Gallons of tears of joy have flowed in Kenya in the wake of Barack Hussein Obama’s inauguration on January 20, 2009 as the 44th President of the United States of America. Many of those shedding those ‘historic’ tears are guilty of fathering and abandoning children; they only crawl back to claim their place as parents when the children they have dumped get some modicum of success. Instead of engaging in loud celebrations complete with crocodile tears, FRED MBOGO contends, the extended Barack Hussein Obama Sr family from Kenya should instead be hanging its head in shame.
Where was the Kenyan father all the years after Obama’s birth? How many other children could have been abandoned by that same Obama father in the U.S.A or Kenya? Why isn’t the Kenyan family actively looking for them in order to ‘accept’ them into the Obama fold? It has been much easier for the family to make the trans-Atlantic journey to shed the ‘crocodile’ tears than use their eyes to look for a possible kinsman of theirs abandoned in the neighborhood.
And Obama’s is not an isolated case if media reports and conversations in public places in Kenya are anything to go by. Who has not heard of what the success of athletes Pamela Jelimo and Samuel Wanjiru and boxer Wangila Napunyi did for their long lost fathers?
At only eighteen years of age Pamela Jelimo moved from winning an Olympic 800 metres gold medal to collecting a cool US$1,000,000 in the Golden League. Seven men suddenly appeared at her village home near Kapsabet, where her mother resides. Each of the men claimed to be the legitimate father. The mother got so infuriated that she is said to have declared that “I am the mother and father of Jelimo!”
But where were all these seven dads as Jelimo’s mother struggled to bring her up all alone? They are definitely eighteen years too late. That is why Esther Cheptoo Keter, Jelimo’s mother, becomes angered by the sudden appearance of their greedy faces at her doorstep.
In 1988, Robert Wangila Napunyi became the first Kenyan to win an Olympic gold in the boxing ring. He was instantly feted as a national hero. His name was mentioned generously in people’s conversation as someone who should be emulated. But when he died, there followed convoluted court cases about his next of kin and who should burry his body. The customs surrounding burial tend to favor the ‘burrier’ when it comes to inheritance. What strongly emerged at some point was the question of who may have been his father. “Who sired Napunyi?” floated newspaper reviews of the court proceedings.
Napunyi’s case invites us to the memory of the Kiswahili saying that asserts: kuzaa sio kazi, kazi ni kumlea mwana (literally: the real work is not merely in giving birth but in raising the child). The question of who had ‘sired’ Napunyi became an issue even where the contention of who had ‘raised’ him into an adult popped up. Increasingly, biology is being questioned as the only qualifier for fatherhood, even motherhood. For there are roles that the father ought to play which when played by another invite the question of who the father is. In Jelimo’s case, the mother’s declaration that she is the father and mother is quite in order then. And in Obama’s case, he belongs more to his maternal family in the United States than to the paternal one in Kenya!
Has modern living not changed ‘manhood’ therefore? Has it not changed the idea of who a father is? It strongly seems biology is no longer the definer of fatherhood. It means that a mother, as in the case of Pamela Jelimo, can be a father. The days when men could simply sire children and take off are long gone. Such men should now be forgotten, especially as they play no role in the life of the growing child.
Male-hood is no longer defined by the potential power in the loins! Those people, who cannot sire, either because of their sex, can now claim to ‘father’ a child because they can acquire children either by adoption or by scientifically getting test-tube babies.
A daily newspaper in Kenya recently reported about a 26-year-old woman who not only grew up without her father but also has spent most of her life looking for him. The woman, Vivian Adhiambo, finally located him in Germany!
When Samwel Wanjiru won the Olympic marathon in Beijing, China, in 2008, his friend and training partner, Zachary Kihara, reportedly hoped that the Olympic victory could at least bring back Wanjiru’s father who left one day never to return. This hope suggests that Wanjiru (this is a female name, that of his mother!) has always been yearning for a father. It bespeaks of the sadness of being abandoned and the sense of loss that seems to follow one almost forever. It is possible that Wanjiru may have wanted to get to know his father not just so he may discover more of himself but with the sneaking need to show off to him. He may want to show the father that even without him, he has succeeded in life. This becomes more of an interesting way to punish the absentee person. This need for ‘justice’ may be more of an intuitive quest rather than one that may be consciously thought out.
Could this be the same for US President Obama? That he harbors a hidden ‘need’ to punish the absentee father. That in fact he is only being nice to his father’s people only so he can show the world how shameless they are. That they are shameless because they don’t seem to understand that Obama senior was a selfish man who just sired and disappeared and would have rushed to claim glory just like his extended Kenyan family is now doing. If this is true then Africa or, Kenya in particular, shouldn’t expect kind treatment from Obama’s government. For after all, he is only being kind so he can expose the callousness of his ‘abandoner’ and the accomplices–the extended family, for they condone such behaviour!
Samwel Wanjiru is said to have used his mother’s name–Wanjiru–as his surname as a way of honouring her for the sacrifice she has made in his life. The notion of honoring your mother using her name shows that you have a need to deal with the past decisively even when you are not conscious of it. This makes it plausible to say that in case Samwel Wanjiru’s father appears at his home he will be punished, even if through subtle means.
And why shouldn’t we expect Obama, Wanjiru or Jelimo to punish their ‘siring’ absentee fathers? Why shouldn’t we expect them to extend this punishment to their father’s accomplices? Their fathers did wrong by taking off after realising that a ‘burden’ has come out of their pleasurable sojourns.
How much of Obama senior is in the Obama of the moment if they only ever met twice? On this count therefore, one can say Obama is more of his mother’s people–his paternal grandfather’s son–than his biological father’s. Why then should the Obama family from Kenya celebrate his success as if it were their own and yet there are no traces of the Senior Obama in the 44th President of the U.S.A?