Sunday, August 03, 2008

Patronage begets fear--kills talent

Today, over lunch, I was discussing with friends, who have had the chance of being close to President Museveni on how he has used fear to subdue his subordinates, especially his ministers. One friend joked; how in the middle of a press address, the President summoned his local government minister to explain something to do with markets and the usually loud-mouthed minister stood up in apparent fright, addressed the President as “Sir” before mumbling incoherencies. The President waved him down and proceeded on other matters. This minister is not ignorant, he is knowledgeable. It is just that he was scared of the President!! And many of them are.
We therefore delved into the cause of this. Why do people we think are so powerful like ministers suddenly crumble in the face of their superior? Should respect be the same as fear? It is a common scene to see women ministers kneel to greet the President, including one who is about to hit the 70-year-mark!!
I reasoned and still insist that when people are given positions through patronage and not merit, they feel they owe their everything to the “giver”. It becomes a norm, therefore, to accord the giver a demi-god status. It explains why these 70-year-olds are willing to genuflect and bow before their master—in their place would be more capable, competent persons. But knowing that they survive on patronage, they have to stoop as low as they can---if only it will ensure a steady flow of bread and milk to their tables.
But what happened to talent and merit? In Africa, it is the norm that jobs are dished out on friends, relatives and in-laws basis. This same afternoon, I called a friend of mine who runs her father’s construction firm. I greeted her in Swahili (teasingly) and she told me she didn’t know. The conversation went thus.
Don: But B****, you work in a construction firm. That is the common language spoken by porters. How can you not know it?
B: For us we use Lukiiga on our sites. We don’t employ non-Bakiga.
And she went on to tell me how they had a project in Karamoja and still the porters they took there were Rukiiga-speaking. Imagine porters in Karamoja speaking Rukiiga.
But that is that. Society has become about whom you know, not what you know. It is about technical know-who, no more technical know-how.
But should we let things remain this way?


wanyama said...

Paul left this on my mail. (Paul--post the comment to the blog bro)!

In the face of fear, creativity is at a repressed state. Even if you have chance to exercise one, attributes to its success should be directed to the Feared or revered one, and failure is upon you and you alone. This we have been trained by decades of religion where success is by God's grace and failure is by the devil incarnate or our own makings.
Our African rulers have comfortable adopted that and are, like Museveni, demi-gods. If he was a leader, like Kagame- no other present relative and relevant example- the surbodinates would work creatively freely without any undue fears and cause to repression. We all edit want we have to say and write, because we fearone thing orthe other. So it is not a person that controls us, our ministers et al, it is fear! How i wish that we exercised respect rather than fear...or unlike the 70-year olds, genuflect in respect or honour than to do so in fear,shear if not primitive sycophancy!

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