Friday 11 January 2008

Brood of vipers or leaders?

Names of great political graft

A few days ago I wrote about the First Jezebels who in the position of first ladies of their countries do not see the sense of duty in promoting and advancing the cause of women and children in their countries. Instead they satisfy their lusts for untold ostentation and extravagant living in the midst of the suffering that calls for the attention that their good office can help alleviate.

Now, the brood of African leaders also makes interesting reading – anyone would want to have a name that opens doors and gives access to privileges that would normally not be available to less fortunate people.

It cannot however be said that people then use that to good effect for anything than to move into some super-rich cadre hardly representative of the average of the societies that they have left from.

Criminal death

Last year, we read of the death of the son of the President of Chad, Brahim Deby at 27 in Paris in suspicious circumstances. This young man was in a position of privilege as a presidential advisor then got caught in criminal straits was convicted of weapons and drugs crimes – he got sacked.

Not many people get to be presidential advisors at 27 in any part of the world and definitely not in Chad where there was recently that fight to keep “orphaned” children from being abducted to enjoy the kinds of pleasures Brahim Deby might have commanded when resident in Paris.

Showy Nuisance

Then in Germany, Seif al-Arab, 25, one of the seven sons of Colonel Gaddafi, the strongman of Libya had his $340,000 Ferrari impounded for exceeding acceptable decibel limits for noise from an exhaust.

The fact is, this young man had been stopped and warned before, possibly the police were trying to avoid a diplomatic incident by not arresting him as might have happened to someone with a lesser name.

Indeed, one can assume Seif is a very successful Libyan businessman and it would be nice to see some ordinary Libyan attain that kind of status, if the policies of the government of Libya open up that kind of opportunity to lesser people with no names of political import.

Seif can get his car back with an undertaking to reduce the noise from 110.5 decibels to below the permitted 98 decibels along with paying a paltry fine. A fine ambassador for Libya, one would say.

Utter Embarrassment

Kofi Annan’s good name earned such great opprobrium when it surfaced that his son Kojo Annan, 34, had been seriously implicated in the UN Oil-for-Food Scandal. Apparently, he was a consultant with a firm that was part of the inspection party that was to supervise the programme.

The stench of a conflict of interest and the possible peddling of influence along with the innocuous connections with the UN that Kojo exercised as the son of the Secretary-General, albeit, allegedly unknown to his father, almost left the entire career of this great African in ignominy and disgrace.

How nice it would be for any son of Africa to have been able to gain such a position that allowed for a non-compete sweetener of $30,000 per annum for 5 years whilst you peddled influence elsewhere.

The sins of the fathers

In Australia, the visas of 8 students who are children of senior members of the Zimbabwean regime of the Grand Despot of Africa – Robert Mugabe – were revoked.

This was done on the premise that these children should not enjoy the privileges of a superb Western education whilst their parents and the regime they represent denies the ordinary citizens of Zimbabwe the very basic needs for life, of which education is an important part.

More so, it would have the tendency to entrench an elite of children-of-former-leaders who for all the advantages they have received, exact undue deference from their peers when the time comes for a new generation of leaders.

Beyond the fact that their experiences would almost certainly be too far removed from the people they might eventually subjugate due to dynastic machinations; the problems of the people never really seeing the possibility for resolution in the foreseeable future.

In response, the force of government was utilised to seek places in the elite South African Rhodes University for the expelled students.

One pines for an opportunity where regardless of who you are, the government can champion the cause of its people in a way that celebrates their ability rather than progeny. One must say that the university does draw about 25% of its student population from Zimbabwe, in any case.

The Nigerian whelps

In 2006, the son of Ibrahim Babangida, Mohammed Babangida reputed to be the Godfather of Modern Corruption in Nigeria was arrested by the EFCC, quizzed and later released. But it exposed a number of deep-seated nepotistic and corrupt influence peddling activities of children of power-brokers in Nigeria.

The children of the erstwhile President Olusegun Obasanjo who is busy suffering the dismemberment of his rotten legacy were not with columns of newsprint for the wrong reasons.

At first an unguarded interview by Gbenga Obasanjo where he laid bare a number of issues as well as castigating the then vice-President and rival of his father.

Then all the rumours about how he peddled influence with all sorts of deals and contracts that brought in members of his extended family showed a network of intertwined conflicts of interest and matter that would not endure the spotlight of investigation in a good way.

The other sons

Another son keeps a clearer head and leads a more responsible if not respectable livelihood running a technology blog and working at Microsoft with an opportunity to sing the praises before Bill Gates of his father’s laudable democratic credentials in 1979 which were not so in 2007.

At one time he succumbed to the lapse of judgement by caricaturing a worker in his father’s household in a picture that spoke volumes about the abuse of the under-privileged in Nigeria. That photo opportunity won Dare Obasanjo, Ijebuman’s Foot in Mouth 2007 Award.

In Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak who has been in power for a generation since 1981, has his son, Gamal Mubarak (b. 1963) who is quite politically active and is involved in trying to positively reform Egypt with the possibility that he might succeed his father.

Dynasties anew

There have been dynastic successions in Togo when a seemingly democratic setup allowed for Faure Gnassingbe (b. 1966) the son of Gnassingbe Eyadema to assume power after his father’s death.

I remember standing at the railway crossing waving a Nigerian and Togolese flag in Bukuru, Jos, Plateau State in 1974 when he visited with General Yakubu Gowon, the then Head of State to Pankshin as a pupil of Shamrock House, Corona School.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila (b. 1971) succeeded his father who was killed by his father’s close associates. He eventually got elected to the office of President.

Living responsibly

This is not to say that children of African leaders cannot rise to positions of responsibility by sheer merit, but any child born in Africa should by reason of good leadership and progressive government policies have the opportunity to rise by merit to any office in the land of their birth.

Having the head-start of name recognition is a good thing and it is used everywhere, but where that advantage has been gained, it should not be used to deny others opportunities and positions they aspire to and would have attained if the system and nepotism does not weigh against them.

Where however, children of leaders fail to realise their responsibilities to live their lives with a modicum of moderation rather than the excess of wanton debauchery earned by looting treasuries of countries their parents rule; neither should their parents continue to rule nor should they continue to live on the sweat and the fruits of the countries they have plundered.

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