He was a product of the ‘African Airlifts’ that saw many Kenyans land in American universities. While we were colonised by the British, Kenyans looked to the ‘land of the free and home of the brave’ for higher education through the airlifts of the 1950s. It was these ‘airlift graduates’ who helped spur growth on returning home. Mineral rich DR Congo went to the dogs because it had less than 10 university graduates as human capital to manage its vast mineral wealth and natural resources.
Kenya skirted the route taken by Congo with airlift graduates like Barack Obama Snr, whose immortality rests on the outcome of one of his five failed marriages, which produced the first African American president, Barack Obama. Obama could have ended up being called Baraka Obama, had his dad not changed his name to Barack! Unfortunately, Obama Snr never lived to see the son he abandoned become the world’s most powerful man.
Barack Obama Snr, a Harvard-educated economist, was a study in self-destruction and not necessarily because he lived in Jericho estate—a hood famous for the southward plummeting of its breed. Peter Firstbrook notes in his 2010 book, The Untold Story of an African Family, that the brilliant party animal and beneficiary of the 1959 airlift led a complicated life after he returned to Kenya after six years in USA.
The proud Central Bank of Kenya economist wrote Problems Facing Our Socialism, a critique of the Kenyatta administration’s lack of foresight in economic planning in the East African Journal. Good old Jomo (who once summoned him for a dress down) was miffed by the greenhorn who liked swilling whisky (and often directed waiters to bill Mboya or Oginga Odinga for the drinks!).
Mboya, who always had Obama’s back, was assassinated in 1969, leaving the man who often wondered why he was not the Central Bank Governor, exposed, as were most Luos at the time. Arrogant Obama Snr was sacked from the Central Bank on Kenyatta’s orders, Firstbrook informs us. The presidential blacklisting meant he couldn’t land any high profile job.
His drinking problem worsened. The already bad driver got involved in numerous accidents, even though that was not the reason his third wife Ruth Nidesand left him in 1971—the year the young Obama met his dad for the first and last time. Barack Obama Snr was to later fatally wrap his car round a tree after a night of drinking in November 1982. He was just 46 at the time of his death.