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Generosity need not have noisy strings attached

By Cosmas Butunyi | April 19th 2020

In the real world, nothing comes for free. All do-gooders seem to have one up their sleeves even if they make it look like it is all altruistic and for good of humanity.

This explains why skepticism and conspiracy theories outnumbered gratitude, when news broke of kind acts by a Chinese billionaire, who was smothering Africans with love in these difficult times of Coronavirus.

It does not make sense. Who fills a plane with sanitizer and masks and other things meant to protect us from the contagious virus? All this stuff is obviously nowhere near cheap yet he not only procures them but also proceeds to foot the costly voyage of this cargo across oceans. His mission is to deliver it to strangers, some of whom cannot recognise his face and are unlikely to return the favour in future, anyway.

Plus, these are times of restricted travel. Pulling off this feat involves enduring antics of some power-intoxicated government officials who wants his backside kissed or palms greased; or that other rigid public servant who cannot discuss exceptions for the live-saving donation.  Who would offer to undergo all this pain when they are gaining absolutely nothing in return? As if this is not enough, he dispatches another consignment with protective equipment and ventilators and thermometers to aid the fight against the disease. Of course, it is not that he had nothing better to do with the Benjamins.

You see the way it generally works is that at bare minimum, the typical do-gooder will have eyes trained on getting something in return. Doing good for good’s sake is an alien concept for many. That is why these so-called philanthropists will always insist on having their faces or names printed on packaging of donations. For good measure, a few will be involved for social media. How would the world not know about this?

No wonder the easiest way to declare political ambitions this side of the world is by doing a whirlwind tour of churches in the chosen jurisdiction donating things, or getting soccer teams to bout for a few balls and a set of uniforms, and so on. The bottom-line is – do something that looks like philanthropy. Nothing shows that you want something in return more eloquently.

Of course, prospective voters will take notice, and not long after, the incumbent will dispatch emissaries over to gauge your interest in his seat or offer a compromise — a membership of a committee or award of a tender to fix some road, if only to dissuade you from running.

Ever wondered why aspirants’ freebies will always have their names on it — T-shirts, reflector jackets, leso, name it? It is quid pro quo. Remember those images of inner wear with names and image of a political aspirant that circulated online at the height of the last general elections? What about the more recent audacious act by a women representative who had the guts to deodorise sanitary towels she was donating to needy schoolgirls with her name and pretty face?

It is very rare that the moneyed amongst us will walk in the humanitarian footsteps of the Chinese mogul. It clearly does not make sense to them, hence the loud whispers questioning the glaring absence of wealthy sons and daughters of the land and concern about silence of most of the political leadership.

If at all they were to do something about it, it is unlikely to be functional donations such as masks and sanitiser or availing water and soap to keep Coronavirus at bay. Water tanks would probably be a better bet, because of ample space to emblazon not just names of the donors, but also the prized ‘honourable’ title.

The typical politician would prefer buying prime time advertising space on radio and TV urging his people to stay safe put on masks, sanitise and wash their hands. At least it would score a brownie point for their political careers. Never mind that many of these urgings are out of reach of some of the people they lead and it would make more sense to avail them first.

Perhaps, there is no such thing as a genuinely good person desirous of doing good to others. Don’t we all do what our leaders and their rich friends do, if only at a smaller scale. Theirs is more pronounced because more is expected of them. Haven’t they been given more?

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