ACCRA, Ghana — Good riddance Barack Obama. And welcome Donald Trump.
Surprisingly, that’s the view of many people in this western African nation, which is 78 percent Christian and 11 percent Muslim.
“Of course we all supported the first black president of the United States. But along the line, we were disappointed,” said the Rev. Dr. John B. Ghartey, general secretary of Ghana’s Assemblies of God Church, speaking at a roundtable with religious leaders here in Ghana’s capital.
“The expectation was so high. First of all, he’s black. Secondly, he professed to be a Christian. There were certain values we expected him to cherish, as a black man, and as a Christian,” Ghartey said. “But he did not succeed in representing the Christian community.”
Ghartey’s sentiments were echoed by middle-class working professionals, interfaith leaders and others encountered on a recent foreign-press delegation visit to Ghana sponsored by the government of Israel.
Many expressed a souring of Obama — a son of Africa, whose father was Kenyan — over the course of his eight-year administration. They cited Obama’s support of gay rights and same-sex marriage; a lack of U.S. aid for struggling, African countries, and lack of progress for African Americans under his administration.
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And many either supported Trump’s election, or are staunchly optimistic about his fledgling presidency. They believe Trump will restore America’s conservative Christian values. And they aren’t really concerned with Trump’s seemingly never-ending string of controversial statements, which have drawn the ire of women, Mexicans, Muslims, immigrants, the disabled and more.
“I know some Americans are disappointed, but I think Trump will do well. I see Trump as someone who is going to transform America. God is on his side,” said Adel Kwesi Majdoub, 36, a broadcast journalist with Metro-TV Ghana, chatting at a dinner at the Accra home of Israel’s ambassador to Ghana.
The five-day trip to Ghana was funded by the Israel Consulate in New York to showcase its international development agency MASHAV’s support of education and health programs in West Africa.
“I think most blacks in America, they turned out to vote for Obama with the hope that he was really going to do something to help them. But he didn’t do much for blacks,” Majdoub said.
Obama, who wrote of his heritage in his 2004 book “Dreams From My Father,” has family in Kenya, and he visited the continent eight times; he was the first sitting U.S. president to visit Kenya and Ethiopia.
“African slaves built America, made it what it is,” said Rose Nkrumah, a 47-year-old educator at the ambassador’s dinner.
“Unfortunately, things have not gone the way I would have wished, because American blacks are still treated with racism, which is very disheartening. But Obama did try to bring the races together. Trump clearly believes otherwise,” Nkrumah said.
Ghana, the first African country to gain independence from the British, was Obama’s first trip to the continent, in July 2009. While there, he visited Cape Coast Castle, one of Ghana’s “slave castles” used by European traders in the horrific trans-Atlantic slave trade.
And, though they seem to be in the minority on this visit to this heavily Christian country, there are those in Ghana who still adore him.
“I love Obama and Michelle. In my office, I still have their photo, with Malia and Sasha,” said Matilda Arthur, 64, who lived in the U.S. for 30 years before returning in 2015 to work for the African Business Center for Developing Education.
“Obama did his utmost best. He really motivated people to reach their potential. He fought. But Congress wasn’t always giving him the help. They just didn’t care, because he was African-American,” said Arthur.
She’s among those Ghanaians less than optimistic for America’s future under Trump.
“The United States has a lot of influence in world issues. So no matter how far away you are from them, whatever happens there is of major interest to you,” said Adwowa Ammah-Tagoe, 52, a government employee in Ghana’s energy sector.
“When Trump entered the race, I was like, oh, this guy, ‘The Apprentice.’ All we knew of him was, ‘You’re fired!’ I never imagined he would win your election,” she said. “If you had been in Ghana that day, it was like when we go to the World Cup and lose — quiet, people just stunned. But the Women’s March and simultaneous global protests were powerful, encouraging.”
That said, Trump still won the electoral college vote. One Ghanaian, investigative journalist Manasseh Azureawuni, 31, of JOY-FM Accra, a multimedia company, called Trump “God’s punishment to America.”
“I remember watching Obama delivering his acceptance speech. I almost had tears, because if you read about the kind of suffering Martin Luther King, Jr. and others went through, it was like King’s prophecy had come to pass,” Azureawuni said. “Unfortunately, some of us were not too pleased with some of the things that happened under Obama’s regime. You had the Arab Spring, how they treated Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, growth of ISIS. The world became more unstable.
“Trump is a bad leader. But when you begin to destroy the foundation on which a nation is built, some people voted for Trump not because they like him. They just got angry with some of the things that happened.”
Foreign dignitaries based in Ghana choose their words very carefully when speaking of Trump and the current state of American politics. Ambassadors from several countries attending an International Holocaust Remembrance Day event in Accra declined to comment.
“As far as totalitarianism is concerned in the United States, he won the election fair and square,” said Christine Evans-Klock, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Ghana.
“That said, there are lots of institutions that will support democracy, freedom of information, human rights and justice in a democracy as old as the United States, and I think the U.S. has the institutional depth to protect against any slippery slope toward anything other than democracy and human rights,” Evans-Klock said.
Caesar Atuire, a professor of philosophy and anthropology at the University of Ghana and a panelist at that event, was less subtle.
“The idea of the first black president opening doors in American institutions left a segment of whites in America feeling disenfranchised or threatened. Electing Trump was a fear reaction,” Atuire said.
But Ghanaians like Ghartey, the Assemblies of God leader, are unapologetically supportive of Trump.
“Looking at Hillary Clinton, who represented the establishment, we felt that wouldn’t go well for us. When we learned of Donald Trump, he sounded too raw, a non-politician who would even swear with profane language. But he would do that with honesty. And some of us felt we can trust Trump,” Ghartey said.
“Even though he doesn’t profess to be Christian, he has that background. And as a non-politician trying to turn the tide around, we support him. Some of us even prayed here for him. We realized that if God could use Cyrus, he can also use Trump,” said Ghartey.
Others here would like to see Americans who voted for Clinton give Trump a chance.
“I’m one of those who were a little disappointed with Obama, because he didn’t really do anything significant for Africa, seeing that he came from here,” said Joyce Aryee, a former politician, businesswoman and founder of Salt and Light Ministries, who was at the interfaith roundtable.
“I know a lot of negative things have been said of Donald Trump, but I don’t want to be prejudiced,” Aryee said. “I think maybe because he’s been bashed so much, he feels on the defensive, to the point of being aggressive. I wonder if it may not be prudent for America to say, ‘Well, this is our president. How can we as the people of the land influence him to do things we’d like him to do for America?’
“I’d like to see how he’s going to make America great again.”