We Deserve the Leaders We Get

The President Kikwete went on TV this week and announced that the anti-graft agency, Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB), is about to bring two or three cases to court as part of his administration’s ongoing fight against corruption. This is certainly encouraging news and we should give kudos to the President for continuing his efforts on this front.

But let’s take a moment and think more deeply about this. It is always comforting for us to blame the corrupt elements within the corridors of power for the problems we are facing as a country. It massages well that self-righteous muscle within us and leaves us with feelings of superiority that come from excoriating others’ moral failings.

Yet, I wonder sometimes how much we, as a people, have contributed to this. Ask yourself this: how do we measure success in this country? Do we judge someone to be a successful individual because he/she is an honest and hard-working public servant. Not really. We tend to define someone’s success materially: the type of car he drives, the size of his house, whether he owns a blackberry or not. We measure success on how much money someone has.

In this context, is it then a surprise that those in power never pass up an opportunity to make a buck, even when doing so involves accepting bribes and indulging in corruptive behaviour? If making money is how we define success, is it therefore shocking that our leaders always make sure they get paid at every possible opportunity? The obsession with money is deeply ingrained in our culture. And from this, inevitably, have emerged leaders obsessed with money. While this does not excuse the corruption in our public officials, I want us to remember that we, as a people, have played a role in their creation. If we continue in this mentality, we deserve the leaders we get. They exist for a reason. We invented them.

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