Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Meet Malawi's ageing Obamas

Wanted to know the most travelled man in Malawi? One who can be found in forty places all at once? Barack Obama, that's his name- rather, their names!
Malawi is experiencing a historic rise in Barack Obamas, following the Illinois Democratic senator's triumph over Hillary Clinton in the race to be the party's torch-bearer come November.
But the irony behind Malawian Obamas is that a majority of them seem over the hill. How can a Barack Obama be 68 years old, for example?
Leading the cart are United democratic Front (UDF) aspiring Members of Parliament, another irony because Obama, after all, is for president- President of the United States of America, and Commander-in-Chief!
Kenson Msonda, former Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL) board chairperson, aspires to stand on the UDF ticket in Blantyre-Kabula constituency. The most notable tool of his campaigning is that he calls himself 'Obama wa ku Kabula' (Kabula's Obama). He is already older than Obama himself, much much older.
He defends himself:" All I mean to say is that, for Kabula, here is an opportunity for change for the better: a new beginning in terms of development and, like Obama, I represent that change, that opportunity. No problems about that."
On Sunday this week, Msonda was at Mbayani, Blantyre's ramshackle suburb. The banners and flags flying in the July-sodden wind said it all- Our Obama, Always for Change. One banner even read: Msonda and Obama are twins, born the same day!
Born the same day? One in the US, and one in Malawi? Impossible. In Mbayani, and Blantyre-Kabula constituency, it is real and possible.
Masautso Phiri, another aspiring MP, this one in Malawi's Central region district of Dedza, aspiring to stand on a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) ticket in Leader of Opposition, John Tembos Dedza South constituency, is 68 years old and 1.89 metres tall.
In the first place, how can Barack Obama stand for two ideologically (if Malawi's political parties have any ideology at all) different political parties? Again, how can Obama be 1.89 metres tall.
To cap it all, this Phiri is a bachelor- no wife, no wife and has never left his church since 1940 when he started praying. Surely, just recently Obama deserted his church, purpotedly because of the sayings of his pastor. Well, perhaps some things pastors say take more than eight years to understand!
"Sure, I am Obama, and will win," said Phiri, at a campaign meeting he addressed at Bembeke Trading Centre on Wednesday.
In Chitipa Wenya Constitutency, in Northern Malawi, McFord Nyirongo will stand, at least that's what he says, on Alliance for Democracy (Aford) ticket. That party which was alive, under the influence of its one-party-numbing hero Chakufwa Chihana, and died. And now says it is alive again, that, in the Northen region, DPP is nly on paper. A dead personage speaking from the grave? Obamas party has never died, but.
Nyirongo says he is greatly inspired by Obama, that he would die shouting 'Obama!' in the Middle of Malawi's largely-deteriorating road infrastructure.
Obama to him means the 'ability to win against all odds'. The problem is; the odds he is facing in Chitipa Wenya are hinged on the reality, sad to him, his number one enemy is the truth that there are no odds to run against in that constituency. President Bingu wa Mutharika's administration has done better that area than other political parties ever, according to Nyayoli Njikho, a DPP faithful.
His campaign placard reads: 'Barack Obama for McFord Nyirongo!'
Perhaps they talk, in his sweet dreams.
Jonathan Banda, a Malawian political analyst based in Switzerland, but currently in Malawi, says, with the win chalked by the US Illinois senator to represent the party despite racial bias and doubts raised by his competitor Clinton, over his capacity to become Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces should he win against Republican John MacCain, many Malawians and, in deed, Africans will now be using his name enmasse to represent success.
"People, like MPs, will even use the name even if it does not apply to them. Look at the 80-year olds saying (they) are Barack Obamas. It's interesting, though," said Banda in an interview.
As Malawi goes to the parliamentary and presidential polls on May 19, 2008, the impasse is for the Malawi government, or private operators, to open a museum, or museums, where all 80 year-old Obamas, some twice as fat and black as him, should be kept. That is, those ageing Obamas who fail to make it in any of the 2009 contested positions.
After all, they will have lied to the nation. And sending them to their home villages to start farming, or evangelism, as former presidential hopeful Gwanda Chakuamba promised in the run-up to the May 20, 2004 general elections in case of his failure to make it as Citizen Number One, is a waste of creativity.
Obama, for all he stands for, is history in the making- part of it already made.

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