President Faye, keep these type of people at arm's length to succeed

 Bassirou Diomaye Faye, President-elect of Senegal. [Courtesy]

Your Excellency Bassirou Diomaye Faye, President-elect of Senegal. Greetings from the land of duck speak. I am pleased to send this message of goodwill, following your election victory as the fifth president of Senegal. 

Senegal humbles us. We are reminded of the philosopher-king, Leopold Senghor, the first African President to voluntarily retire in 1980. The philosopher and poet wowed us, as students.

It was a joy, following his intellectual wrestling with the great Wole Soyinka. They argued about Negritude, the philosophy that Senghor originated, together with Aimé Césaire of Martinique and Léon Damas of French Guinea. We were swooned with Senghor’s celebration of the African presence. Negritude was the literary and artistic expression of the Black African’s experience. But it is not about the arts that I wish to express myself. It is enough to wonder what Plato would have made of the African philosopher-king, who was also a poet.

You recall Plato’s suspicions about poets and artists, generally? Yet, all that is for some other day. And what would Plato say to you? I don’t know. But, let me say that I welcome your victory with optimistic caution.

Politicians in the land of duck speak are, of course, over the moon. They are celebrating your youthful arrival to high office, almost as if you were their son, or blood brother. From prison, where you have recently emerged, you are now entering the ten-star good life. This is the preserve of the African big man. I am prayerful that you could bite this good life with gentle teeth. 

I would advise you to do so. It is hot. It burns eager teeth. I would also remind you that there, in Dakar and beyond, people have invested their hopes in you. They trust you.  Don’t let them down. Africa is the graveyard of failed promises and dreams.

Especially here, in the land of duckspeak. Our leaders speak like ducks. Their words come not from the head, but from the throat. Like ducks, they quack and cackle. When they open their mouths, duckspeak flows out, effortlessly. It evaporates soon after. Ducky promises are made to be broken. I have been around long enough to witness persons older than me mess up our country. Today, I am witnessing a new generation mess us up. It was fine when we suffered and waited for this generation. What is there for us to wait for now? What is there for Africa and her miserable children, at the mercy of the big man?

I implore you to avoid being another big man. Avoid the big man’s syndrome. This is to say, be faithful to those who elected you. Seek to fulfil their dreams. Avoid filling up the government with money-hungry cowboys and salacious slay queens.

Find something else for the cowboys and queens to do. Keep your family, and especially your children, from the affairs of the State. Your village too, let it stay out. The villagers can wait for village parties whenever you take a break from Dakar. As for the queens, don’t mistake their presence for affirmative action. Work with men and women of merit. Not pleasure-loving joy-seekers and sundry brazen waterfowls. These Kadzamiras and gaggles of geese will pull you down.

Have around you a solid council of elders. Men and women of courage. People faithful to you and to their country. Measure their loyalty not in the number of times they praise you. Find it in the truth they tell you, even at the risk of loss of stipend.

You have seen how corruption sinks a country. You know what doublespeak and sycophancy can do. Avoid clowns who laugh at every dry joke you make. Idle flatterers who keep praising the cut of your new suits, especially, to be eschewed. 

Do not splash public resources on luxurious sky teams, while freezing essential expenditure in government. Respect professionals from all walks and work with them. Do not allow happy-go-lucky joy riders, hiding behind beautiful masks and makeup to ridicule them. To threaten them with dismissal, if they ask for their rights. 

Above all, understand that you don’t know everything. You can’t. Damnation is your portion, if you begin knowing everything. If you alone are right all the time, trouble beckons. If what you want must be done, no matter what everyone else thinks, you surely will fail. But you will also fall. Good luck, Your Excellency.