Anatomy of An African Politician
The anatomy of a stereotypic African Politician tells us a lot about why Africa is dead last — on all fronts
Let’s be clear here: the idea of a selfless politician is complete nonsense. First, every politician thinks that s/he is, of all the people in his or her constituency, the best to lead them. In other words, everyone else is second-rate to them. This article aims to demonstrate, by analyzing the anatomy of an African politician, why Africa is stuck, and will never progress unless we have politicians with an anatomy completely different from that which they now have.
Starting from the top, take the head of an African politician. Many African politicians dye their hair out of vanity; something hardly surprising given they are politicians. Examples of such politicians include the late President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, and Kenyan opposition politician Raila Odinga. Thankfully, African’s don’t have to worry about their presidents wasting money on hair dyes, because Africa reportedly had the highest number of bald-headed leaders in 2015.
Next is the brain of the African politician. The human brain which weighs about 1.4 Kg (3 lbs), is the most complex object in the world, and controls all aspects of our lives, including our intelligence, senses, body movement, and behavior. So it’s a good thing that African politicians have brains. The problem, however, is that the brains of politicians increase their chances of being psychopaths, that is, people who show no remorse, are egocentric, and can have superficial charm.
On the other hand, psychopaths can have high tolerance of stress, and are fearless high achievers who can create positive first impressions. Problem is, criminals and wicked leaders such as Saddam Hussein and Adolf Hitler often fit such a profile, along with regular politicians such as the former Prime Minister Tony Blair of the UK, and former US Senator and Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton. No wonder that Africa has also had more than its fair share of despots and brutal dictators who have over-stayed their welcome.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 26.3 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa are visually impaired, and 5.9 million of these people are blind. In the same vein, the WHO estimates that 136 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa have hearing loss, with 3.6 percent of them having moderate or high hearing loss. These people are in good company, because although African politicians have eyes and ears, they are blind and deaf to the plight and complaints, respectively, of their people. If anything, the eyes and ears of African politicians serve only one purpose: to scout for opportunities for them to rob Africa, and line their pockets.
The mouth of the African politician is a double-edged sword that can spew out hatred and lies or inspire and unite people. When I was in Rwanda many years ago, I asked my Rwandan friend: “What really happened to spark the 1994 genocide?” “Simple,” he said. “Someone went on the radio and said that the Tutsis were cockroaches that should be killed, and the killing started.”
Such messages were amplified by anti-Tutsi outlets such as Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines resulting in the 1994 genocide in which an estimated 800 thousand people died. Similar incidents of hate speech leading to violence and strife followed the 2007 elections in Kenya, and led to the conflict in Côte d’Ivoire after the 2010 elections there. The on-going conflict between the Ethiopian government and regional forces in Tigray is the latest example of how African politicians have used their mouths to divide, rather than unite our peoples.
The heart is at the heart of the circulatory system of the human body, pumping blood filled with oxygen and nutrients to other parts of the body, and blood with waste materials and carbon dioxide to the lungs. The heart is also associated with a lot of symbolism, with many religions and cultures seeing it as the center of the body, as well as the seat of emotion, life, and intellect, and signifying conscience, truth or moral courage.
A few months ago, I shared with my friends a Chinese government White Paper on how they, since the 1970s, lifted over 770 million people out of poverty. I told my friends that the success of the Chinese government was based on a foundation of empathy for the people they serve. Sadly, my friends responded to the document with a yawn. No wonder that between 2008 and 2019, an average of 43.4 percent of people in Sub-Saharan Africa were poor, compared to 1.7 percent of Chinese, even though African countries have been fighting poverty since they started gaining Independence from their colonial masters in the 1960s (some 60 years ago).
The stomach is a vital digestive organ, and is where the second phase of digestion of food occurs, following chewing in the mouth. Although African politicians, like every other African, have a stomach, their stomachs are on diets that are much different from those of ordinary Africans. Besides, much of what African politicians eat is obtained through corruption, and they don’t have to worry about the high cost of food.
In the case of President Adama Barrow of The Gambia, whose monthly salary is $5,000, his household food budget is about $3,000 per day, paid for by government. This in a country so poor that gross national income per capita in 2017 was $2,168 (about $6 per day), and an average of 48.6 percent (almost half) of the population lived below the national poverty line between 2008 and 2019. In contrast, the US President, not the US government pays for toiletries, food, and dry cleaning for his or her family in the White House.
The last two organs of interest with regards African politicians are their hands and feet. The hands ultimately are responsible for much of the deeds of politicians (e.g. signing contracts), while feet are noteworthy perhaps only because they are made of clay. Despite the fact that Africa is the youngest continent in the world, it is ruled by the oldest and longest-serving presidents. Many African leaders will only leave office if they are pushed out or die.
How then can the stereotypic African politician be described in one sentence? Try this: a narcissist psychopath, and a blind, deaf, heartless, liar, as well as a despotic dictator with clay feet, who clings to power to the very last end in a kakistocracy (government by the least qualified, worst, or most unscrupulous citizens). Hence, the glaring lack of progress, on all fronts, in Africa.
But please don’t despair. Despite this dark record, the example set by the late Nelson Mandela, Nobel Peace Prize Laurate and former President of South Africa is proof positive that Africa does not lack good people; they just need to be heard.