In the wake of the independence of African countries, political observers suggested that “politics is the quickest means of getting rich in Africa.” It was, and is a statement that has never been faulted.
Some three centuries ago, the French people, the common working people, crippled by hunger and crushing poverty and despairing of all hope spilled out into the streets of Paris and raised a chant and a cry for bread, that basic and essential component of the French diet that they could no longer afford. The din was so powerful and ubiquitous that it resounded in the Elysee Palace itself.
British lawyer Jeffrey Tesler was the epitome of contrition in pleading guilty to corruption charges in an American court. The plea was for his role in the two-decade old saga that has come to be known as the Nigerian Halliburton Bribery Scandal. “There is no day when I do not regret my weakness of character,” he confessed in a Houston courtroom, “I allowed myself to accept standards of behaviour in a business culture which can never be justified. I accepted the system of corruption that existed in Nigeria. I turned a blind eye to what was happening, and I am guilty of the offences as charged.”
In this high profile visit of the President of the United States of America to Africa as he prepares to take a bow, he spoke with passion and his usual disarming frankness to the leadership and people of Africa. He did so without the fear of crossing red lines or stepping on sensitive toes. As far as the woes of the continent and the list of desired changes are concerned, he did not say much that is new.
British politician and diplomat, Paddy Ashdown, in a 2012 TED talk, said that global power shifts take place among the nations of the world once every century. Such shifts are usually characterized by a cacophony of jangling conflicts and plenty of bloodshed. Mr. Ashdown says the last of the power shifts so experienced was from the old powers of Europe across the Atlantic to begin what he called the American Century.
As a young boy in the 1960’s and 1970’s in Sierra Leone we always played football. And the most popular ball used then was called “two shilling ball.” This was a much smaller ball than that usually recommended by FIFA for its competitions. This ball was usually the property of one person who, even if not a good player, dictated who plays. The owner could select (‘pick’ in local parlance) and sack members of his team at will. In doing his selection or ‘picking’, it is not necessarily the best players that will make it to his team but rather those in his good books. When he loses, he takes his ball and goes home irrespective of whether the others wish to continue playing. There were no rules apart from his.