Dreams of My Colleagues

When he walked in to say “congratulations,” I could tell he was announcing Barack Obama’s victory in the race towards clinching the democratic party’s ticket for the November contest. I’m not an American, but the news came like cold water to a thirsty soul — and it arrived during the calmness that followed last night’s rain here in Lagos. Barack Obama has now made history as the first African American to get this close to becoming the “leader of the free world.” And if I should go by the same feeling I had when the primaries commenced, we now know who’ll be the most talked-about man after November.

I’ve been in so many discussions about the emergence of the “skinny young man with a funny name” but the most interesting part is when someone who thought he couldn’t win the nomination claims the only reason I support him is because he’s black. I’m not black. Depending on which part of my body you look at, I have a few colours to offer — black, brown, white, grey, colourless, etc. I supported Obama’s bid from the beginning because of his story. I assume that sales would be on the high side for his two books now that he’s moved from unknown to fairly known, then to better known. The title of this piece is (obviously) an adaptation of the title of one of his books.

Born to an African father and American mother, raised without a silver spoon, made up his mind early about where his life’s direction is headed… those come very close to the story you’ll get from any underdog who was probably told by his teacher or her environment that success didn’t have their names on the list! A few days before Barack’s many moments of opportunity (one of which is the popular 2004 Democratic Party convention speech), I’m sure there were those who told him, “what’s wrong with you and what are these rumours of a presidential bid I hear?” Well, this is a good lesson for my colleagues who’re going through and have been told — by the various systems they contend with — that they aren’t up to the task. Nonesense, only one person can say that, and I doubt that you’ve done so already.

Against all odds, dreams do come true. It’s funny how Obama’s polispeak employs the word “we” and “us” more than “I” and “me,” and I think it’s just apt – it’s not only his dream that his getting closer to being true… ours too. And by ours, I refer to those who’ve been told that their challenge of the status quo would only amount to an attempt, to those whose big ambitions have been questioned by those who should nurture such, and those whose next plan appear to be bigger than the frame they presently occupy. But Obama’s victory didn’t fall on his laps! A few days after it appeared the race was his to lose, one of the most popular features on his campaign talked about the power of the team he works with. Dreams come true, but you get better help when you’re with the right team.

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