Do we easily tolerate corruption?

What you need to know:

  • Our village poster boy is a one Jeff who heads one of the powerful commissions in Uganda. Jeff has all the trappings of an opulent government official; the exotic wife, expensive cars and the sheer disdain for time keeping. After all, why keep time when things can be made to wait for you?

The holidays are always a good time for reflection and a study of human nature. For us who take the mandatory trek back to our villages, there is never a dull moment. Every village has its heroes; those sons and daughters of the soil who left and made a fortune, which they come to show off every holiday.

Our village poster boy is a one Jeff who heads one of the powerful commissions in Uganda. Jeff has all the trappings of an opulent government official; the exotic wife, expensive cars and the sheer disdain for time keeping. After all, why keep time when things can be made to wait for you?

So, this Christmas Jeff, his gorgeous wife Joy and their entourage entered church when we were reciting the Nicene creed. For those familiar with the Anglican Church liturgy you know that that is indeed too late.

But nevertheless, the service had to be interrupted to announce Jeff’s arrival and the less fortunate taking up the front seats moved to make space for the big man. Then, the group trooped upfront as the villagers looked on reverentially as only villagers can.

I saw the women eyeballing the lovely Joy with so much undisguised envy, it hurt. You see, Joy is a daughter of a former diplomat and lived most of her life abroad which made her village visits only Christmas and Easter. As if that was not enough, she married a man who could afford to keep her away from the drudgery of ordinary life and keep her in designer clothes and air conditioning.

But, in spite of his efforts, Joy sometimes finds herself in real life situations, which she is yet to master. Stories of her ineptitude always make for a good laugh. There is one about her fainting from smoke inhalation when she tried to mingle the millet for the mandatory traditional meal two years ago and had to be airlifted to Nairobi for urgent medical attention.

The other is about her bringing black jack leaves instead of doodo from the banana plantation apparently she cannot tell the difference between the two herbs. But I digress, I wanted to talk about Jeff, the man of the moment. Although he causes trouble for some of us because our parents usually question us what we are doing in Kampala, we love him because he takes the pressure off our pockets on public functions more especially Sunday services on big holidays.

It is an established practice in our village church to hold a fundraising drive shortly after service. The benefits are suspiciously the same every year and the items auctioned ridiculous. There are usually bunches of Matooke, baskets of fruit or chickens that are bought at shockingly huge amounts. One time, someone brought a live goat which startled Joy when she turned and locked eyes with it. She screamed, jumped out of her seat and almost ran out of the church to the entertainment of the onlookers. Probably to console her, her husband bought it at Shs5m and took it home instead of giving it away as he usually does with all the foodstuff he buys.

This Christmas, Jeff beat his own record by buying a rabbit at Shs7m cash. For some civil servants, this is a year’s salary and for some ordinary villagers might never get a chance of having that sum of money at once.

As our parents questioned whether Jeff lives in an alternate universe from our own, we put on plastic smiles and clapped and bowed our heads in shame as the Reverend prayed for Jeff a special blessing.

 We later learnt that Jeff’s side of the church had topped the offering this Christmas with Shs10m while the second managed a mere Shs750,000.

This whole story got me thinking about our fight against corruption in Uganda.

Although we all pay lip service to its elimination none us is averse to its fruits.

Sure, we want our cake but we want to be able to keep it too, because if we hated it we would not give front seats to likes of Jeff.

That Shs7m he paid for a rabbit was probably part of the money meant to fix our impassable road or bring clean water to the village but Jeff’s greed and our gullibility conspired to make sure that we only have the icing and miss the cake.

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