Many situations that vex the brains of modern African leaders were analyzed and solved by our ancestors centuries ago. Take the story of a mean, miserly husband which has been told in different versions to millions of African kids at the fireplace. This ‘improved’ version of what was told in central Uganda had a guy who, though rich, never bought meat in his home. One day at dinner time, he got pleasantly curious when his nostrils picked the aroma of well-cooked meat. And lo and behold, his wife served him a deliciously chunk of well-prepared meat which he gobbled up. As he licked his fingers after eating, he remembered to ask her where she had got the meat from.
The wife answered that when she was going to the well, she met a bird which was singing a nice song and when she sang the chorus, it flew away and came with a piece of meat which it dropped into her water pot. The husband was very happy and told her to try and find the same bird the following day.
The following day she went to the well and this time took a little longer to return home. When she arrived, the man asked her impatiently if the bird had given her some meet. She answered in the affirmative but explained that this time it had taken longer to return when she sang the chorus. The man did not want to be bothered with the details and ordered her to start cooking the meat right away. In subsequent days, it became a routine for the woman to go to the well to fetch water and meat given to her by the bird, but taking hours before she returned.
Nine months after she started bringing meat given by the bird, she gave birth to a baby boy who bore a close resemblance to their neighbor. Because she had to recover from delivery and breastfeed the newborn baby, she could not go to the well and hence, no more meat which the husband had so gotten used to. A couple of weeks without eating meat, the man was almost running mad. So the wife advised him to go to the well and wait to hear the bird singing the song so he could sing the chorus and it gives him the meat. The man readily took her advice, picked the pot, and ran to the well. But wait as much as he could, he did not hear the bird singing the tune which the wife had told him. He waited the whole day and finally returned home, frustrated. But as he approached the house, the delicious aroma of cooking meat hit him. He runs fast to tell the wife about his disappointing mission and ask her what had happened.
She told him that the bird had apparently missed her and had somehow located her home and come to hear her sing the song, delivering the meat as well. The man was very happy and impatiently asked for the meat to be served. He ate it and slept happily. The following day he stayed at home, but by evening the bird had not come. The wife said that the bird must have been afraid of him and had flown away without delivering the meat. So the next day he left the house early in the morning and they agreed with the wife that he should go sit under a tree far enough not to see the house to be sure the bird also wouldn’t see him, only to come back late in the evening because there was no knowing what the time the bird would come. I think he agreed to the arrangement because they had no mobile phones those days, otherwise, he would have told her to call him as soon as the bird had brought the meat. The new routine took root and a year later, the wife delivered another baby that also resembled the neighbor. And life went on like that in the miser’s home for many years during which the wife delivered many children who resembled their generous neighbour until the man died of diabetes and gout with high blood pressure resulting from consuming too much meat. The generous neighbor stopped hiding when going to her house.
Similarly, Uganda’s negligent husband in form of the Executive arm of government has unknowingly abdicated its marital roles to members of parliament. These things are taught in civic education both in education institutions and even in village meetings – the separation of roles and powers. Parliament appropriates resources and exercised oversight. But when it appropriates, the Executive fails to deliver everything that has been appropriated. Its corrupt civil servants steal much of resources in connivance with businessmen in the private sector. The Executive fails to be firm on the corrupt officials and the citizens miss out on services. The MPs go ahead and start doing what the Executive was supposed to do.
The Executive’s apparent inability to protect all appropriated funds likens it to the husband who was unwilling to buy meat, attracting his generous neighbor to start providing the meat. When the wife told him to start leaving the house for the bird to bring the meat, he complied. When the MPs decided to appropriate money to themselves to deliver the services to the people themselves, the Executive could not stop them. So don’t be surprised if the MPs start apportioning increasing portions of the budget to themselves to implementing work which should be the Executives. And the people – read voters – cannot wait for them to do so. The Executive can only stop/prevent this by swiftly walking the talk of fighting corruption. This it seemed to do last year when we walked to Kololo to protest against corruption, but it needs to translate into the prosecution of at least half of the corruption offences committed.
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