Barack Obama’s other woman exposed in new book
Imagine if someone today released a book with vivid details about a little-known ex-girlfriend of former President Mwai Kibaki, even publishing interviews with that former lover.
The book would probably offer fodder for gossip among Kenyans and maybe spark online jokes and memes here and there.
But when the person whose ex-lover is being revealed in a book is the former president of the United States, tongues are set to wag far and wide.
Since early this week when the Washington Post published a review of a book that exposes former US president Barack Obama’s little-known details, including his relationship with a woman he once proposed to, there has been heightened attention towards the man whose polygamist father hails from Kogelo, Siaya County.
Mr Obama, according to the book Rising Star by award-winning biographer David Garrow, may have chosen to marry the black Michelle, the First Lady everyone knows, over half-Dutch half-Japanese Sheila Miyoshi Jager, for political reasons.
The writer portrays Mr Obama as a person who was concerned about the political impact of his decisions from his early 20s.
And because it would be politically injurious for him to marry a white woman, he may have opted to drop Ms Jager, though he made two marriage requests before embracing Michelle.
“He felt trapped between the woman he loved and the destiny he knew was his,” Garrow writes.
After reading the book that has now been identified as the third biography about Mr Obama, Washington Post’s reviewer Carlos Lozada made an interesting finding.
“In Garrow’s telling, Obama made emotional judgments on political grounds. A close mutual friend of the couple recalls Obama explaining that ‘the lines are very clearly drawn… If I am going out with a white woman, I have no standing here,’” the reviewer writes.
Ms Jager is an American with roots in the Netherlands and Japan and is currently a professor at Oberlin College in Ohio, United States.
Through interviews with Ms Jager, the writer brings out the political ambition that was burning inside Mr Obama early in his life.
She told Garrow, a writer who has won a Pulitzer for his biography on Martin Luther King Jr, that in 1987 when Obama was 25, there was a sudden change in him.
“He became so very ambitious very suddenly,” she said.
“I remember very clearly when this transformation happened, and I remember very specifically that by 1987, about a year into our relationship, he already had his sights on becoming president.”
It was also when Mr Obama, then 25, asked Ms Jager to marry him but she turned him down.
She was 23 then. “The two continued to see each other but Ms Jager told Garrow that shortly after the proposal, Obama became more ambitious,” the Washington Post review said.
Interestingly, Mr Obama was still seeing Ms Jager once in a while even after meeting Michelle at a Chicago-based law firm, according to the book.
“Barack and Sheila had continued to see each other irregularly throughout the 1990-91 academic year, notwithstanding the deepening of Barack’s relationship with Michelle Robinson,” the book says.
The Washington Post article added: “Once Barack and Michelle were married, his personal ties to Sheila was reduced to the occasional letter (such as after the 9/11 attacks) and phone call (when he reached out to ask whether a biographer had contacted her).”
One of the objectives of Garrow, the book reviewer says, is to reveal that Mr Obama’s romantic choices were influenced by his political ambitions.
The reviewer also notes that Garrow is not very approving of Mr Obama in the biography.