By Dr. Izael Pereira da Silva
The youth have very little concern for abstract concepts such as honesty, justice, sincerity, chastity… Unless they see these qualities incarnated in a person they can admire and imitate, they will most likely ignore them. It is rather obvious that they are the first ones to suffer from this decision. Nonetheless Uganda also will suffer as the youth is our future.
Having in mind what I said above, it is vital that the government appoints virtuous people to prominent positions such as Minister, Permanent Secretary, Commissioner, Chief Accountants and so on. Once there, their very life will provide the youngsters with the untold truth: ‘It is possible to be upright. It is possible, even in Uganda, to live a principled life’.
Either because we do not have principled people to fill such positions or because once appointed they are welcomed to the family of the already stable corrupt system and get corrupted, Uganda is suffering from a disease I call ‘Upright Leadership Deficit Syndrome – ULDS’. Isn’t it true that we read in the papers daily scandals of all colours and shapes involving our leaders? If quite a number of Honourable Ministers, PSs, Commissioners and Chief Accountants are known to be untrustworthy, unjust, violent, and unchaste or even plainly thieves, how in heaven do we expect our youth to provide us with a better future? They have no heroes to admire, no role models to emulate.
A modern philosopher said: ‘What you are speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you are saying’. So we must agree it is a waste of time to tell people to be virtuous and patriotic if what we see in the ‘successful people’ is dishonesty, craftiness and a full collection of other vices. I am a lecturer at Makerere University and I have realised with sadness that the number of students cheating in exams is growing steadily. They are putting into practice the vices they learned from their ‘would be’ role models, including their very parents. They are more and more shunning hard work and opting for the short cut and quick fix mentality. Shall we blame them? I do not know. If what they see and read every day is precisely that they are fast to learn and the older generation has no moral authority to scold or guide them.
One of the most terrible feelings which can assail us is the frustration of not being able to do something to remedy a messy situation. This feeling often times hits us as we read or hear about corruption in Uganda. It seems it is an impossible task to fight it. It looks like we shall have to learn how to live with it as nothing can be done. Now, thank God this is not true! You and I can do something here and now to at least slow the pace of the disease I mentioned above, the ULDS. How? We have to start with ourselves. The youth needs heroes and role models? So be it. I am going to be one! I am going to live a principled life. This will start a bright, bloodless, silent and wonderful revolution in our country.
We shall begin by being uncompromising with corruption. No negotiation! No matter how small the issue at hand is, I am not going to yield. Simple things such as: I am not going to say a lie ever. It may look difficult at the start but if we begin chances are that we shall change. Another example: I am not going to give a bribe, not even ‘5K’ to get out of trouble when the traffic police arrest me because of wrong parking or a forbidden u-turn. Experience the adventure of being honest, go with the police officer to the Central Police Station and suffer the consequences of your fault. Tell the ‘Afande’ that you are a new breed of Ugandans who are trying something quite exciting and you are even inviting him to join the revolution.
Even if you are just a parent you do have people under your care. Try to entice them into this marvellous game as well. Create around yourself an island of honesty, sincerity, chastity and so on and invite family and friends to join in. Even in the worst of the cases if nobody joins your oasis or island “which I doubt very much “at least you and I can keep the fight on and there will be two thugs less in this lovely country of ours. Besides, you and I will no longer feel the frustration sinking in when we read or hear about corruption next time. Shall we try?
Dr Pareira da Silva is a lecturer of electrical engineering at Makerere University