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Opinions of Thursday, 25 October 2012

Columnist: Asempa, Kwame

Obama & Juju

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A man with a black African father becoming the president of the most powerful democracy in the world was something beyond the wildest imagination of the most creative Hollywood story tellers. Not even Steven Spielberg nor J.K. Rowling could have woven such a tale. An African-American like Collin Powell being the first black man to be president of the USA was plausible, but with an un-American name like Barack Husein Obama, it was too much of a fairy tale to be true. Mathematically and politically, it just did not equate.
In Ghana and most of Africa, though,it would have made perfect sense. Not because, unlike other people, we believe in the universal brotherhood of the races. Neither is it because we judge people only by the content of their character. It is not because we saw the potential in Obama. Far from it, for it is hard to convince many continental Africans that a black person is created by God with the same brains and intelligence as a Japanese or European.

What makes sense to many of us is to hear that Obama won because he sought the prayers of some miracle man of God like Benny Hinn or Creflo Dollar or Ashimolowo. That he consulted the most powerful juju man in his father’s village in Kogelo, Kenya, is what we want to believe. It is a tragic way of looking at the world but this is how we have been socialized to see things. How can you invent anything if you think this way? You would always wait for others for inventions and scientific breakthroughs. We only see the manifestation of impossible feats through spiritual prisms. This makes us mental zombies and stifles innovation and creativity.

A Ghanaian law professor, Atta Mills, becoming president of Ghana should have no veneer of surprise or shock, but some of us still believe there was a juju ring or some supernatural hand involved. Mills himself went to thank the Nigerian self-styled prophet T.B. Joshua. Even with his level of education, he still believed he won the elections because of some Yoruba miracle man.

Our late president was a good and honest man but he probably did not realize the damage this flirtation with religious con men does psychologically to our children and their children. Do we want our children thinking excellence, success and national development come from spiritual supplication instead of hard work, intelligent planning and determination? Great damage is done to our psyche as a nation when the father of our nation is called a ‘spiritual son’ by some semi-educated charlatan. Psychological damage can be more devastating and scar deeper than an earthquake or Tsunami.

When our black Starlets were playing their hearts out to win the World Cup, our coach was talking to a ‘miracle’ man of God. So the man claimed the glory. We believed some guy who has God’s cell phone number made us win. What about all the times that we lost, did God not love us then? Does God love the nations that have won the FIFA world cup like Germany (4 times), Italy (3 times) or Brazil (5 times) much more than Ghana? We fail to understand that God rewards mental and physical work, in spite of one’s religion or unbelief.

Some say prayer would make Ghana prosperous, but my question is would prayer make our capital, Accra, clean and beautiful like Amsterdam or Paris? Does Jesus have a hand in the development of nations? Is Jesus going to solve our water and electricityproblems? Can fasting and prayer make the scourge of malaria go away? We are a generation of miracle seekers, not thinkers and problem solvers. We are told constantly by pastors and other peddlers of faith to seek miracles. Is this the reason why our leaders roam the world begging for aid and assistance? Why are we going to the Chinese and Japanese begging for aid and help? We know Jesus and Allah more than these people. The Chinese government even persecutes the few Christians in their country. Why are some nations that don’t believe in Jesus prosperous, live longer and have higher standards of living?

As Ghanaians (Africans) we have lost faith in ourselves. We do not believe we have the ability to achieve great thingsthat is why we attribute lofty achievements to the spiritual. When Obama won the elections, Americans discussed his ability to raise money from the grassroots, his earth-shaking public speaking skills and his campaign message that resonated with the youth and middle class. Credit was not given to Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn or any pastor or juju man. Instead of intelligent planning, hard work and pragmatic thinking, we put our faith in spiritual breakthroughs, breaking ancestral curses and the promise of over-night miracles.

Muhammad Ali, the great heavyweight boxer, once said that a man with no imagination has no wings.The African child needs to be stimulated to think critically and imaginatively. She needs to be inspired to believe in himself. Can the African child fly? Can we cleanse our minds ofidiotic medieval ideas like witchcraft and juju and dependence on parasitic ‘miracle’ men of God? The African child can fly only if we give her the wings. If we tell him, she is not a cowering chicken but a powerful eagle.The wing on which he would soar and compete with the Japanese, American and German kid is science and technology education and critical thinking.

Can we make the African child soar and reach beyond the stars? Can we, like Barack Obama, prove that our will and determination can conquer the impossible? Can we be scientific miracle workers who conquer space, invent micro robots, find a vaccine for Malaria and cure Aids? Can we, like Barack Obama, prove that every great human achievement begins with a will and a dream? Can we? Can we say “yes, we can”?

Kwame Asempa

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