Barack Obama: The end of an era – By Taiwo George

‘White House turns Black House’ that was the title of the piece I wrote eight years ago when for the first time in history, an African American got elected into the most powerful office on earth. Save for the frenzy of the campaign and the burgeoning sentiments across the continent, I knew little or nothing about the enigma called Barack Obama.

Then came his 2008 acceptance speech; his sheer brilliance, eloquence, poise, aura and confidence captured my attention. I felt proud of my skin colour, and from that moment Obamamania took over me.

I became a huge fan of the living legend, reading his well-crafted speeches, watching videos on YouTube, and staying up late at night just to listen to him speak – the last being his farewell address. All that is now over, I can enjoy my sleep and let Americans enjoy their choice of Donald Trump.

But wait, did Americans really choose Trump? Did they? The result of the election showed a gap of nearly three million votes between Trump and his opponent, won’t this make one reach the conclusion that the system picked Trump. No wonder protesters trooped to streets, chanting ‘Not My President’ in the days that followed the election.

Looking back now, Obama stands tall as he bows out of office. With an approval rating of 60 percent at the tail end of his presidency, he goes into history as the third most loved US president.

He obviously had his challenges, but he succeeded in leaving America better than he met it. Forget President Valdimir Putin of Russia and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who fell out with Obama along the line. Don’t focus on the frustrations from Congress; think less about ISIS, which gained momentum during his reign, the gun violence which he couldn’t combat, and the lack of improvement in race relations – many African Americans were disappointed because they expected so much from him.

His policy on Libya dealt a big blow to the war against terrorism; he later admitted his mistake in that regard. Not making a case for Obama here, but he is just as human as you and I. As US’ number one citizen, he wasn’t infallible.

On a personal note, I picked a grouse with the cerebral politician for not visiting my homeland while in the Oval office. Since the return of Democracy to Nigeria in 1999, Obama is the first sitting US President to have stayed away from the most populous black nation on earth. Not too impressive a record for the only African American President, but it is good that he went to seven African countries, including Kenya, his fatherland.

Long before he got elected a senator, he traced his way to Kogelo, his father’s village. Slept in apartment with thatched roofs, followed Mama Serah, his grandfather’s wife, to the market and built a lifelong relationship with Auma, his step sister. Obama traced his root, even when he had the option to be lost.

In one last attempt to keep an unfulfilled campaign promise, Obama wrote a letter to Congress, explaining why he felt Guantanamo Bay should be closed. He had said history would be harsh to the lawmakers if they fail to honour his wish – they chose to call his bluff.

Looking forward, will history be kind to Obama? Yes it will. Here is a man who has a deep conviction about the American people.  A fellow, who unlike most of his predecessors bowed out with his dignity intact. He lived a scandal free life. That was why I cringed when on two occasions, Malia, his older daughter, was in the news for the wrong reasons.

A proud father to his two daughters, loving husband to the girl of the south side of Chicago, and a unique friend to Joe Biden, his deputy for eight years.

Biden shared a personal experience during his last outing with Obama. The president had surprisingly bestowed on Biden, the highest civilian honour.

In his appreciation note Biden shared a rare encounter between both men: “We’re having a lunch — lunches, and mostly it’s what’s ever in either one of our minds. We’ll talk about family an awful lot. And about six months in, President looks at me, he said, you know, Joe, you know what surprised me?  How we’ve become such good friends?  And I said, surprised you?”

When the laughter, which erupted in the hall subsided, the outgoing US Vice-President continued by saying: “I’m indebted to you. I’m indebted to your friendship; I’m indebted to your family, and as I’ll tell you … as long as there’s a breath in me, I’ll be there for you.”

Biden obviously spoke the mind of millions of people.

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