When you think about it, it’s us ordinary citizens living in Africa who are to blame for the arrogant ways in which those in power, stomping about, all high and mighty, with an air that we should be pleasing them, rather than them pleasing us. How does this make sense? After all, we do pay their salaries.
You would never expect to see traffic jams created because a state leader went out for a drive in the UK, aggressively protected by overzealous ego-maniacs, who disguise themselves in police uniforms. Or perhaps the pompous potato-heads in plain clothes, who use their beige landrovers as their accessory to importance whilst being ridiculously rude as they surf their power-trip wave.
We see this power-trip trickle down in forms such as the 'shoot-first' policy, which is so popular in Kenya. Despite being a predominantly Christian society where values such as 'thou shalt not kill' are meant to be law, some suspected robbers were recently shot at point-blank range on a busy road in broad daylight by police-officers, after they had surrendered. Something that stands out is that the cops knew they had the power to get away with it.
And yet, like the submissive fools that we have now become, we accept these things. We stand aside and wait for hours just to watch the president or prime minister or some other self-important VIP drive by with their gleaming motorcade, oblivious to the havoc they create and which will last for a good few hours and the negative impact that could have had on the country's economy.
Then there are those portraits, you know the ones, in all the offices and shops…those beady little eyes that watch you all day and stare through the night. It is almost a symbol to be worshipped, a well-posed photograph of your president, placed high for all to remember and all to aspire to. Perhaps that is why some African leaders, who’ve been in power far too long, find it so hard to let go of their ageing looks and go to extraordinary lengths to maintain that youthful air captured in that frame.
The “big man syndrome” exists because somebody attempts to overcome the way he believes other people perceive him by creating this omnipresent image of power, yet the image that registers is of a blundering fool who has absolutely no regard for those who put them into office.
A greener society
And we just lap it up like little puppies that have been watching the milk bowl for hours and have finally been given access to it. Sure, there will be a general sensation of annoyance that you’ve missed your all-important meeting because the president needed to play a round of golf, but that feeling soon dissipates at the prospect of the possibility playing golf with him.
Our societies’ need to have power, or be associated with power, is so great that it is reflected in the leaders we create: Individuals that would not be caught dead cycling to their offices in the morning in the hope of encouraging a greener society. And certainly not individuals who would freely mingle with us mere mortals.
For whatever reason we do it, we need to stop feeding ‘the power’. Hold individuals in ‘power’ accountable for their actions; the officer that was rude to you and the VIP who didn’t care. And for those in power, perhaps they should contemplate the dignitary who gets swept through the city and sees the way in which ‘ordinary’ citizens are treated.
After all, it’s not the way you treat your superiors that defines you, but the way you treat your inferiors.