Africa Map

    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?

    Perhaps, there are a couple of reasons.
    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!

    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.
    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.

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    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.
    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 it really is a matter of; from what side of the coin are you looking? The politician – the head. Or the citizen – the tail. Or is vice versa more appealing? After all, it is the government of the people; by the people; for the people. The people: The priority.

    From outside the corridors of power, it is easy to see all the resources arrayed in their glory and splendour – available and accessible. The bauxite and the diamond. The oil and the gold. Then you wonder: We are rich! So why are we not rich? How in the world could anyone cry, “Poverty!” in the midst of such abundance. The mind-bursting part is when you look around at nations and territories all the world around with not a third of these resources and see them do wonders with what they have. Your reaction can only be hand-to-chin.
    From inside the corridors of power, one only sees the sheer magnitude of the problems. Accumulated and overwhelming. Looming large overhead like a giant wave about to clap down hard. You feel like that juvenile to whom a forerunner has just handed a baton. And there you stand. Still. Frozen to the spot. Spectators are cheering and pointing and screaming: “Run! Run!” Yet there you stand. Still. Frozen to the spot. And the only things running are the legs of your mind. And in no one direction. Questions upon questions: To where am I running? – Destination. Why am I running? – Purpose. Is this a dash or a marathon? – Speed or stamina. Against whom am I running? – My own past or some unseen competitor. Do I even know how to run? – Ability. Have I run before? – History. Who am I to even be running? – Identity. Your only reaction: Analysis paralysis.

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    On one side of the gates of power.
    Ah! But we have plenty resources. Why won’t the government just sell some of it? In fact, auction it. Highest bidder. More cash. And we can buy all the things we need for our own development. Build roads, skyscrapers and ultra-modern cities. Provide water, shelter, electricity for everyone everywhere in the country. In fact, build successful giant businesses to compete with businesses from other nations. If we cannot find people among us who can do what we want, we will pay people to come in from elsewhere to do it exactly like we want it. Or better still, train us to do it ourselves. No one needs to suffer. No one needs to go hungry. After all, do we not have a lot of good land?

    Cultivate crops in the vast lands we have. That would yield more than enough for us all to eat and be satisfied. We would store the rest so we can have food all year long. We can even export the extra food. Why don’t we dig wells all over the place? Build huge reservoirs. Mechanize them. That way, every household can have potable water all the time.

    Do we not have contractors all over the country? Pay them and have them build houses. As many as we need. In fact, give them a model and have them all build according to that model. Uniform residential buildings. All over the country. So each household can have a house to themselves. Government can then rent them out at affordable prices. And the residents can pay government over time. The rent can simply be re-invested into building more houses. Then all our accommodation problems would be over – forever.

    Why should electricity be a problem in a country as rich as ours? Build many hydro-electric dams with the money we get from the resources we sell. In fact, God has blessed us. We have the sun shining down on us all year round. Harness solar power. Establish solar farms across the country. And our electricity problems would be kaput. Simple!

    On the other side of the gates of power.
    Gosh! There is so much to do! We need to get more money. We have so much to do and so little resources to do them. First things first. Agenda number 1: Fulfil all campaign promises to the people. Retaining power come next elections is hinged on the fulfilment our campaign promises. But wait! All the money I spent campaigning. I need to pay my debts as soon as possible and fulfil promises to my donors. This rather is Agenda number 1. Campaign promises – Agenda number 2. Damn democracy!

    We really need to get more money to do what we need to do. Where could we get more money? Wait! Stupid question! There is no such thing as the Free Lunch! What do we have that we can exchange for money? In fact, what can we use as collateral to secure some loans? [Coded questions for: What state resources or assets can we sell out?] Fast forwards a couple of months. Some state institutions have been ‘privatized’. Some ‘foreign aid’, ‘grants’ and ‘donations’ have come in; to undertake project A, B and C. The projects have been assigned to company A (foreign), B (foreign) and C (local). Coincidentally, companies A and B just happen to be based in the countries which so generously funded the projects. A number of such privatisations, grants and donations, projects and MOU’s, whose backend details would probably never see the light of day, are heralded on the news across several months as the progress the current government is making that the previous governments or opposition parties could not have thought out in a hundred lifetimes.

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    Fast forward two years. News Headline: The Kontihenekrom-Mempemehoasem Road Project Abandoned. Subtitle: Contractors halt project due to lack of funds.

    Question: What happened to the donations which were given for the project; upfront and in full, before the commencement of the project by that benevolent foreign donor? Answer: We needed money. Of course we would not tell them we pre-intended to use a good chunk of those “benevolent donations” to repay campaign debts; fulfil campaign promises which would likely not receive any funding if pitched directly; and fulfil the capricious expenditure demands of campaign sponsors. How in the world would the benevolent donors understand or agree to release funds given such appeals? “Give us money to pay up the debts we accrued climbing up to power, satisfy the demands of our financiers and fulfil the campaign promises we made to our people while we are at it!” Well. Good luck getting a dime with that. Transparency my foot!
    Besides, we know the people cannot and would not handle the truth well. But really?

    How else were we expected to fund our election campaigns or garner the votes of the people? If loans and financiers and promises is the only way to get into power; and they each come at a cost; we damn well have to find ways of meeting those costs. How else would it be done? “Hello wonderful citizens! We needed to use a third of the road project funds to service some loans, satisfy our financiers and fulfil some other equally important promises we made to you!” Yeah, right! Public accountability my foot!

    And that growing public advocacy for a fifty-year Development Plan! Who are they kidding? The constitution says I can only be in a power, maximum, eight years. Of what strategic benefit is there to invest time energy and resources on a bloody fifty-year development plan, only for someone else to interrupt it the day I step out of office and re-appropriate funds set aside for the plan into fulfilling their own campaign promises to keep their party in power. What do you take us for? Political amateurs or self-saboteurs?

    Both sides of the coin appear to have quite an argument. And each, a valid one at that. Well, whether good or not probably depends on whether the critic is an idealist or a realist.

    Anyone who has held any position of power or of influence soon realises: If everyone’s opinion held the same level of sway, and every opinion counted, then no decision would ever be made. Hence, the concept, “Majority carries the vote!” – Democracy. Either that or let the one who has proven himself/herself to possess a higher level of understanding of the issue at hand lead the way and the others follow. It known as Meritocracy when the people choose this leader; and Autocracy when the chooses himself or herself. There is a third option. If we cannot agree, let each person do as they wish. This option has a name too. Anarchy!

    What then is the reasonably workable solution?
    To be continued …

    — Opinion Piece by Joshua Adamu (


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