DILEMMA OF THE AFRICAN POLITICIAN

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By Joshua Adamu – @Joeydoxah

African Politicians are in it for the money! This is what a lot of Africans think about their politicians. The several instances of corruption and misappropriation of public funds by political actors play right into this narrative. And the average African Joe goes, “Ahah! Why am I not surprised?”

The history of African politics is riddled with too many incidences of outright thievery by public officials to dismiss such a perception as unfair.

It would appear that many an honest citizen would begin the political journey with good intentions for public service. Well! You know what other road is paved with good intentions? The one to hell. Years down the lane, the good fellow is indistinguishable from the ‘rotten’ lot. The question: What in the world happens in the midst of or on the way to political power that is so hard to resist?

I have a theory. In fact, a series of theories.

Once in the hallways of power, it does not take long for the realization to hit and hit hard. The problem is too big for me to solve. The foundations of this messed up house are too strong and too deep to think I, puny little me, can make any major modifications to the structure. But I am here – might as well do something.

That ‘something’. That is where the problem begins. The downsizing of that original vision. The re-definition of reality. The settling for. The capitulation. That is right where everything goes to shits. All the visions of grandeur. All the “I will be the change (put the country’s name there) needs!”. The “I will be different from the rest!”. Here is where all that vaporizes into zilch. Well, guess what. Mother nature abhors the vacuum. Cannot be nothing. Has to be something. So what happens? Like the chameleon, this son or daughter of promise soberly takes on the colour of their setting – not just to maintain their sanity, but also for self-preservation. How very unfortunate!

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For others, this Aha! Moment comes way before admission into the high echelons of power. It comes on the way to the place. That merciless, staggering blow the opponent deals you. Pro bono. Nothing you did to deserve it; but for wanting what he wants. That is when your eyes pop open. Like you were somehow comatose all along. Even worse is the concussion when it comes at the primaries. You thought you were on the same team. Yeah, right! When you thought it could not get any worse. The party elders stand by. Akimbo. Looking on. Like nothing happened. You probably even learn they were in on it. Lol. Who ever said the game was fair. But you were warned, “Politics is not for the faint-hearted!”. Then all the guerrilla tactics you learnt since you were born suddenly become useful. The books. The movies. The office politics. The Youtube videos. The seminars and lectures. The school bully too. Yes, the game just got real!

Others yet learn the rules of the game quite early. Courtesy, dad. Or grandpa. Or uncle. Or that mentor. The blissful shortcut. Riding on the shoulders of great men. The king-makers. Good for this lot. The foundation was set for them. Quite easy is the road from there on. I said quite.

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For some other early-birds, it is inherent. Born naturals. From the class prefect. To the school prefect. To the SRC president. To the president of blah, blah, and blah. If re-incarnation were true – and whoever said it is not – they probably were the king or the courtier in that past life, wherever in the gazillion alleged universes they might have been. So they still got it. The regal flare. Does not mean they would be excused from the school of hard knocks though. The process must happen in this life too. But naturally do the gravitate towards the high places of society with relative ease. I said relative.

Irrespective of when the awakening process happened, when it does happen it has a pretty profound effect. Priorities must and do change. New habits and ways of thinking must be learnt. Some old company must be shed off. New circles and networks must be developed to accommodate the new mind-set. Afterall, the ‘old’ crowd would not understand that things are serious up here; the new power-handler thinks.

Then it becomes: Family first, party second. For some: Party first, family second. Option one is the more socio-politically acceptable one so those in group two pretend to be all for “family first”. Thus begins the deception! For some, family means the nuclear family. Others extend it a bit more.

Others yet go beyond and care for their tribesmen: “Honourable colleague, he is also from our village so …”. Some others care for their region. For some, the constituency comes in there somewhere. For the actively religious, religious brothers and sisters factor somewhere here too.

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Then the nation follows. Oh, the irony! The all-patriotic politician. All hail the custodian of public trust and curator of state resources! He has the country as priority number five. Or even worse than priority number five. Just awesome! Is it a matter of surprise when he steals from the state and gives to his sister’s son? After all, family comes before country. What about when he allows himself to be whipped into party-formation by the Chief Whip at the expense of the interests of his constituency; which he was voted to represent. After all, does party not come before constituency? What about when he is cajoled into transferring public funds into partisan campaigns. Party before country, right?

Can we blame the innocent politician? It is not easy. It is not their fault. That is how the game is played. Right?

Nonsense! If it is not easy, stay at home! Start a business! Find a job! Do not get anywhere near public office! In fact, if you cannot make the country priority number one in the face of impossible adversity, when you see public office turn your back and run! Public office is for public service! Serve the public or get the hell out of public service! Or yet still… Such might be the thoughts of the honest citizen. And rightly so, no? I guess…

To be continued…

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