BBC Focus on Africa Resident Presidents
The 77th session of the annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) took place in New York, USA from September 19 to 23, 2022. Notably missing were two “Presidents” – “Kibarkingmad” and “Olushambles” of BBC fame!
BBC World Service’s “Focus on Africa” programme on Friday afternoons during news-time at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. presents a short satirical skit/comedy of less than five minutes titled “The Resident Presidents”.
The two “presidents” of two imaginary African countries are Kibarkingmad and Olushambles.
While Olushambles has surrounded himself with yes-men who prevent him from hearing/seeing reality, and believes everything good must come to him/family and friends, Kibarkingmad represents the positive voice of reasoning and moderation and draws Olushambles’ mind to reality.
Kibarkingmad & Olushambles
On Friday, September 2, 2022’s comedy, an exasperated Olushambles shouted at Kibarkingmad for disagreeing with him, saying “you idiooot (idiot)”. Perhaps, asked to use another word for idiot, Olushambles would angrily have used “stupid!”.
Indeed, in George Orwell’s Animal Farm style, the duo use satire to expose, ridicule and criticise vices in politics/leadership.
The word “idiot” reminded me of a book launch I attended in August 2022. The guest of honour told the story of the ancient Greeks’ classification of human beings, where “idiot” meant differently from what it does today.
What was the classification?
The ancient Greeks believed that humanity was made up of three types or kinds of human beings. The first group they called the “Idiots,” the second the “Tribesmen” and the third the “Citizens!”
The “Idiots” – Unlike the modern-day usage of the word “idiot” being synonymous with the word stupid, the idiot in ancient Greek usage did not necessarily connote stupidity. The idiots were those who did not care about the society and, therefore, only selfishly did things for themselves while complaining/blaming others about everything, except themselves. In pidgin English today, the idiot would say “country broke or no broke, we dey inside”. He couldn’t be bothered.
The “Tribesmen” – Tribe used here did not mean ethnicity only. It included religion and other groups with parochial interests. The tribesman was only interested in members of his “tribe” as a group. The current term “family and friends” could exemplify the “tribesman” of the ancient Greeks.
The “Citizen” – The “Citizen” comprised human beings who did the right thing by obeying the law to the letter. They believed in the saying “for God and country” and served their nation positively.
The Greeks did not restrict the classifications to any particular social stratum. So while the rich and the learned could by their negative behaviour be classified as “idiots” or “tribesmen,” the poor and the illiterate could be “citizens” because they did what society expected of them by obeying the law.
The guest of honour at the end of his address asked the audience to do a self-introspection and categorise themselves as either Ghanaian “idiots, tribesmen or citizens!”
In their conversation in the satirical skit on Friday, September 2, 2022, Olushambles angrily raved and ranted over the results of a poll conducted by an international foundation among youth in Africa.
Questioning how many youth would like to stay in their African countries or leave overseas for greener pasture, Olushambles was upset because the youth in only two of the 54 countries said they would remain in their countries. He accused them of disloyalty.
Asked by Kibarkingmad how his own country had fared in the polls, Olushambles said, to avoid hearing any “nonsense”, he had stopped the pollsters from entering his country at the airport!
As I listened to the discussion by a very high-powered panel of experts on the Auditor-General’s report on Joy FM’s Newsfile programme on Saturday, September 3, 2022, I asked myself what I would have thought of the managers of our economy if I qualified as youth.
As one of the panellists asked, what sense does it make to go to the IMF cap in hand to borrow the equivalent of GH¢16 billion when a bigger figure has been syphoned/stolen from the public purse into private pockets in one year?
In an era of daily price increases blamed on COVID-19/Russia-Ukraine when some civil servants cannot drive their cars to work five days a week and wives return from the market every Saturday morning virtually in tears because of rocketing prices, for some, their buildings are springing up at alarming rates.
Once again, I will quote what my Ugandan colleague told me when I served as former President Chissano of Mozambique’s Senior UN Military Adviser in Uganda in 2008-2009. Answering my question on the daily screaming newspaper headlines on murder/corruption, he said:
“When human beings know they can get away with murder (corruption), they will murder (steal) with impunity. But if they know they will also be killed for murder, they will not murder!”
An ace broadcaster’s favourite quote is “...and some/others were shot for less…” anytime he discusses the execution of the Generals in 1979 ostensibly to stop corruption.
When “President” Kibarkingmad tried reasoning with Olushambles to take decisive action on the high levels of corruption in his country to encourage the youth to stay in his country, he angrily shot back, “Idiooooot! Let them cross the Sahara and drown in the Mediterranean!”
After their beautiful speeches in impeccable English/French/Portuguese/Spanish at the September 2022, 77th UNGA in New York, African leaders, one hopes, have returned home to address unemployment, environmental degradation, astronomical inflation, human trafficking/illegal and perilous migration across the Sahara and Mediterranean, etc.
US President JF Kennedy famously said, “If a civilised society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich!”
Doesn’t the Good Book say that “to everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the sun”?
Leadership, lead! Fellow Ghanaians, wake up!
The writer is former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association, Nairobi, Kenya & Council Chairman, Family Health University College, Accra.