Kudos to the gutsy Sally Jacobs for her incredible biographical research on Barack Obama Snr. The book titled “The other Barack” is about the life of the father of the POTUS (Barack Obama Snr.). After I read “Dreams of a Father” written by POTUS himself, I knew that was just a sneak peek and a beast of curiosity awakened inside me, and the only thing that could put the beast back to slumber was to lay my hands on this book. The book was engaging, prepossessing and unputdownable.
Obama Snr. was brilliant, reckless, impatient, and jocular. He was many things, one cannot run out of adjectives trying to describe the man. He was vociferous, facile, and eccentric. In some chapters, his decorum was admirable, in others, I was chagrined for him.
In chapter 2, the first paragraph says “The tribal prophet Kimnyole arap Turukat foretold it’s coming long before the white man knew of it. It would rear from the vast lake to the east, a lethal iron snake belching smoke and fire and uncoil across tribal lands before at last quenching its thirst in the waters of the west. The beast would bear with it a kind of foreigner never seen before, a stranger who would one day rule the land”.
Sally had me there, I was thrilled reading that paragraph, I thought there had been a prophecy about the coming of POTUS, only for the second paragraph to imply something completely different—the Uganda railway built by the British colonies. I was so upset and disappointed but I garnered strength and character and managed to carry on with the book.
The Luos and the Kikuyus are amongst the major tribes in Kenya; Barack belonged to the former and Jomo Kenyatta who was the first Kenyan President belonged to the latter. After getting help from an American woman called Miss Mooney, Barack got an admission to the University of Hawaii in the United States. It was an amazing feat, as he was the first of his clan to go to college and also the first African to attend Hawaii University. He met Obama Jnr’s mother at the University of Hawaii and he later graduated with a B.A in Economics. They got married after he graduated; beating the odds by defying the popular racial barrier. He was black and she was white.
He proceeded to Harvard for PhD Economics. His dream of getting a PhD in economics came to an abrupt end when the Oyinbos got tired of his womanizing attitude and misdemeanor and sent him back to Kenya even though he had completed all his coursework, but he was yet to defend his thesis.
His love for women was unparalleled as he betrayed a lot of them in his wake. He left no skirt unopened, as long as the skirt waved past him. His oratory prowess was enough to bewitch any woman. Just 3 months after he left the United States, his girlfriend in Boston bought a one way ticket to Kenya to visit Obama Snr., and of course, she did not return.
He was a living ghost to most of his children, he was consumed by his own ambitions and patriotism that he had little or no time for his children.
He got back to Kenya with big expectations for his country that had just gained independence and he certainly wanted to take part in the government, but he never got satisfied with any position he got and he seemed disappointed with the Kenyatta led government. He found solace in alcohol and started drinking heavily. His drinking habit got worse when his longtime mentor, Tom Mboya got assassinated right in front of him. He lost his job the same year due to his lack of discipline and recklessness.
He was an iconoclast, and he spared no word against the Kenyatta led government in the wake of Kenyan independence. He was fearless, and he gingerly challenged the corruption and nepotism openly practiced by the Kenyan government with his voice and his pen. He was later blacklisted by the Kenyatta led government and he couldn’t get any job.
The man was a paradox, it was difficult for me to comprehend why a man of his grandeur, well principled with integrity and bag of talents could lack dignity and humility. He was deluded by his precocity of going to Harvard.
I concluded that his life was cut short by his own hubris and his frustration with the churning state of Kenya. If anyone told him, his own seed would end up being the President of the United States of America, maybe he would have done some things differently.
In June 2015, President Obama visited Kenya and met with its present President—Uhuru Kenyatta, who is the son of Jomo Kenyatta. I remembered this event the night I finished reading the book, and I thought to myself-no one knows tomorrow. I felt inspired, challenged, and disappointed. I felt ambivalent. I turned the book around, placed the book in front of me, and stared at it until I slept off.
I also found out that while Obama Snr. was at Harvard, he had lots of Nigerians as friends and classmates. The only familiar name being Chukwuma Azikiwe, the son of the first Nigerian president. I breezed through lots of Nigerian names in the book and I couldn’t help but wonder where these men are or why I’ve never heard of them. Like our people say, they must have been swallowed by the west.