January 20, 2009

He’s waking up this morning to discover he’s President! How must Barack Obama feel this morning?

OK, everyone’s said it, so I might as well. This is history making. At first, I tried to ignore all the chatter, wondering why everyone was talking about a foregone conclusion. First, it was the run-off between him and Hilary. That was close, but it’s America, why should I bother? Whatever happened, it would make history. It would either be the first woman president or the first black one. When Barack won, we all knew he’d be president, but that didn’t stop all the heated discussion.

And then, I was awake at about 4 AM British time one November morning, listening first to the gracious speeches of the republican contender, and then his acceptance speech. And on and on, I heard the refrain, “yes we can”. By the end of that speech, I was no longer sleepy; I was probably shouting with the rest of them, “Yes we can!” A sign of my deliberate lack of interest, (or should I say ignorance) is that I’d never heard that before, nor experienced the thrill of the congregational respons.

It was then that I somehow moved from being the intellectual observer to the convert. But convert to what? As you might have gathered, I’m one of the few who didn’t know enough about him. It’s a part of my rebellious nature that when everyone is talking about something, I don’t.

When we say with our new American president “yes we can!” what are we subscribing to? He certainly talks a good talk. You only need to hear him speak. And I really believe that that’s half of any battle. You don’t have to do much if you can persuade everyone else to do it. But you need to have clear ideas. We all chanted loftily because we were told about an election that was fought and won on totally different rules to the norm. So, we know that he’d like to lift the poor, the unappreciated, those who wouldn’t normally have the chance. Where did all that come from?

OK, I confess I haven’t read his book; and it’s a great achievement that AMerica now has a president who wrote a bestseller before he became president. But I have heard things; I have heard that he’s the first black president of America. That’s interesting. His father is Kenyan, his mother white. He was raised by his grandma, who by all accounts was a middle class white woman. You see, I’m not so ignorant as to have missed her sad death, just before the elections. She would have been so proud. But why do we all think he’s black then? I would have called him mixed race, but my sister (who lives in America and knows about these things) says that once you have a drop of black in you, you’re considered black. In my intellectual way, I’d thought, if he was raised by his grandmother, he’d have been taught to be white. Remember I haven’t read the book. If my sister is right, then the race debate in America is more clear-cut than here. Here, people would be talking about how he’d be trying to find his identity in mixed cultures.

But surely he’s not as black as that, or even as African, or is he? We keep hearing of Kenyan villagers who are sure that development is coming to their country because our president’s dad is one of them. It must be great that he didn’t change his name. Nobody who hears that name will think he’s white. But this man is surely American, despite his name. I hear he is a technology loving man with a wife who bears the unKenyan name of Michelle and that they have two children with cool American names. In fact, I just learned that he’s a true American president, following on a line since Bill Clinton, who have brought only daughters to the Whitehouse. And did I hear the name Harvard mentioned in connection with him?

Now that I have to admit that he’s probably black after all, it may even follow that he is likely to care for the downtrodden. He’s already making the right noises. But how much will he change Africa. We know he says he’ll change things in Iraq, perhaps the middle East. But his father is from Kenya. And in any case, in those areas where I’m not so sure, will he leave matters to mrs Clinton? Now, there’s someone who fought the elections in the conventional way, and most people say that with her, it’ll be just like politics was always conducted in Washington.

I confess I’m now looking forward to 8 years of the Obama presidency. And I do think that a man with his intellect and oratory will certainly get things done, or persuade people to do the things he wants done. I’m even thinking that some of the things I know he wants to do are great. Actually, I’ve become part of the 80% approval rating for Obama. It’s so refreshing, after the past 8 years. I never thought I’d get there. But now, I join with you all over the world and wish Barack Obama very well indeed. I used to wonder why we all got so excited about the American presidency, but today, I’ll be glued to the radio or telly, listening with some friends to him swear his oath, and looking forward to another stirring speech.

And after that? well, what you feel for anyone is less intellectual and more emotional. I think I’m going to enjoy liking this president for the next 8 years, unless he does something spectacularly bad. And from first impressions, that looks unlikely.

“Yes we can!” Actually, “Yes I can!” I can look forward to a different American presidecy. And maybe his success can encourage me too in my own quests.

January 17, 2009

Professor Ojo died on Wednesday 7 Jnuary after a brief illness. As with these things, the circumstances are still unclear to me. Some say he had a blood pressure and diabetes related illness, others say that nobody even knew he was ill till he was rushed into hospital shortly after the new year.

