My dear Q,
I woke up on Tuesday just after 5am shattered from a very personal issue that has drained my strength and almost turned off my faculties to understand and forgive … but as you can tell, I managed to creep up to my desk to tell you about an encounter I had over the weekend.
In a dark, draughty drinking and pool club (frequented by media top brass),
in the West End of London with old Victoria wallpaper peeling from the walls and a bizarre collection of Native American paintings hanging haphazardly on one corner of the room, I met an African-American TV documentary producer and a business colleague from South Africa to discuss a TV documentary proposal my company had submitted to the networks just after the G20 summit here in London in April.
You see, I am very lousy when it comes to budget, costing or anything to do with financial lay-outs for a project or even when it comes to running my small offices in London and South Africa. So I have two fantastic accountants, one Indian and one Nigerian (one must have a brother who is clever and street-wise). My Nigerian accountant accompanied me to the meeting at the West End; he always calms down the situation and he is very good at playing the ‘good cop’ whenever I lose my senses and hit the roof.
My accountant, Chijioke, has never had the opportunity to meet the African- American TV producer, Mr Derek Harvey, who we were meeting last Saturday night, but I had explained to him about this gentleman and the budget he controls for Independent TV and film makers.
As we entered the club, a waiter dressed in black and white approached us to confirm our reservation, but then he recognised me and pointed us to the table where Derek and two other gentlemen where seating. It was that time of the evening when name-drops guarantees a table and some fine services, despite the state of the club. You see, journalists and other media professionals, apart from PR Executives, are not known for patronising well décor drinking clubs, as we spend most of our time talking about politics or other related matters and gossips of the day.
There’s something unsettling about meeting Derek Harvey for the first time, because he looks uncannily like the late Malcolm X.
“Hey, how you doing?” he asks, as the three of them stood up, and Derek stretching a confident handshake towards Chijioke. “I’m Derek.” He then turned towards the other two gentlemen with him and continued with the introductions. Chijioke has been with me for four years and during this time he has had some experience being around journalists; so it wasn’t difficult for him to settle down as Derek took over the table.
Just after the G20 summit here in London in April, we submitted a proposal for a one hour-three days TV documentary film about Barack Obama’s New America. The networks in the United States like the idea and our concept. The Europeans too were interested and so too are the Australians.
With these kinds of interests, we needed Derek’s unvarnished honesty and understated knowledge of the television industry in the United States and of course in England.
“So tell us, why do you think this project is worth our time and efforts?” Derek asked me, as our drinks arrived at the table.
“Because”, I said, “it’s about Barack Obama and how his presidency is going to change the United States of America and in the process reshape the global landscape as we now know it.
“Why Obama?” he asked again. Why not; “The new America” He suggested.
Well, Old Boy, I was surprised, but not shocked … in recent days it is becoming clearer to some of us how the relationship between the first African-American President and millions of African- American men is going to play-out in the coming years.
According to one of Derek’s companion whom we met at the table, (another African-American man, but who lives in London,) “Obama is happy to talk about personal responsibility and education, but how far is he ready to go to help the brothers understand and appreciate education, which in the end will make them responsible in their activities is the elephant in the debate.”
Great point of view and I was foolish enough to attempt to expand on the subject, when without any warning, Derek jumped into the conversation again and he too has a problem with President Obama.
“Gentlemen, I don’t mind all this talk about ‘goodness and a new start’. Watching obama, and then, to go on to produce programmes about him, over the last three years, I can say, the man is impressive, intelligent and so far has shown responsible leadership. Great father too. BUT HE MUST STOP RUINING MY MARRIAGE!!!
Wow! Ruining your marriage? I asked, as the table of five suddenly forgot that there was a waiter standing by waiting to take orders for the main course.
“What have we been missing Derek?” The third man on the table asked. Hey! We are talking about a man with a strong and stylish wife, two beautiful daughters-plus a puppy and a grand mother-in-law”.
