Friday 5 January 2007

O'Bama - Osama - Oh Bummer - Obama

Where’s Obama?

Sometimes, one has to resist the temptation to keep an open mind about an issue and nowhere is this most pertinent when innocuous spelling errors convey a radically different meaning from the main import.

This comes about in the light of the apology that CNN has issued during a programme hosted by Wolf Blitzer where a caption "Where's Obama?" appeared with Osama bin Laden being pictured.

Courtesy of Crooks and

Obama happens to be the surname of the photogenic Afro-American senator who seems to be a promising prospect for US presidency probably 8 to 12 years from now, in my reckoning. His name is Barack Hussein Obama.

It smacks of rank sloppiness to have had a typographical error on names so prominent especially one that seems juxtapose “America’s most wanted man” with “America’s most promising future president”.

We are continually told that Osama bin Laden is the “World’s most wanted man”, I think not. China, India, Nigeria, Brazil and Russia have significant populations and there is no reason to desire the man for anything, America was the most affected by his atrocities, we should put that in context.

Names of the immigrants

However, for a country that was built and exists as land of immigrants, the time has passed when immigrants who moved to the US anglicised their names to appear conformed and integrated.

Time and again, we see names like Milorad Blagojevich, the governor of the state of Illinois or the popular California governor, Arnold Schwarzeneggar, a former president Eisenhower and even the culprit Wolf Blitzer where Wolf is probably a contraction of Wolfgang – all hardly native American – but no one exerts pressure on them to recode their names for simplification.

Oh Lordy, O’Bama

Senator Barrack Obama has however suffered much for his name, I remember the Economist suggesting before he was elected that he might be more electable as O'Bama – balderdash!

Our names are our identities, no matter how tongue-twistingly impossible they might be to others, there is no valid reason to adopt some alien pseudonym in craving acceptance, if your personality and quality of character shines through, people would endeavour to get your name as correct as they dare to.

From a more sinister perspective, this slip might have been a deliberate effort to denigrate Senator Obama, having created an image that exemplifies the revulsion of terror when America was almost brought to its knees – there should be much that CNN should be sorry for – this is the kind of thing as one commentator said would be seen on FOX News, well, we have just reached a new low point in reckless journalism.

The errors of our constitution

This reminds me of an episode in 1984 when I was the student representative of the EE II constituency in the Yaba College of Technology. I had obtained a copy of the Students Union constitution just at the time that the newly elected president, Kola Oladoja offered to make copies of the constitution for the members of the House.

When that constitution arrived, it contained 47 major errors which made it look like a rewrite of the constitution without following due process.

I was livid with rage that an elected official who had sworn to protect the constitution now seemed to have created his own constitution and I moved a motion to first pulp the material and then discipline the president, unfortunately, the officials of the house did not seem to realise the gravity of this offence.

Negating the context

In the 28 spelling errors, there were sentences like, “The official shall resent …” when it should be “The official shall present …”, the use of may when it should be must, perceive for receive – very much negating context, such that officers could not be brought to account on many pertinent issues.

This failure to deal with the breach of trust and confidence because of the unusual popularity of the President of the Students Union lead to a situation many months after when leading a student protest on the campus, the crowd lost discipline and grew riotous damaging campus property that the college was closed for months.

Our lesson

The fallout included many of us vocal political voices repeating years study which for me came to nought, the president himself was rusticated and it was rumoured that he probably came to an untimely end.

This, all because we did not have the guts to challenge the errors in our constitution, which should have lead to the instant impeachment of the president.

No, I do not take these errors lightly, and the one against Senator Obama is a slight almost unforgivable.

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