect him, expectations of what Barack Obama will do and/or achieve must be tempered. Prior to the elections, Nigerians, like many other Africans, were not only excited at the prospect of an American President with direct African lineage, but they also believed that an Obama White House would be directly beneficial to the country. Unlike McCain who made absolutely no mention of his intentions for the African continent on his campaign website, Obama's website specified his ideas for addressing HIV/AIDS and fighting poverty through the doubling of foreign aid among other things. Additionally, Obama promised to "expand prosperity" by creating programs to improve African agriculture, fund small and medium sized businesses, and strengthen the African Growth and Opportunity Act to ensure that African producers can access the U.S. market. He also promised to encourage more American companies to invest in the [African] continent," words that were honey to most enterprising Nigerian's ears.
However, Obama is an American and as President, his main goal will always be to achieve purely American objectives. Therefore, Nigerians should not expect too much from an Obama White House. Besides, the current global economic depression has already forced Obama's team to publicly renege on his originally announced commitment to foreign aid assistance to Africa. This same economic downturn brings into question the promise made by President Bush in July 2005 to double humanitarian and development aid to the African continent by 2010, a vow that was welcomed by many Africans the continent over and various interest groups with something to gain.
WHAT NIGERIANS SHOULD FOCUS ON
Being that Obama is relatively new to the global political scene, there is little precedent to hint at what exact intentions his administration will have for Nigeria and indeed, the entire African continent. Nigerians should instead focus their attention on whether the economic downturn the country faces will spell further draconian measures for citizens. Additionally, they must not forget that their Senators must be persuaded to actually show up to work. Nigerians should also focus on whether or not an Obama White House will be in a position, for domestic and strategic reasons, to assist, and not detract from, the entrenchment of true democracy in Nigeria.
Just because Obama will soon become the most powerful man in the world does not mean that he can do anything and everything he pleases. Nigerians, like people the world over, must learn to temper their expectations because President Obama will be limited like every other human being that walks the earth. All Nigerians can hope for is to benefit from the decisions made by the Obama administration.
Related Articles of Interest:
- Is An 'Obama' Possible in Nigeria?
- Obama, Nigeria and 'Africans For Obama'
- In Search Of Democracy: Obama, Kenya & Nigeria
- Barack Obama & Kenya
- Barack Obama & America: Who Needs Who More (Dr. Joseph Okpaku, Sr.)
- Congratulations to Barack Obama