Help us here. The third man pleaded with Derek; we too desperately wanted some answers; from someone that can easily be described as an upper middle-class Harvard educated African American man who happens to work in the media.
From his briefcase, out came several newspaper cuttings; The Obamas in Paris. Then Mrs Obama with the girls in London, visiting the Queen, having a private tour of Buckingham Palace and finally visiting the Harry Potter film studio outside London.
But the table still could not understand what Derek was trying to say. At this point, even the waiter was curious; our table felt naked and only Mr Derek Harvey’s answer will cover that nakedness and bring back our appetite. But Mr Harvey then demanded another shot of brandy, to deprive our waiter of his answer.
Gentlemen, he started slowly, my wife is one of a growing number of women in America TODAY, who thinks that President Barack Obama is the very essence of a good husband and fatherhood.” Mr Harvey said as the waiter rushed back with his brandy, but very much aware of the line we were trying to draw.
Pointing to his cell phone, Derek said, “My wife, Jacqueline, who happens to be a highly paid Californian lawyer wanted to know why she can’t join me for a weekend in London?” And according to Derek, since the Obamas entered the race and then went on to win the elections, there has been dozens of communications, majority talking about the President’s love life and marriage.
You remember the campaign trails, the game in the park with the girls, the Convention, and then elections night; or just simply take your mind back to the First Couple, on the inaugural parade route to the White House, hand-in-hand waving to the adoring crowd that had gathered along Pennsylvania Avenue.
It doesn’t take an expert in body language to see that Mr & Mrs Obama are totally into each other. And while I don’t claim to know a single thing about their sex life, I do believe they have one, and a healthy one at that. Indeed, Old Boy, we don’t need to speculate too much about the Obamas’ love life because they’ve already told us a lot about it in a 1996 interview with the French newspaper Le Monde entitled “An Intimate Conversation with Michelle and Barack Obama.”
But as women compare their husbands to the American President, and more importantly condemn their husbands approach to marriage, then should be asking themselves THIS QUESTION:
Would most Type A or even B, professional woman have dated Barack when he was a broke, big-eared organiser with a funny name like Barack Obama?
My recent visit to America revealed one thing; that America has fallen for the Obamas (not just women), the history, the high glamour, and everything we see today at the white House. It’s a universal picture of love. But for many successful black women, with college degrees, ambitious careers and five year plans, that enchantment has become something of an obsession.
Many hard-working, educated but single women I know or have met or heard about, are hoping to find suitable partners in a dating landscape that is, statistically speaking, pretty grave, indeed, these women are absolutely giddy about the very existence of the first family and especially about the possibility that they could be lucky and find their own Barack.
But please be warned, it was not always wedded bliss for Barack and Michelle.
A new book just out, Renegade, about President Obama’s unlikely run for the presidency, recounts a tense period in 2000 when the Obamas marriage was on the brink of collapse because of his restless political hunger and the family’s shattered finances.
According to the book: “There was little conversation and even less romance,” wrote the Birmingham-born writer Mr Wolffe, who covered Obama’s campaign for NEWSWEEK magazine. “She was angry at his selfishness and careerism; he thought she was cold and ungrateful.”
The book also describes the moment Mrs Obama first realised she was in love with her future husband. It was 18 years ago and he was being paid to train 120 black church leaders how to be community organisers in the basement of a church. “There was really something powerful there. And I was like, “This guy is different. He is really different in addition to being nice and funny and cute and all that,” she recounted.
Several years later, by the time then US Senator Obama had made his mark with a remarkable speech to the 2004 Democratic Convention and was preparing to run for the White House; Mrs Obama was resigned to a life in politics.
This book has ignited a debate in America and in some parts of Europe; why should the American people care about their president’s love life? Well one school of thought is that “because every one is talking about rebuilding America, the American people could start to rebuild their relationships as well.
As I sign off, let me say on a very personal note that, in nearly every relationship there is the one who prefers to love, and the one who prefers to receive.
Winston Ojukutu-Macaulay Jnr