Sally Jacob’s book “The Other Barack: The Bold and Reckless Life of President Obama’s Father” is instructive on two levels.
On one level, the book informs its readers about some of the lessons POTUS #44 learned from his late father.
The wonderful but sobering read also offers a microcosm into some of the challenges still bedeviling the Luo community – their men in particular. Along this same line, the dichotomy that is Barack Obama Senior, as a metaphor, is equally instructive and poses the question:
What lessons can others learn from the short but accomplished life of the senior Obama?
One can argue that America’s 44th President Barack Obama Jr. most likely learnt how NOT to treat women, especially his wife Michelle and daughters, from the way his father treated his mom Ann Dunham, wife Ruth Baker and in general, the many women in the man’s short life.
Jacob offers that Senior was a womanizer who “did not make much attempt to shield his wife from his philandering ways.
“Even when Ruth and the baby were by his side in public, he (Obama Sr.) flirted with women passing by and admonished her angrily if she objected. When she was not present, Obama held back little.”
The man’s open infidelity eventually forced a very heartbroken Ruth to walk away from their union.
Afraid of being assaulted were her husband to find out that she was leaving, Ruth arranged for one of Obama’s friend to drive him to Luoland for the weekend while she, along with her new-born son Okoth, caught a one-way flight to Boston. (p192-193)
Ms. Jacob’s book also offers a window into the intellectual brilliance and destructive self-confidence (arrogance?) of the man who gave America its first non-white president.
Barack Obama Sr. was also a brilliant and confident economist.
The time he spent stateside gave him a view of whites; of Europeans that equalized them in his eyes and an African viewing Europeans as an equal was unheard of or unseen in Kenya at the time.
Upon starting work at the new Central Bank of Kenya, the man’s first complaint was the number of Europeans working at the bank – twenty-two out of the bank’s then-sixty employees with most in “controlling positions”.
While most Africans kept their resentment about the British presence to himself, Senior had little problem calling them out – to anyone who would listen!
“He complained that they knew nothing at all….(and) the truth is that they (Europeans) were arrogant. Most of them thought that we were black people who knew nothing and they (Europeans) knew everything.” (p191)
Then-PS in the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Yekohada Masakalia cautioned his him to “play the fool…..in order to survive but he could not because he did not know how.”
Obama Sr. took to denigrating the credentials of economists many years his senior – in age and in experience – by talking about his “Harvard training” – and pointedly telling them that they called themselves “economists and they hadn’t even been to Harvard.” While some took offense to Obama’s bombast, others ignored him.
When a Kenyan was made the first African governor of the Central Bank of Kenya, Obama saw it as “another Ndegwa not up to the job” but because he was one of Jomo Kenyatta’s most trusted advisers; this despite the man’s resume which Jacob writes was “impressive by most assessments including Obama’s”.
The senior Obama did not see it that way. In his view, Ndegwa’s tribe “carved him a career path that he did not entirely deserve.”
The two men – Duncan Ndegwa and Barack Obama Sr. – got along and the governor WAS impressed by Obama’s intellect and oratorical skills not to mention “some sophisticated economic skills”.
However, his lack of discretion and dysfunctional personal life begun to affect his professional life. He also continued complaining that the new governor “was not as well-trained an economist as he” because he “hadn’t gone to Harvard….”
Unable to reign in his personal life and marshal the discipline required to work in a bank, Obama was let go after one year.
In reflecting on the decision to let go of someone he had grown fond of, Duncan Ndegwa admitted that Barack Obama Sr. was “too much of an intellectual force of his own…..” more suited for an academic institution that a professional environment.
Obama’s life spiraled out of control thereafter even as his friends cautioned him to “drink less”.
Making matters worse for the reckless but brilliant economist was news that Philip Ndegwa, someone Obama had tutored back in their Harvard days was slated to head the same bank that had dismissed Obama after ten months! (p251)
The night Obama’s father died, he left Intercontinental Hotel after imbibing his trademark Double-Double set of whiskies. He also bought rounds for several customers who were at the bar.
As his bad luck would have it, the man who usually drove Obama home when he was inebriated was “otherwise engaged”. (p252).
Some of his drinking buddies, realizing that he was in no condition to drive himself, offered to drive him home but the adamant Obama insisted that he could drive himself.
A friend of Obama Sr., David Owino Weya, was the last person to speak with him the night he died.
Thirty minutes after leaving the landmark hotel, the inebriated Obama drove into a broad stump at the edge of Elgon Road.
He died instantly.
Barack Obama Sr. was 46years old when he died on November 24, 1982.
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