In Africa, the word freedom is a brother to violence.
And this freedom is a tiny ball bearing, that dropped in the sea.
And Africans are not brave enough to search for it
The election period in Zamire country is approaching. The reigning president, Wangwa, wants to be elected for another term of ten years. However, the people of Zamire do not want anything more to do with him or his regime. He has mistreated them, left them to die of hunger, and committed many other atrocities that have turned the people against him. On realizing that he cannot win the elections fairly, Wangwa results to nefarious means. He resolves to rig the elections.
Further, he convinces Oondo—his great rival and the people’s candidate of choice – to join forces with him. Oondo agrees to betray his countrymen and bends to tantalizing promises of riches and power. All hope looks lost for the citizens of Zamire as they now don’t have anyone to champion their rights and speak for them.
Muusa Maasa is a lawyer in Zamire country. He is determined to crumble the oppressive regime and bring president Wangwa and his puppet ministers to justice. Despite all hurdles placed by the regime against him, Muusa Maasa works tirelessly in conjunction with other government insiders who share his dream of liberation. Their efforts bear fruit as they finally topple the tyrannical regime and bring the culprits to justice. To show their gratitude, the Zamerians elect Muusa Maasa as their president.
Mr. President is a reflection of the current political situation in many African countries. The book critically examines how and why some African governments oppress their citizens. Not only do these leaders misappropriate public funds, they also turn a blind eye to the problems of the very citizens who elected them in the first place. This raises the need for the second liberation of these African countries from black colonialism.
In this play, Okumu addresses various themes, chief of them being the role of the media and clergy in ensuring proper governance. The play shows how, despite being liberated from European colonialism, African countries are under even worse colonialism from black colonizers. In the words of Sir Muusa Maasa,
“The white man laid on us a heavy yoke; the black colonizer has laid a hanker.
The white man scourged us with whips; the latter is scourging us with scorpions.
With whips on our shoulders, we worked on white man’s farms, but now,
With whips, we are being chased from our farms.”
There are several things I enjoyed about this play. Firstly, it is fraught with thought-provoking African proverbs. My favorite one was, “Sometimes a lion might decide to play with a gazelle as he waits for his stomach to empty.” These proverbs add to the educative and entertaining allure of the text. Secondly, the plot twist at the end was pleasantly unexpected. I would never have thought that Sergeant Mada, ostensibly the president’s right-hand man, could turn against him. I was pleased to learn that the Zamireans got their justice in the end. Further, there was a comic moment in the book when Doctor Risky prescribes salt to the president as a remedy for high blood sugar.
Apart from being an entertaining read, Mr. President is a thought-provoking masterpiece on the current trend of African politics. Reading it, I could not help comparing the traits of the Zamirean leaders to those of Kenyan leaders, and some were alarmingly similar. I identified traits such as fake promises during elections, utter disregard for the welfare of Kenyan citizens, ‘dirty politics’ (inciting youths to interfere with your opponent’s political campaign), among others. The play is a warning of what can happen when we elect bad leaders. It also serves as a cautionary example to leaders who oppress their citizens, that one day these citizens will rebel, and the lousy leader will be in trouble.
I rate this play 5 out of 5 stars. I recommend that it serves as an educative text for Kenyan youths. Because they claim a majority population in Kenya, youths have a decisive say in the country’s leadership structure. This book will teach them the importance of electing good leaders and the futility of not voting and later blaming their woes on poor governance. Fans of Aminata and Betrayal in the City by Francis Imbuga and The Burdens by John Ruganda might also enjoy reading this book as the themes are almost similar.
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