MAKESHIFT

Nevertheless, not too long ago, I saw the photo of a Cabinet minister in the Democratic Republic of Congo cutting a ribbon to open a “bridge”. The bridge was a crude small thing, about 10 per cent of the makeshift one that our old man built. Unbelievable!

Now potholes are a menace in many African — and world — cities, yes, and they need to be fixed. Recently, some Nigerians on social media regaled us with photos of a state governor in an elaborate ceremony launching the fixing of potholes. Even for a people who have seen it all and are gifted with a rich cynical sense of humour, it was too much. Kenya, too, has had its fair share of, especially, governors and county officials, inaugurating several absurdities.

So why would a president launch two drones and 11 cameras; a minister open a bridge built of three one-metre-long logs, and a whole state governor launch the fixing of a pothole?

KNOW THE PEOPLE

Not to be entirely dismissive, there might be a good reason why people like President Kiir do the things they do.

As politicians, they actually do know the “people” well, and figure that they understand and appreciate small tangible things. To a mwananchi in Nigeria’s Kaduna state, the filling of a pothole, makes a lot more sense than his government signing up to the Paris Climate Change accord — although in northern Nigeria, climate change is 100 times bigger an issue.

There are local votes for potholes, but almost none for climate change agreements.

Secondly, it’s the illusion of progress, that is, when you know you are far away from your desired goal, the stuff you do to create the impression and provide the emotional satisfaction that you are getting close to (or have achieved) that final goal.

The advanced form of the illusion of progress was played out in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and it’s kept alive in North Korea today. They would build Potemkin towns. You are driven along a nice street with beautiful buildings, but they are actually cardboards or facades with nothing behind them.

In North Korea, visitors are often driven past well-stocked supermarkets, with big juicy fruits, except for one problem — the products are fake.

However, not everyone can fake it until they make it. For President Kiir, it is both a failure of imagination, and a messed-up sense of priorities. The drones are a symbol of failure.

 

The author is publisher of Africapedia.com and explainer site Roguechiefs.com. [email protected]

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