'He is my Mandela'

“Dem youthboy defied every order and turned a senator”, says a Cameroonian reggae song that captures the country’s rapture with Obama

Rita Doe (27) is an Accra trader who has never been political. But her interest in this year’s American election has given her a new name—“Rita Obama”—because she has a big poster of the man in her shop.

This is surprising as Ghana is in an election year and one would expect her to display support for one of the local political figures. But she has a large poster of Obama in her shop—which she commissioned herself—boldly proclaiming “US—Next President”.

“The man should be made president of the world,” she says. “He appeals to both blacks and whites, and his Muslim linkage through his stepfather has even brought him support from across the Middle East. This is the kind of leader the world needs to bring peace.

“He is my Mandela of today,” she adds. “I would just want to be at his inauguration to see the face of a man I have every hope would turn America into a land loved by all.”

Sporting an Obama badge on her bag, retired journalist Wendy Asiama is another fan. “Obama is rewriting the political history of America,” she says. “He is a politician who has come to lift up the black race one step forward.”

In the streets of Accra, “Obama for President” stickers adorn cars. In offices and drinking spots, the talk of Obama as the next US president dominates as though there were just one candidate in the race.

Last year a radio presenter, Blakk Rasta, released his song Obama which took the country by storm. It is reggae and the lyrics are Jamaican patois: “Originally stepping out of Kenya, Africa / Adopted into the cold woodlands of America / Dem youthboy defied every order and turned a senator.”

The song topped the local musical charts for two weeks, and Blakk says he has so far sold thousands worldwide. “I have done several albums but this single song has given me more than all that I made from over 10 albums over the years.”

“A brother is a brother,” says Adjei Sowah, a 56-year-old taxi driver who has a poster of Obama on his car. “I am showing support because my brother is trying to sit in the White House. Martin Luther King was the John the Baptist of black America and Barack Obama has come to fulfil the coming of the messiah for America. You can see the whole world is rejoicing that someone better is taking over in America.”

Failure is not an option that Obama’s Ghana supporters entertain. “The man was not born to lose,” says Rita, while for Wendy, “The heavens have already spoken and we are only waiting for the manifestation in the votes that would be counted. Obama all the way!”

Francis Kokutse is the Accra correspondent for the Nation Media Group of Kenya

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