He taught me constitutional law in Unilag, and for that year, he was just another lecturer. But on 15 May 1987, the National Concord published an interview with five blind students of the University. I remember that day very well; I kept thinking how we all said the same things, but how the journalists managed to find a different angle or each person. Not all the angles were that flattering. I was portrayed as a rich kid in love with a girl. Never mind what I said about the gutters in front of our halls of residence and all that.

When Professsor Ojo called me to his office, I wondered what it could be about. I’d done his course by then. He told me he’d read the papers and wanted to do something for the blind people around. That was how a very interesting relationship began. To tell the truth, I ceased to be the most important link. That role passed to Adun, a lady who was then studying education. I hear that when Professor Ojo died, they couldn’t tell her, because she’d almost become a part of the family.

I’ve not been in Nigeria for ages now, but I’ve heard of his boundless generosity, which had now extended to people of all disabilities. He bought guide canes, wheelchairs, anything. One of my blind friends who runs a band comprising of blind and sighted people tells me of his support and patronage. But he isn’t the only one. David, the president of the National Association of the Blind, and a good friend from Pacelli and Unilag called to tell me the news. He couldn’t stop talking of the support of the professor and the entire family. Apparently, the house is now besieged by blind people and those of other disabilities, visiting to pay their respects.

He’ll be buried on 30th January, I gather that would have been his 69th birthday. Shakespeare ascribed this to Mark Antony in his play Julius Caesar, “the evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interr’d in their bones”. That’s not true is it?

January 14, 2009


On Saturday, I heard it was the 80th Anniversary of the publication of Tintin. Wow! I remember my brother reading them to me as a kid. I liked them so much that when I was away from home and my friends talked about it, I got them too to read to me.

And then, on Monday, everyone started talking on BBC about the 50th anniversary of Mowtown records, and that set more memories going. Such great music!

OK, I’ve got other anniversaries too, some not so familiar(my pastor) once spoke about three people born in 1809. I think Darwin was one of them. I was going to shout out that he’d missed one, Louis Braille. Indeed, without Louis Braille, I wouldn’t have become literate.

I’m writing this from Torch House, where I’m supposed to be doing some serious work. They’re organising a service on 13 March, at St Martins in the Field, London, to Mark his anniversary. Gordon Temple, the Chief Executive was joking about providing all songbooks and other material in Braille, with a Braille code so that those who can’t read can learn as quickly as possible. Now, wouldn’t that be fun?

In 1909, King’s College Lagos was founded. They’ll be 100 in September, and amidst some legal wranglings and in-fighting, the celebrations should still take place. That’s my secondary school, and dare I say so, at one point, it was unrivalled in Nigeria.

Think of how many people and institutions will be born this year, and nobody knows how they’ll grow to influence the world. The word for today by Bob Gas makes interesting reading. This morning’s devotion was titled “Make a ripple”. He tells the story of a poor French widower in a poor village who started planting acorns, then birch, etc in 1910. Well, these little seeds grew to be a forest, causing springs to burst out, causing the area to be declared a conservation site, etc. Just from planting a few trees.

About this time last year, I was also in Torch. Someone left a message on my mobile, and at lunch, I returned the call. It was just another question really, about ICONS2008. By the way, look out for ICONS2009, details coming up soon. That call led to a chain reaction!

If God tarries, in 2109, there will be a few more anniversaries. Look out!


January 2, 2009

Oh yes, it’s true. I’ve checked, and we’re in 2009. Can you believe that? I can’t even remember the last time I wrote something here. You know, Kui said she thought I’d make an excellent blogger. She forgot to add “when you’re not lazy”. It’s been such a long time, for a moment I couldn’t remember which was my username and which my password. And the site’s different too. I’m not even sure I’m doing this right.

So what happened. As I think about it, it seems that I’ve been entering some new emotional territory and trying to negotiate this new terrain.

Hey! It’s a new year. In the old year, I did so much; what’s a blog for, if not to record those things, the trip to Nigeria, and all the other news.

Maybe I’ll make a new year resolution to blog more. But then, we all know what happens to new year resolutions.

Anyway, I’ll try. I’m looking forward to this year. It promises so much. 2008 was great, things happened that had never happened to me before. Wow! Back soon.