Posted Saturday, April 23 2011 at 22:47
I personally knew Obama Sr during his days as a middle level economist in Kenyatta’s Government. Always smartly dressed, Barrack Sr. was the embodiment of success.
He came from a poor family near Lake Victoria. Africa’s largest water mass, went to a tin-roofed school with no running water, but still managed to reach the pinnacle of intellectual life at Harvard University in the US, where he received his advanced degree.
At the university of Miami at Minoa, he was the first African student to be enrolled there for undergraduate studies, and therefore, became the centre of attraction.
Tall and dark with horn-rimmed spectacles and a deep baritone voice, Barrack was not only boastful about his achievement, but was patriotically African.
In an interview with The Washington Post soon after his arrival, he talked of his desire to study business administration, and of his hope of one day returning to Kenya to help with its transition from tribal customs to a modern economy.
Neil Abercrombie, who later became a district congressman, described Obama Sr. as brilliant, opinionated, and avuncular.
During his undergraduate years at the University of Hawaii, he married Ann Durham, a Kansas-born woman who was studying Russian at the same institution.
Ann was unaware that her husband was already married at home to Kezie Aoko when he was only 18 years, and that he had left behind two children. No wonder, the marriage did not last, and culminated in Ann filing a divorce in 1961, which Obama Sr did not contest.
By that time, the future President had already been born, and Obama Sr had moved to Cambridge for his masters degree where he met another white woman, Ruth Nidesand.
Unlike many other Kenyan students who get mesmerised by the fast pace of American life and decide to extend their stay, the young economist made good his promise, and returned home in 1965, two years after independence.
Ruth, an American-born educationist — whom Obama described as a “white woman with a long jaw and graying hair” followed Obama Sr to Nairobi, where they married and stayed together for seven years.
Like with his earlier marriage to Durham, the relationship with Ruth was turbulent.
“Obama Senior’s marriage to Ruth was not a happy one. Like his father, although charming, generous and extraordinarily clever, Obama Senior was imperious, cruel and given to boasting about his brain and his wealth,” said Philip Ochieng, a friend who was also a beneficiary of the Tom Mboya scholarships.
In the corridors of government where he served as a senior economist, Obama Sr was both envied and frowned upon by Nairobians because of his financial liquidity, and because of his obsession for beauties especially of the Caucasian breed.
His turning point, however, came in 1965 when, as a top bureaucrat at the Treasury, he issued a critical analysis of the government’s economic framework called “African Socialism and its Applicability to Planning in Kenya.” an ambitious document that had been authored by Mboya.
He disagreed with proposals to nationalise state corporations, as well as the manner in which the government planned to conduct trade, both locally and internationally.
Criticisms of the government by anyone, leave alone a serving civil servant, was unheard of. The statement generated a lot of heat in the corridors of power.
Accusations of insubordination and disrespect were bandied around. Soon thereafter, Obama Sr was sacked, throwing him into a long period of depression that saw his drinking habit overwhelm his desire to be a useful citizen.
The situation worsened when his marriage to Ruth collapsed. Jobless and down in the gutter, he was killed in a road accident on November 24, 1982 at the prime age of 46, as he navigated home from a boozing spree.