“I believe marriage is between a man and a woman.” Those were the bold words used by Barrack Obama on at least two different occasions on record. The last one coming in 2008 in an interview with Saddle Back Church Pastor, Rick Warren, seven years before the U.S. Supreme Court, in the landmark case Obergefell v. Hodges, ruled all ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional on June 26th 2015. Three years before, Obama had come out to support same-sex marriage, saying in an ABC News interview “I think same-sex couples should be able to get married”. A poll conducted by CBS News in the month leading to that decision reported that only 24% of Americans believed Obama’s public support for same-sex marriage was because he thinks it is right. While 67% felt he supported same-sex marriage only to gain political points. That move would prove to be a wise one that would serve in his interest as far as leaving a political footprint in American history.
Granted, being the first African-American President is history made, but I argue it is not legacy left. People can read up an event in a history book, but legacy is how that event has changed their lives. 2008 heralded a new dawn for Americans, one of change, one of hope and immense expectations—especially amongst the black minorities of the United States. Finally, African-Americans will have a voice and a symbol of hope and inspiration. Alas many will be left disappointed! This was hinted in July 16, 2009, when Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates was arrested at his home by police officer James Crowley, responding to a 911 call from neighbours about a breaking and entering. Apparently Gates’s front door to his home jammed shut and, and with the help of his driver, tried to force it open. He repeatedly tried to explain to the officer that the house was his to no avail. He was arrested, charged with disorderly conduct, but later released and all charges dropped four days later. A classic case of racial profiling. This presented Obama’s real chance to be that voice African-Americans have so longed for, and speak up he did. Following Gates release, Obama remarked “I don’t know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that. But I think it’s fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge Police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home, and number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there’s a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately.” That generated an uproar amongst the law enforcement community, causing Obama to withdraw to shell, stating he “regretted” his comments. That I believed was a beginning of an 8 year-long journey of the American President’s cautionary approach to the very sensitive issue of the racial divide in the U.S.—he just will not simply pick the side of this fellow African-Americans or the racial minority, for fear of being labeled bias.
Obama inherited an economic recession on enormous proportions, and to his credit expertly navigated the U.S. and indeed the world economy back to safety. But in the diplomatic front he was as hesitant and lily-livered as he was in the racial front. That hesitation was seen at the height of the Syrian Civil War, after Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons on his people. This was such a sensitive time in the Middle East. Obama was making good on his campaign promises to end the Iraq war and withdraw U.S. troops from the region. Obama had a choice to make, intervene in the war in Syria through an Executive Order or seek Congress approval, a decision he took his time on, until the then Secretary of State John Kerry clearly in a fluke moment gave Bashar al-Assad the option of giving up all his chemical weapons as an alternative to avert U.S. intervention; which became the case. Of course the Obama office claimed this to be some political strategic move on their side to pressure al-Assad into giving up his chemical weapons. But in reality this was yet another show of Obama’s cautionary tendencies to be on the offensive and take a side. We all know what became of that: ISIS blew out of the blocks, and declared an Islamic State in large swaths of regions in Syria and Iraq. Furthermore, Obama and his NATO allies reluctance to put boots on the ground in Syria and Iraq in the war against ISIS, opting instead for airstrikes, has been nothing short of disastrous. Not to mention the deal with Iran that saw sanctions lifted, spooking the likes of Saudi Arabia, further leading to a proxy war being fought with Iran, as well as Russia and Iran on the side of Syria while the U.S. and her NATO allies on the side of the rebels. What we have left are apocalyptic scenes of the scale of Aleppo.
We could go on and on, on the many diplomatic failings of Obama. The Iran deal, the UN recommendation on the Israeli-Palestine conflict; demanding Israel to end settlements in the West Bank—a move mischievously maneuvered by the Obama administration. But from the perspective of Nigerians, in many ways, the current recession of the country can be blamed on a combination of Obama’s diplomatic activities and his stance on climate—however well meaning. The U.S’ decision to cut down on their crude imports—OPEC being their major source—and mine shale oil, has severely hampered business for the cartel which Nigeria is a part of. Not to mention the Iran nuclear deal prompting Saudi Arabia, the leader of OPEC, to glut the already strained market just to hurt Iran’s potential market share upon returning to oil exportation. All these drove down oil prices and by implication Nigeria’s economy whose major source of revenue and forex is crude exportation.
But indeed, a major blow on Obama’s political legacy is shortly to be dealt. It is the pointed resilience of a Republican controlled Congress and a Republican President Trump to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. Getting Obamacare into law was an almost unending battle between Obama and Congress. He eventually used his executive powers, bypassing Congress to get his way with the healthcare reform. An act Congress has deemed unconstitutional, amongst the many problems inherent with Obamacare. Amongst Trump’s first bills signed was a bill aimed at “easing” the repeal and replace process, signaling a nearing end to one of Obama’s most significant brainchild.
Obama indeed had other victories like restoring relationships with Cuba, capturing Bin Laden. But all these will pale in comparison to the true expectations of the racial minority in America. The Obama administration was hesitant, hesitant to take sides, hesitant to be that voice that many expected of him. There has been little to no change in the inner cities and African-American communities in America, poverty and gangsterism still reign supreme, illiteracy and lack of higher formal education remains.
In his farewell Speech Obama remarks, “That’s why we cannot withdraw from global fights – to expand democracy, and human rights, women’s rights, and LGBT rights – no matter how imperfect our efforts, no matter how expedient ignoring such values may seem.” The crowd cheered the most at the LGBT mention, perhaps fittingly. Eight years ago, a charismatic young man, full of ideals and vigor emerged and united many under his most powerful axiom ‘Yes we can’. Hope was in the air, and Obama’s legacy beckoned with expectations of the Martin Luther King Jr. proportions. Eight years later we see a gray and grizzled older man, voided of most of his ideals and beliefs and left desperately grasping for a political legacy that is very much now drenched in the LGBT meteoric rise in political popularity.
Emeka doesn’t like to talk about himself in the third-person, he thinks it’s weird and uncomfortable. So Emeka will stop now… but before then, you should know Emeka is a disciple of Jesus. I find solace in the recluse of sagely contemplations; to make meaning of knowledge. Is youth wasted on the young? Or wisdom on the old? A mystery…