By - Isaac Joseph
Politics in Africa, a revenue ‘grabbing’ business remains the fastest route to wealth acquisition. Over the years, her citizenry has been subjected to diverse manipulations from the ‘politricking’ business tycoons. Little wonder this business remains attractive to all and sundry. Politics plays out in different spheres in Africa and the acceptability has moved into even the ‘unlikeliest’ of places. Whatever is responsible for this paradigm shift is not the problem but it burdens the heart to know that this ‘politricking’ business has come to stay. While it is arguable to say that African countries such as Rwanda, Mauritius and a few others have come to properly maximize the art of governance, many countries in Africa still remain at the forefront of the ‘politricking’ business.
Niyi Osundare’s Poem – “The Politician’s Two Mouths”
Niyi Osundare, a prolific poet, dramatist and a literary critic, who is renowned ‘for his commitment to socially relevant art and artistic activism’ once stated, that an African poet has no choice but to be political. In his words – “You cannot keep quiet about the situation in the kind of countries we find ourselves in, in Africa. When you wake up and there is no running water, when you have a massive power outage for days and nights, no food on the table, no hospital for the sick, no peace of mind; when the image of the ruler you see everywhere is that of a dictator with a gun in his hand; and, on the international level, when you live in a world in which your continent is consigned to the margin, a world in which the colour of your skin is a constant disadvantage, everywhere you go – then there is no other way than to write about this, in an attempt to change the situation for the better.” It is against this backdrop and mindset that Niyi Osundare exposes us to “The Politician’s Two Mouths.”
The poem, ‘The Politician’s Two Mouths’ is a symbol of what transpires before, during and after political exercises in Africa. While the regular political stunts by ‘politrikcians’ are not new, they seem to come up with new business strategies every political year. And to one’s amazement, we fall for it every time, most times. Niyi Osundare clearly stated that:
“The politician’s mouth has two edges
Like Esimuda’s sword
It is murder both ways”
One can begin to ask several questions such as – Should we ever trust politicians? Can they ever be productive? Are they as dangerous as Osundare puts them? While some might give a Yes or No to the questions aforementioned, others might decide to remain indifferent. But what remain bothersome are the realities that we are faced with. During electioneering period, we are fed with all kinds of promises of a better life and a better future; ‘politrikcians’ go all way to assure us of their will to effect a change.
“he prostrates for a vote
But his mind squats like a hungry dog”
They come up with mind games that impact our emotions. Our ethnicity and religions are brought to the forefront of their pleas and we are left with no choice than to vote a ‘lesser evil’ as most people would say. It remains astonishing to see the length people would go to achieving their aims. A Yoruba (ethnic group in Nigeria) adage says – “A kò lè tìtorí pé a fẹ́ jẹran kí a wá máa pe màlúù ní bọ̀ọ̀dá. / No one defers to calling a cow a brother because one desires to eat beef. In normal circumstance, this should be the case but our ‘politrikcians’ don’t only call ‘cow’ brother but would also prostrate to the ‘cow’ to get its beef. Who has cursed us? It is at this period you see people coming up with the ‘integrity’ card and others the ‘rejuvenated’ card; and of recent, the ‘young’ card. But then, just as Osundare puts it:
“We cannot see inside of a lying wolf”
It is pathetic seeing Niyi Osundare compare ‘politrikcians’ to lying wolves. They have mastered the art of lying that they could trick a fish to live on land rather than in water. They come up with different tales (propagandas) in a bid to win over our hearts. In African countries such as Nigeria, ‘politrikcians’ tell the electorates how they have been in ‘sifia’ pains in the interest of the masses. Osundare, in this poem gave a simple advice:
“When the man of power
tells you his tale
ask him to wait till
You bring a sieve,”
Our options have to be carefully weighed. It is high time we stopped being victims of the ‘poitrikcians’ tales. Every promise has to be carefully examined. It is easier building castles in air.
“Whosoever believes what the politician says
his ears is blocked by the carcass of truth.”
Let’s call a spade a spade and not an agricultural implement! We have all been deceived so many times. While we all seek for our interests to be protected, they have most times been jeopardized by the ‘take a bow and go’ ‘politrikcians. Enough is enough! We are tired of promises and we all care about are results.
“A politician tells you to wait
and you heed his words
your soul will tell you
the bitting pains of folly”
Who has brought us to this stage? Every ‘politrikcians’ seem to be concerned about themselves and their bottomless pockets. Who do we believe? Who do we cry to when we need help? What legacy do we intend to hand over to the coming generation? Will posterity ever forgive us for our actions and inactions? Who should we hold responsible for our woes? Will there ever be redemption? How do we get to the Promised Land? Who will lead us there?
“The politician has two mouths
Both sharp like the white man’s razor.”
And our flesh has been torn by their razors. While we try to sustain ourselves through the healing process, we get torn again, again and again.
Africa’s Journey to Freedom
The quest for freedom is on the lips of every African. How intentional and determined we are to achieving this remains a perennial question. While we might be quick to trade blames, it is important to note that Africa’s greatest challenge is not just in her leadership woes but also in the failure of her followers to hold accountable the actions and inactions of her leaders. Change is expected to begin with us! In our different circles, politics abounds and the way it is played is of huge importance to our growth and development. While it ‘might’ be a fallacy to conclude that all politicians are liars, it is no gainsaying that most of them are everything but far from being trustworthy.
It is a long walk to freedom but we would certainly attain our desired heights. There are different hurdles ahead to overcome with our resilience and determination. Our leaders must be made to have every sense of accountability to the masses. The journey to freedom comes with selfless service and sacrifice. Indiscriminate selection of leaders should be a guide for a better future for Africa. Despite the looming challenges, the waves of change can be perceived and we would soon get rid of all our ‘politrickcians’… sooner or later!
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