Oluwakorede Asuni

Here at home

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He should be tired by now. It’s been a long 21 months of hard work (you can capitalize and underline that) and even though the strength you draw from speaking with a crowd of over 120,000 can be intoxicating, it’s already 11:30pm in his time zone and it will be a long day tomorrow — not with the thousands of names and roles that need to be sorted out.

At exactly 5am Nigerian time (GMT + 1) today, Barack Obama was declared the winner of the US elections — following one of the most interesting series of events (from the primaries through to election day) that literally caught the world on the edge of its seat. When he announced his candidacy, many laughed off the ambition of the skinny guy with a funny name, some admired his courage but wished he could wait for his own time and others simply told him what many of us have been told: don’t disgrace yourself. Now, after an almost impossible process that will be the subject of near-eternal analysis, that one is the leader of the free world.

As the fine words eased their way through his lips, my phone rang a number of times. Odd hours, yes, but there were many who stayed awake to watch the turn of events as the voice of the people was being interpreted through the votes of millions who despised the odds to support change. It’s the first time a man of colour will be president in the United States but that’s not the major attraction (even though no one can deny its historic significance). Yes, his success in this venture will help many truly believe that dreams do come true, including those eloquently expressed by a King who once had a dream. One of the text messages referred to the possibility of tears in the eyes of Rev. King but even if it’s tough to picture tears in the eyes of the dead, it won’t be difficult to imagine how his voice would have expressed the words: “Yes, we can!” Actually, he would now say, “Yes, we have!”

The major attractions here are the many lessons that this beautiful story (third in the series after Dreams of My Father and The Audacity of Hope) teaches the individual, developing nations and the world at large. It should now be a taboo for anyone to laugh at another person who dares to express their hope to become something greater than themselves — even if their name, background, experience or your assessment offer them no hope. It should also be a thing of shame for any African leader to offer up excuses that good leadership is far from those who are blessed with a certain skin colour. Born to a Kenyan father and discouraged by those who should be his mentors, Barry showcased an example in working deliberately towards set objectives. But as he said during his speech almost half an hour ago, the true winners are the people. Now, that is a direct challenge to the citizens of Nigeria and other nations where we have almost left elections to those who try to scare us away from the process.

Young Africans followed this election with so much passion. Many disagreed on the choice of candidates in elections that would not accept our opinion, but shall we shy away from that with possible outcomes that can shape our future? Ghana goes to the polls in December and many others (South Africa, etc) are waiting for 2009. Can young professionals shed the garment of apathy and decide to get involved? There would have been no President-Elect Obama if those who voted assumed that he was going against too powerful a machinery during the primaries, or if they returned home on election day because the queues were long. Many will spend much of today looking many times over at the same document (for lack of sleep) and the Kenyan government has declared a public holiday for Thursday. Will we see this same passion translated into citizen participation and possible contribution to the development of the land whose song we sing?

Congratulations, Barack, and all the best with the huge work ahead of you! For the rest of us, we have found inspiration to aim for any heights and we have seen the power of the seeming minority that refuse to stay away from a process that could tip the scale for them — and for generations ahead. It’s the day after Barack, let’s ride the wings of change here at home too.

Originally posted here

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