Monday, January 26, 2009



Thisday & All Africa.Com
Lagos, Nigeria
By Paul Ibe
19 January 2009

Does the President-elect of America, Barack Obama, have roots in Nigeria? The Obama community in Rivers State says yes, claiming that the great-great-great grandfather of the next US President, who assumes office tomorrow, is their "kith and kin".

The community, which is in present-day Bakana in Degema Local Government Area of Rivers State, said the name "Bakana" was a Portuguese creation as their real name is "Obama" which means "Oba's kingdom" or "Oba's town". "Oba" means king.

THISDAY was informed that when Barack Obama became a Senator four years ago, the then monarch, King Kegan Igbanigbo Will-Braide, informed his chiefs that the African-American has his roots in Obama Kingdom in Rivers State.

It was also gathered that when the former Illinois Senator became a presidential aspirant the now deceased monarch wrote to the Federal Government, intimating them of this. A delegation of three chiefs from the kingdom dispatched to Abuja to meet with Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, could not get audience with the Minister and was then forced to abort the mission.

Akasoba Zainab Duke, lawyer, political scientist and traditionalist, who first brought the existence of the Obama kingdom to the attention of THISDAY, said Will-Braide had intimated her that the US President-elect has roots in Nigeria as far back as 2004, when Obama won election as Senator.

Elders of Obama who spoke to THISDAY yesterday on the island, which is five nautical miles from Port Harcourt, claimed that the US President-elect's great-great-great grandparents were from Obama Bakana Kingdom.

The story goes that following inter-tribal wars around 1776, the people of Obama began to disperse and that the US President-elect's ancestor migrated up North to Kanem Bornu Empire. Obama's great-great-great grandparents, out of sheer tiredness and not wanting bloodshed, moved up towards the Kanem Bornu area. The condition for the stay of Obama's ancestors in Kanem Bornu empire was to convert to Islam, according to the story. The US President-elect's father and great-grandfather were Muslims.

From Kanem Bornu the Obama ancestors were said to have migrated to the present Kenya. The father of the US President-elect hailed from Kogelo in Kenya.

"No one is saying by any stretch of imagination that if you go to Kenya, you will not see Obama's father's house; we are looking at his ancestry, at his roots. It is like Alex Haley, an American who traced his ancestor, Kunta Kinte, to Gambia," Duke said.

Most of the elders in the Kingdom who spoke with THISDAY claimed that the founder of the Kingdom was a warrior who after defeating the Kalabaris at Iwofe blockaded the area from produce supplies.

The action was said to have angered the British colonial masters, who intervened and compelled him (the monarch) to sign a treaty that forced him out of the Iwofe front area into the present day Obama Kingdom.

After establishing the Obama Kingdom, which he named after his father, the monarch, who wielded great influence, was said to have even visited the Oba of Benin who allegedly recognized him as a fellow Oba.

"Obama Kingdom was founded around 1881 by King Igbanigbo Will-Braide after he migrated from the Iwofe area when he was forced by the colonial masters to leave the area.

"After fighting the Kalabaris at the Iwofe Front and defeating them, Will-Braide blockaded the food and produce supply route. He was later reported to the colonial masters who came with HMV Dido (gun boat) and forced him by a decretive order to leave the Iwofe area.

"He left and founded the Obama Kingdom which he named after his father. The name Bakana, which the Kingdom bears now, is a Portuguese coinage. After listening to Louis Armstrong, who used the word Bakana in his record, I went to the Portuguese Embassy and inquired from them the meaning of Bakana. They said it means beautiful flowery place.

"The original name of Bakana is Obama and that is why we have been naming every important landmark in the place Obama so that the name would not be lost. We have Obama Boys High School and Obama Community Bank in this place," Chief Ibiekaribo S. Sogules told THISDAY. Sogules' account was corroborated by Chief Costa Jim-Emine.

Reminded that there is another Obama town in Japan, Sogules was quick to point out that the other Obama town is made up of whites but that the US President-elect in spite of "his long stay in America and having a white mother still retains his black skin and other African features".

The elders of the Obama community urged the US President-elect to "link up with his own people and contribute his quota to the development of where he is from."

THISDAY observed that there exists in the kingdom a community bank named Obama Community Bank Nigeria Limited floated in the early 1990s and a secondary school, Obama Boys High School.

Duke said efforts should be made by historians and cartographers to establish the true ancestry of Barack Obama, as there exists now a Nigerian dimension to that. She said that the loss of historical documents and archival materials are largely responsible for why some of these controversies have not been resolved.

"I recall my grandmother crying because they lost a golden bird and a golden throne, which the Ashantihene had given to my great-great grandfather. It is not because it is gold or whatever, but artefacts, historical documents and things like this should be kept for future generations to know that at least there were inter-African friendships even among the kings.

Recall what happened in the time of Cleopatra with the burning of the Alexandria Library. That is why Africans have not been able to fully recover. They lost so much historical artefacts and documents and archival materials, which would have shown them who they are or their roots and backgrounds," she said.

She advised the youths of Obama Kingdom, which has become an enclave for militants to take a cue from Obama who has made peace an integral part of his vision for the US and the world.