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February 20, 2019

Japanese takeaways for Olympics fiasco

Japanese fiasco
Japanese fiasco

read last week that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe led a delegation in Nairobi sponsoring talks on African development. Hopefully, every participant took something useful away from the meeting.

Had I been involved in the agenda setting, the one thing I would have insisted upon was a course for African leaders on how to judge the mood of the country and resign from office when they sense they are surplus to requirements.

Abe is a perfect example. He served for a year as PM — from 2006 to 2007 — and then, after poor election results for his party and clear unpopularity with voters, quit office, only to make a comeback in 2012, when the views of the public had clearly changed.

This issue was top of my mind during the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (Ticad VI) in Nairobi, as it came hot on the heels of the Rio Olympics debacle and all those involved.

Had such a thing happened in Japan, every single official - from cabinet level down - who had been part of the ignominious failure that affected our supposedly treasured athletes from start to finish would have put their hands up, apologised profusely and stepped down from their position, while a thorough investigation was carried out. After the investigation, if any were cleared of wrongdoing, they could return.

That by the time of writing nobody had been sacked or even made to stand aside until the matter is sorted goes to show how far the sense of honour has been eroded.

Had they been corporate executives in a well-run company, they would have been out of office so fast, their heads would spin. But they have not even had their knuckles rapped, and many people have moved on.

The problem with letting things like this go is that it makes it easier to lure our top class, world-beating athletes to go and perform for other countries and while we hope we can continue producing top athletes, there will come a time when they feel so devalued by us as a nation, they refuse to perform. Trust me, this could happen in the next few years.

Perhaps people, particularly politicians and political appointees, are scared of resigning because they worry about not being able to do anything else outside of their political jobs. If that is the case, then they should look to those few politicians and public servants who have gone on to lead perfectly productive and happy lives away from public office.

If those are few and far between, perhaps they could borrow from Deputy President William Ruto and his continuing self-improvement project, which has seen him  pursue a degree course alongside his government duties and other commitments. If he were ever to be forced to quit politics, he could have a career in academia, if he chose. It wouldn’t be the end of the world.

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