We need to stop ignoring the personal lives of African politicians

 The US Presidential campaign is always an interesting time. It’s interactive, thought provoking, energy-filled and easy to get caught up in. As people outside the US, many of us watch to hear what the Presidential candidates have planned, with regards to foreign policy, but we also watch because often times, it is pure comedy and drama.

The Presidential race featuring Hillary Clinton for the Democrats and Donald Trump for the Republicans, has been nothing short of the entertainment that causes so many of us non-Americans, to ardently follow the campaign race. As we all know, politics is a dirty game, where politicians resort to exposing the unsavory pasts of their opponents, all for political gain. In the 2016 US Presidential race, the Trump team has resurrected Hillary Clinton’s husband – former President Bill Clinton’s – sex scandals, while the Clinton team, has pegged Trump to be a racist misogynist, following a series of Trump’s own misguided words and revelations of mistreatment by a number of women. As it is, because of the overwhelming negative revelations on Trump’s part, each day, it is looking less likely that he will assume the status of POTUS.

The focus on the families, backgrounds and moral fabric of political candidates, is often what makes or breaks their campaign. The emphasis that countries like the US place on background and moral fabric when it comes to political campaigns, is not in vain. A country cannot afford to have a leader who is unashamedly sexist, when in 2016, women and men everywhere are fighting against misogyny and sexism. A country cannot afford to have a leader who has been embroiled in sex scandals because, that reflects on the leader’s moral standing. How can a country have a leader who is so intensely morally flawed?

The same commitment to undressing the person behind the candidate, is very rarely employed in Africa.  

The focus on the moral fabric of the Presidential candidates is rarely deemed to be of relevance, even though it should be. We do not place enough significance on the characters of politicians, in order to ascertain their suitability as leaders. The former Minister of Aviation in Nigeria, Femi Fani-Kayode, is well known for being physically abusive towards his former wives. However, when he was appointed, this deeply concerning attribute, was seemingly not considered. When South African President Jacob Zuma famously concluded that he could avoid HIV/AIDS by taking a shower, this statement seemed to be outside the scope of consideration for many who went on to vote for him. 1So, should the personal lives of our leaders, be a factor in determining their suitability as leaders? I’m of the opinion that it should be a factor.

What a politician does in their private life, is an attestation of their character, and consequently their ability to hold public office.

How a person conducts themselves in their private life, speaks directly to their trustworthiness, which is important, because a public officer, has to enjoy the trust and confidence of the public. We cannot expect politicians who condone gender-based violence or make openly sexist remarks, to lead a country that so desperately needs to change its misogynistic narrative. An abusive man is critically flawed, and ignoring that to enable such a person to assume a leadership position, conveys a negatively powerful message to the society at large. We cannot expect candidates who vocalize unintelligent statements, to make intelligent and practical decisions on the behalf of an entire nation. We cannot expect a leader who has multiple children with an array of women or men, to run their office with integrity, when their familial affairs shows the public that they lack integrity themselves. We cannot expect an individual with personal financial problems or a history of being involved in financial illegality, to take responsibility for national fiscal matters.

Although politicians are human and we cannot expect them to be without moral or ethical flaws, as the general public, we are entitled to hold them to a higher standard of moral standing, as they are the policy makers that inform the operationalization of a nation, and they are representatives of the citizenry and the state as a whole.

That being said, it is of great importance to factor in the private lives of our politicians when they are subject to election or appointment.

 

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