Nothing probably illustrates the dearth of good governance and service delivery on the African continent better than the recent report that Mr. Patrick Okumu-Ringa, an ex-minister from the Nebbi Municipality in Uganda who lost out in the recently concluded parliamentary election in the district, dismantled all the 10 boreholes he had previously sunk and which had supplied water to residents for the past 20 years. The former public service minister had just lost an election he expected to throw him back into political prominence and for which he had, according to him, built boreholes in his municipality to meet a critical need of the inhabitants. But quite surprisingly at the polls, the electorate thumbed him down with ignominy.
Not only was Okumu-Ringa defeated, he was beaten to third place. Disappointed and incensed by such ‘ingratitude’ from his constituents, he turned his rage on the facilities he had provided and dismantled them. For him, this was not arson. After all, he had provided the facilities with his personal resources in the first place. It was a classic display of the fundamental difference between the philanthropist and the politician. The philanthropist could be altruistic but the politician expects reward from his investment even if such is for a moment garbed in altruism. It would therefore seem that the typical politician cannot afford the much touted niceties of altruism if they won’t yield the tangible dividends of votes.
But this mindset of people in leadership positions is ridiculous, to say the least. It partly accounts for the retrogression on the continent. In the first place, infrastructure should be a social responsibility of the political leadership, not benevolent private citizens. A situation that allows an individual the exclusive privilege to gloat over the provision of social facilities cannot but be deplorable. Sadly, this condition is replicated widely on the continent where voters are regularly baited with such facilities by politicians who think that they are being generous, since the state has failed to deliver services that are commonplace in the civilised world. It is expected that governments on the continent will change the way governance is generally conducted and improve on the lives of their citizens.
A widely colonised continent, Africa has a record of a better past where effective and efficient social infrastructure existed. Water, electricity, public transport, roads and hospitals not only existed, they worked and were continually being improved upon. Sadly, however, the collapse of these social infrastructure coincided with independence, self rule and the subsequent military interventions. We are persuaded that corruption in high places is mainly responsible for the plummeting quality of life across the continent. Indeed, it has now deteriorated to the stage of palpable despondency. Public office-holders expect to renew their mandates and they bribe voters with facilities that ought to belong to them as a matter of right.
In certain circumstances, the repair of such infrastructure has even been resisted by local authorities who are scared that political opponents may leverage on
them to score political points and discredit the incumbent administration. At the receiving end, unfortunately, are the people who suffer most from such hideous and incorrect decisions. Mr. Okumu-Ringa aptly represents the typical African leader’s sentiments and predilections which darkly suggest a tinge of vendetta. He said: “I am hurt, but I will reconcile with them. However, for now, let them look for water elsewhere.” Okumu-Ringa is a disgrace. Certainly, Africans deserve a better deal than it is presently being offered.