On Twitter today a discussion arose that had us agreeing to call ourselves fools.
It all started with a small story in the papers quoting the entire Chairman of Nakawa Division, one Benjamin Kalumba, saying that we, his people, are at high risk of contracting cholera now that the rainy season has set in, because there are no public toilets in the Division.
“We don’t have a public toilet from Jinja Road roundabout up to Banda, but thousands of people use this road. On Kinawataka–Mbuya Road, people have resorted to using the railway line as their toilet. We are at risk of cholera any time if the government and donor community don’t come for our rescue,” Mr Kalumba said.
The message in general was well-put and would have gone past me right until he asked “the donor community” to get in and build for us a toilet.
Immediately, I tweeted: “Another fool asks donors to build us toilets”, then after a few minutes and a couple of responses by people joining me in calling Kalumba a fool, I felt it was a little unfair for all of us to be pointing fingers at him when he is our leader, so I amended my statement and suggested that “we are fools” for not having toilets there already.
“Not everyone,” one Lauben wrote back, “the people entrusted to do that are the fools. Why wait for the situation to get that bad? Looks like poor planning…”
But no, I insisted, WE are the fools, because those people we entrusted to do that are supposedly the best of the lot. They represent us, and if they are foolish, then they are simply reflecting our foolishness and are so high up that it is easier to see that foolishness.
If we are so clever, why are we sitting here in our air-conditioned offices and carpeted homes (yeah, this is a cliche but I feel more comfortable thinking that we are like this, we elite fellows in Uganda) just metres away from the next available outbreak of cholera while we use the internet to communicate almost at the same pace as and with people whose closest link to cholera is when they google it?
Why aren’t we the leaders so that we mobilise ourselves to build toilets and make our country a better place?
Why are the leaders people like Kalumba, who believe that their role is to make speeches saying just about anything regardless of how terribly stupid and servile it sounds (“Muzungu, please come and help make for me a place where I can pupu?“)?
Paul Busharizi raised this a while back in an article after Iganga Municipality commissioned a new toilet block and maybe Kalumba’s out-take from reading that was that we need more bazungu building toilets for these bloody Africans; so why aren’t we, the witty, clever fellows who understood what Busharizi was writing about and tweeted and re-tweeted it in indignation, and discussed it over coffee at Java’s, why aren’t we the ones holding drives to build public toilets in Nakawa Division?
Or why isn’t any of us identifying this as an investment opportunity and sinking a couple of million shillings into a project providing toilet facilities in Nakawa Division?
Are we too clever to do this, and therefore spending our time coming up with some fantastic mobile-phone based apps to transfer money from place to place, or to identify malaria parasites in each other? Are we too locked down in crowd-sourcing projects, doing loads of social networking and doing oil and gas courses so we take advantages of the opportunities coming our way?
Or are we just fools?