While delivering the 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in Johannesburg, South Africa, early this week, former US president Baraka Obama castigated leaders for telling more lies than facts.
“Unfortunately, too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth. People just make stuff up. We see it in state-sponsored propaganda; we see it in internet driven fabrications... we see the utter loss of shame among political leaders where they’re caught in a lie and they just double down and they lie some more,” Mr Obama said.
His comments erupted into a global debate with many people taking to social media to examine leaders in their respective countries.
Mr Obama, the first African-American to lead the US, went on to say politicians have lied in matters of elections, rejection of science, denying others their rights and denial of facts about how the world is moving. Some analysts hinted that he was throwing barbs at his successor Donald Trump.
“Politicians have always lied, but it used to be if you caught them lying they’d be like, ‘Oh man’,” he said amid loud applause from his South African audience.
Obama is right about politicians lying. The New York Times in December 2017 released figures on the number of lies Obama told in his eight years as US president. The newspaper revealed he had lied 18 times in eight years, whereas Mr Trump had lied 103 times in just 10 months.
Let us bring it closer to Uganda. When asked if he would contest beyond the age of 75, President Museveni told NTV in 2015: “Not at all. Certainly not. That is in the Constitution now. And I will not involve myself in wanting to change that. Because I think there is some scientific logic behind it.”
But the President early this year turned around and applauded MPs from the ruling NRM who supported the passing of the Constitution Amendment Bill, 2017, that removed the presidential age limit.
“I thank you very much for the heroic courage you exhibited, you are the new historicals now. Those who are intimidating you, we shall deal with them,” the President said to 317 MPs on February 25 in Kiboga District.
Mr Godber Tumushabe, a policy analyst, says politics in Uganda has degenerated because every leader must lie to attain what he or she wants. He says the reason leaders are not punished for lying is lies are a conspiracy of the politicians and Ugandan elite who both benefit from a successful lie.
“I think nowdays to be a successful politician, you need to be a successful liar,” Mr Tumushabe says.
When this writer put the same question to ICT and National Guidance minister Frank Tumwebaze, he refused to be drawn into the discussion. “Don’t involve me in speculation. Idle speculation actually, you know Ugandans can really speculate,” he said in a brief SMS to this newspaper.