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Should politicians be judged guilty as charged?

Should politicians be judged guilty as charged?

Introduce anyone with the nomenclature, politician, in a gathering and the wager is odds on favourite eyes will be squinted, then raised as eyebrows subject that person to a closer look-over than if categorized in any other line of business. Why this anomaly continues to stalk what ought to be an exemplary and altruistic line of work stands attributed to more various and varied reasons than what obtains when paralleled against other career focuses.  (Photo: J Alusine Kamara, author)

My bet is as good as yours that instinctive negative thoughts are more than likely to infest minds of the majority in that gathering as the ‘culprit’ is then – justified or not – adjudged immoral, inefficient and seeped in corruption. One will be hard-put to challenge this class-branding since it does run concurrent with the fact that such portrayal could to some degree be considered appropriate when ethical codes of a majority of those masquerading as politicians are measured and taken into account.

While one cannot pretend to be a medical doctor, a rocket scientist, legal practitioner, or educationist without prerequisites these careers demand as qualification, the tag, “politician”, is so loose-fitting that a Bouakei, Morlai, Bolaji, or even an Alusine can lay claim to it without being challenged. ‘Sabi tork’ – which translates as glib tongue – is employed to mesmerize gullible gatherings whether speaking nonsense with confidence or not for political purposes. And of course, retaining a rag-tag band of praise-singers and boot-lickers to prop artificial popularity becomes integral although, more often than not, election results at the end turn out to reflect popular will and leave the rogue big-spender disheartened and out-of-pocket.

An individual does not need to be a formal academic to play the role of a politician even though it is an indisputable reality that such will be advantageous in this present-day global setting. However, the importance of someone not schooled in conventional education should not be diluted since inability to read or write must not be the yardstick used to measure intellect. One therefore should not dismiss and relegate in the social order those who lack the western concept of education since they can, more often than not, be found to possess astute minds.

Politicians are expected to be statesmen above all else, especially since they operate and rotate the wheels of progress upon which good governance is supposed to spin around. In that vein, compared to other career preferences, they must be barometers used to calibrate and promote the mores of societal ethics and as such stand duty-bound to reflect and encourage morality in their everyday inter-action.

Politics should not connote and conjure up an unholy perception in the eyes of the masses as now obtains in many instances. Being someone known to vehemently disagree with those who contend politics is a sullied profession and politicking a mucky game, the constancy of my premise remains predicated on the fact that politicking is as much a vocation, no more or less, than any other calling which can be called into question when anchored around a mind-set geared towards distasteful preferences.

Becoming an Imam in the Mosque, pastor in Church, lawyer, teacher, or what one will because of an insatiable and hell-bent appetite to accumulate earthly materials, womanizing, or plain old chicanery cannot, and ought not to dilute the essential and fundamental nature of these dignified professions. Why should politics then be thus sullied? Disturbing traits furthered by a distorted sense of duty ill-advised practitioners of these professions display need not prejudice the proficient and moral orientation inherent and operative with the nobleness these time-honoured disciplines articulate and sponsor.

While some may be quick to point damning fingers at politicians, whatever their ilk, people fail to acknowledge the fact that the behavioral unwholesomeness practitioners of politics personify symbolizes a cause and effect syndrome directly attributable to the electorate. It is an indisputable fact that whenever someone is introduced as a politician the gravitational pull tilts towards a desire by the generality of the public to fleece him. Demands for material gratification that would be non-existent when introduced as a teacher, pastor, imam become constant and overwhelming as a seemingly bottomless pocket is envisaged.

From another angle, ask the average man in the street what he bases his political support upon and one will be surprised at the broad spectrum of specious reasons advanced. Some will heartily proclaim, “If you cut me with a knife right now the blood oozing out will be coloured, ‘red’, ‘green’, ‘brown’, ‘grey’, or what-you-will!” Others maintain they proffer support based solely on filial, tribal, regional or some other fickle influences while contemptuous of merit. “I am a born so-and-so party member and will vote for a monkey if that is who my party’s candidate turns out to be,” fanatical supporters are known to declare. Beliefs like these are harbingers for bad governance. Material gratification demanded and awarded of course dwarfs all the above-mentioned considerations.

