If gold rusts, what will iron do?
What you need to know:
- The smartest and most spontaneous answer to the question posed above in the title of this article once came from President Museveni on the floor of Uganda’s Parliament. This was way back in 1989, in the fourth year of NRM ascendency.
Partly reproduced hereunder and updated for the edification of the esteemed readers of the Monitor is an article penned by ‘yours truly’ here way back in 2013, on a subject of uttermost national importance as topical then as it is it now and threatens to remain so for the foreseeable future within the borders of our wonderful and amazing country.
The smartest and most spontaneous answer to the question posed above in the title of this article once came from President Museveni on the floor of Uganda’s Parliament. This was way back in 1989, in the fourth year of NRM ascendency. The then-expanded National Resistance Council (NRC), of which ‘yours truly’ here was a member, was a particular afternoon meeting in a special session as a non-party, movement umbrella to brainstorm the way forward for Uganda.
Under the chairmanship of the President, member after member stood up to each make his/her contribution. The contribution from ‘yours truly’ here was about the need for the political leadership to manifest high ethical integrity in all its undertakings.
Quoting from a story by the famous pioneer English writer Geoffrey Chaucer (1340-1400) in his Canterbury Tales, ‘yours truly’ here highlighted the character in a leadership position who commits some shocking act, and the narrator asks – ‘If gold rusts, what will iron do?’ In a twinkling, and with a charming chuckle, President Museveni wittily cut in, ‘It will rot!’
The entire honourable House burst into hearty, hilarious laughter at the President’s clever and humorous alertness, for which he would have earned an A++ in a battle of brains or in an IQ test for eminent citizens.
As a matter of fact, the full quotation from Chaucer runs as follows: ‘If gold rusts, what (then) will iron do? /For if a priest is foul in whom we trust/ No wonder that a common man should rust…’
The current ‘mabati mother of all scandals’ has suddenly eclipsed Uganda Airlines and NSSF sagas and has shocked Ugandans into asking something like, ‘If an entire line-up of NRM leadership from vice president to State minister have been allegedly involved in depriving the very wretched of their intended relief, what unimaginable deeds of horror can’t the most privileged of the land dare for their survival?’
And does it mean that the only Cabinet ministers of integrity are the dead ones? I have in mind the praiseworthy names of Joash Mayanja Nkangi (RIP) and Chang’o Macho (RIP). While serving as Cabinet ministers in the NRM government, these two are on indelible record as having returned to the national Treasury the balance of their overseas travel allowances that they had not been able to honourably use up.
Mayanja Nkangi was an actor of many parts, a man of all seasons. A lawyer by training; chief minister (Katikkiro) in the government of Kabaka Muteesa II; founder chairman of the Conservative Party; more than once a minister in the NRM government; and chairman of Uganda Land Commission. To the very end of his days, he served this country to his very best and with a clear conscience.
Selflessly ‘crazy’, Chang’o Macho was a man of a well-read mind, remarkable sociability, and magnanimity. His Marxism being as far from Mayanja’s Conservatism, and his non-confessional religiosity as far from Mayanja’s well-known Christian piety as the North Pole is from the South Pole – Chang’o stood for the ideal of ‘money should be earned, not obtained’, an ideal espoused by ‘yours truly’ here.
Viewed against these two samples of past role models, what is currently obtaining in ‘The Pearl of Africa’s Crown’ leaves us utterly flabbergasted and disgusted. And we entirely agree with President Museveni that ‘if gold rusts, iron will rot!’
Prescription: Thorough and express identification and elimination of all cases of ‘rusted gold’ in all government operations. Or what is the alternative?
Prof Wangusa is a poet and novelist. [email protected]