By Bonny Ibhawoh,

As Obama is sworn in as President of the United States, there seems to be global expectation that all things will now pass away and behold, all things will be made new. Obama’s administration will no doubt mark a radical departure from the experiences of the Bush years but it would be a mistake to think that Obama can change all that is wrong with the America and the world.
Inheriting two wars and a global economic crisis, the expectations for Obama need to be more measured and realistic. If not, they can easily lead to a stultifying and demoralizing “aspirational gap.”


In talking about the aspirational gap, I am reminded of the stratospheric expectations that followed decolonizing in Africa and other parts of the colonized world. Many in these societies imagined that the end of colonialism would automatically usher an end to the political and economic challenges they faced under colonial rule. Nationalist politicians fanned these expectations. The nationalist leader and prime minister of independent Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah implored his countrymen and women: “Seek ye the political kingdom and all other things will be added unto thee.” This turned out not to be. The expectation and aspiration bar has been set so high that no matter what the first generation of post-colonial leaders did (and they in fact, did not do very much), it was near impossible to meet them. The aspirational gap could never be filled. I have the same fears for our expectations of the Obama administration. The Obama administrations enjoyed an unprecedented measure of domestic and international goodwill from those who genuinely hope it succeeds. But in so doing we must beware the aspirational gap!