Meritocracy especially in emergent nations which ought to be fundamental in the simulation and stimulation of good governance is downgraded in eyes and realm of thinking. Services to God, country and consciences are routinely discounted as being out of context when politicians and their supporters do everything to seek, consolidate and perpetually cling on to power.

No-one spends money without expecting some sort of healthy returns and the politician is no different in that regard. Aware that some who profess to be supporters could in reality be anything but that, why blame a politician’s decision to prioritize replenishment of depleted funds upon being elected? And when the never-ending stream of relatives and friends demand their needs should be addressed and solved unbothered by knowledge salaries paid officially are paltry, what should the financially overstretched and stressed politician do?

What most people fail to realize is that politics can be as much an investment exercise, a vocation, and/or a game depending on the intuition and inclination of the practitioner, which more often than not is devoid of altruism. It becomes hard-put to find – unfortunate for me to say so – very few people especially in the developing world whose focal points are not geared towards a get-rich-quick high point in life when entering the political field. This details the quest for power and explains why those considered marginally well-off look for an improved power-base politics seem to offer and promulgate.

On the other side of the political spectrum, rags-to-riches stories abound where the stepping-stone politics offers actualizes dreams of riches and power that are second-to-none with unscrupulous minds. The ‘sabi tork’ phenomenon mentioned earlier in this article has been known to propel hitherto nonentities into the limelight with baggage, garbage and all. It is from this group one finds most of the time extreme impropriety incubates as absence of pedigree traits leaves these politicians nothing to lose socially if and when things get off-centre.

Arguments raging worldwide and set to continue ad infinitum revolve around whether power is more important than money, or vice versa. In my mind such represent what is sometimes described as the ‘catch 22’ syndrome  but which I love referring to as the “heads I win, tails you lose” quandary, or as others may put it, “the chicken or the egg, which comes first” dilemma. To make the argument moot therefore finds moneyed people jumping onto the political bandwagon searching for political power, or with intention to influence powers-that-be. The flip side also sees powerful politicians seeking to enrich themselves so they become favoured to rub shoulders with the well-heeled class. Who becomes the loser then? The gullible and suffering masses, of course!

But, should politics be associated with greed, corruption and other societal ills when it could easily project and exemplify positive ideals? Why is bad taste left in mouths of most at the mention of the word? And what can anyone anywhere do to salvage the disrepute it has to a certain degree blanketed itself with? Since nothing or no-one can be one hundred per cent bad I will endeavour to outline some positives about politics.

If, and when altruism becomes the byword those entering the political arena honestly promulgate, probity and accountability will then take a giant leap forward and the first steps to good governance would have been embarked upon. This will be so primarily because more often than not what propels most politicians is not a patriotic thirst to humanize sincere service but an innate passion to fill pockets and feed egos. When insatiable appetite for materialism is replaced by philanthropy, egotism transforms into selflessness and patriotism not simply paid lip-service, then the political wheel-of-fortune will positively impact society.

The above should be predicated upon a two-prong approach spearheaded by both the political as well as the voting class. Just as two hands must be engaged to effectively clap, the need for a double-edged approach to counter the endemic negativism politicking unfortunately portrays becomes mandatory. It is well known that there are two sides to every coin! Politicians need supporters and vice versa. If both feel duty-bound to be forthright and selfless in their endeavours society will be the better for it and if not, the public will be worse off.

The answer to the question raised by this article therefore may seem circuitous in determining a response: “Politicians should not, as individuals, be wholly judged guilty as charged if aided and abetted by an unscrupulous electorate which displays complacency and compliancy, as accomplices before and after the fact!

This is my personal view!

By J Alusine Kamara

E-mail:  jalusinekamara@yahoo.com

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