ONE of the irrefutable, yet unwritten, laws of nature is that in spite of earth being so vast, there are some things that you can’t hide. The most powerful man in the world discovered this very recently when a relative who was classified as “lost” in African parlance, resurfaced rather embarrassingly after committing some traffic violation and asked to “call the White House”.
The cops must initially have had a great time. “Sir, if you are the president’s uncle then I must be Osama Bin Laden!”
Omar Obama, otherwise known as Onyango, found himself detained because he was also suspected to be an illegal immigrant … since 1963? Come on!
I learnt quite quickly while growing up that while one can choose his friends, you can’t surely choose your relatives. In other words, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with Obama having a wayward relative somewhere on the totem pole. I can name dozens of relatives that I wish I could do without, but my tradition dictates that I stomach them no matter what.
They are blood even when they seem to make bloody mistakes. Every family has one. A black sheep, I mean, square pegs in round holes. The kind that when the family is indicating to turn right, they have already veered left.
I had an uncle who would never agree with his brothers. He said that it was as an attribute only admired in sheep. The older people in the clan felt so offended by his antics that they resolved to exclude him from family gatherings “for the sake of progress”.
However, no matter how hard they tried, he would sniff them out whether it was downwind or upwind. To add insult to injury, he would then proceed to give them a piece of his inebriated mind. Come to think of it, there was never a single instance that he attended those meetings sober. This explains why Omar Onyango was found drunk as a skunk. It’s common trait among uncles who happen to be black sheep at the same time.
Looking at these incidents in hindsight, though, I have come to accept that no matter how irritating, he had a point and could have prevented some of the disastrous decisions that the family elders made in the name of conformity and have come to bite us later generations on the butt.
In other words, the whole noise about President Obama having an unruly relative playing havoc in the countryside should not be dumped at his White House door. Even if Omar asked cops to allow him the mandatory one phone call to the nephew he never met, we have to forgive Barrack for being born into that family.
This brings me to my second point. In his book Dreams from My Father, Barrack Obama writes about an uncle who got lost in the States — one Onyango. He was something of an enigma, Onyango. Just like those relatives of ours who went overseas all those years ago and never came back. The Soul Brothers, that ageless South African mbaqanga (pronounced with a click) group, composed a best-selling song about this phenomenon.
They sang about people who set out for the bright lights and that they should not forget where they came from. Onyango was “swallowed” by America and for all intents and purposes lost the right to be called Kenyan. 1963 is more than a lifetime ago and for the United States government to spend resources deporting the guy, they should instead grant him honorary citizenship for having evaded detection for all these years.
A stay of deportation should also be declared for humanitarian reasons since it would be difficult for him to blend back into the community back home in Kenya after all these years. It will be like releasing an animal that has long been kept in a zoo back into the wild, to pardon the pun.
Another issue I would like to interrogate is why Onyango continued to keep himself under the radar when his nephew, Barrack, had become the most powerful man on the planet? If I were him, and I say this with all honesty that I can master, I would have elevated my bar room bravado by giving him a call on a speaker phone in the presence of the patrons of the local booze up.
It’s not every day that one becomes relative to the high and mighty. It is very African to take advantage of a family member in a position of influence. In Zimbabwe, we are never embarrassed by it. Nigerian author, Elechi Amadi, called it the “herd instinct”. Once the bull is in the pen, you know that the rest of the heard is likely to follow.
In the same way, Obama should have made judicious use of the CIA resources to search for any potentially-embarrassing relative holed up in the States, given them US citizenship and a good job and kept them within spitting distance so that they do not unwittingly get him into the headlines like what Onyango has done.
He should also have sent the presidential Air Force One to the dusty plains of Kenya to evacuate anyone within the Obama bloodline (that would require about three round trips) and bring them back to the land of the free before they perish from an “African disease”, as one British newspaper headline famously diagnosed an ailing Wayne Rooney following a trip to South Africa.
It’s never too late for Obama to show his African brothers that he is really one of them. If there is any space for me, I would not mind being of the receiving end of some presidential privilege.
One thing is for certain, however. If poor Onyango was in Africa and Obama was president there, and the cops arrested or put him in any sort of awkward situation, they would either be sacked on the spot or be fed to the sharks. In fact the incident would never have made it to the newspapers. That explains why the Western way of doing things will never find resonance with our living liberation heroes.
In Africa, the party in power, its president in particular, do not make the rules — they ARE the rule! The sooner Obama understands this indisputable fact about African politics, the better if he is to survive the rough and tumble of the affairs of the state.
With the Republicans breathing down his neck, and their press feeding off the seemingly tiny incident of a intoxicated relative like piranhas, the world’s most powerful “African” better look to his roots for inspiration and tact. Or else he will suffer the unthinkable and lose an election when he is supposed to rule forever, all because of a drunk relative.