‘Friends For Obama Ghana - Welcome Home!’ Are the words that adorn hundreds of strategically placed posters around the Accra city sprawl.
Welcome Home? I know we are all getting excited for the imminent visit of the most famous American president (of all time?!) – certainly during my lifetime. But these posters are a testament to the completely unrealistic expectations that the world, and especially Africa has placed on this man. An American man with partial Kenyan heritage. How can he solve the problems of the world? Africa will not be his number one priority – how could it be? Obama is the American President - and no matter how much enthusiasm we generate in Ghana, he will never be a Ghanaian and this will never be his home!
We cannot be so naive as to believe Obama is visiting Ghana simply to reaffirm his African heritage, to acknowledge his roots – if this was the case he would be visiting Kenya!
Everything is political – especially for politicians! Ghana recently announced the discovery of oil. Within two years we have become visible on the American radar, to the extent that we will have seen the visit of two presidents! Coincidence? I am no conspiracy theorist, but hey...
There is also the less known issue of America’s determination to establish a military base in the region. Ghana seems the most stable, the most inviting environment. Again, no coincidence.
So as the world has been following Obama’s recent travels, the streets of Accra have been showing signs of the growing excitement around his visit – which still remains shrouded in mystery.
Which hotel will he stay in? When will he arrive? Will the streets be blocked? How tight will the security be?
As life has gone on seemingly as normal around here the last month, there have been numerous security exercises carried out quietly under our noses. Obama’s team has sent over 100 security personnel in advance, to take care of every little detail in preparation.
When Bush visited last year, his entourage took over the two largest 4 star hotels in the city/country. I know this because our company had a prebooked conference of 80 people that was unceremoniously bumped, without warning or compensation.
The visit of an American president is a big deal – especially in a developing country like Ghana where there are only a few hotels that could cater for the entourage, and there are basic things to ensure, like running water and continous electricity supply!
But Obama’s visit is even bigger. He is the world’s hero, the ‘blue-eyed boy’, to coin an ironic phrase... Obama chose Ghana and has angered Nigerians and Kenyans alike. The Internet abounds with theories on why he has forsaken the others. Ghanaians are full of the pride they do so well.
Obama fever is here! There is Obama wax print cloth being printed with fury – in time for the people to sew commemorative outfits in his honour. I have to get my hands on some of that – even if just for the kitsch value. Banners with Obama and Prez. Mills huge beaming faces line the streets. There is a palpable excitement in town.
I had the privilege of a VIP ticket to this year’s Ghana Fashion Weekend on Saturday at the Conference Centre in Accra (quite impressive!), and as I sat in the front row, I was not surprised to see the Obama themed collection of t-shirts by Jojo Costello, strutting down the catwalk, pinned tightly around the young female bodies. One of the t-shirts stated “My President is Black”. Obviously this did not in fact refer to President Mills of Ghana, who actually IS black. But Barack Obama, who is not Ghana’s president, and is not technically black.
At the finale of the show, the organiser, Mr. Ibrahim Sima of Exopa Model Agency, wore a shirt that read, “YES WE CAN, AND WE HAVE!” It was a great Obama-positive message – though I am confused as to exactly what Ghana has to do with the achievements of Obama in far away America. But we were of course all caught up in the enthusiasm, and when he made the statement aloud, the room was electrified with the energy of the cheers of the crowd.
Obama is coming! And to the people of Ghana, despite the reality, he is coming home!