Obonye Bonnie Modiakgotla
The general elections will be held next week, and they will be unlike any other we have witnessed, well at least on my account. It’s a tightly contested election.
I have been mulling over this, and one thing is clear, Advocate Duma Boko has mounted a serious campaign through the UDC that has not been seen before in the political history of this country. Not only has he assembled a strong team of parliamentary candidates, he has also matched the ruling party pound for pound with resources.
The Boko led UDC campaign has sent the ruling party on a back foot, scuttling for cover and wondering how has that been possible. In fact, it appears the UDC’s campaign appears to have taken many by surprise.
This is exactly what Botswana has needed, something to jolt us and realize our potential. In my personal opinion, Boko’s UDC led campaign has been inspirational for many reasons.
For a man with no ties to the ruling party, or any wealth to back him up, his boldness and audacity has shook the traditional elites, wondering how dare he puts his hand up to be president of this country without falling in line.
In a country where we have been ruled by one party for over 53 years, a system of cronyism was developed - where the the family, friends and and those affiliated to ruling class are always the main beneficiaries of resources. What started in the BDP has dissipated to the nation - where were are taught to toe the line, to be humble and worship authority, while we wait for our turn at the table.
It’s for this reason that Boko’s attitude has shocked many. He has a larger than life attitude, and he is so confident in his abilities that it borders on what many will call arrogance. Boko is unapologetic about his talents, and reiterated many times that he “doesn’t suffer fools”, basically either you bring something solid to him or he won’t give you any time of the day.
I must admit, at first I was irked by Boko, like how can a person be this bold and audacious, but after some time I realized that maybe it’s what we need here. To stop being meek and demand the best for us, to believe that we are enough, and not pander to someone, hoping to catch the breadcrumbs they leave for us.
About a month back, I had a chat with The deputy UK high commissioner for Botswana, and I asked her, what do you think of the work culture in Botswana. She said unlike here where it seems things are hierarchical, they promote culture of diversity, where authority is challenged, and power is not the preserve of the few.
This is actually true for many developed countries, where a nobody can realize their true potential by believing In themselves and working hard without having to play nice and rely on favors. In America, Barack Obama did the impossible by becoming the first black president, and he summed it as the “audacity of hope”.
I also dream of the future where every Motswana knows that if they work hard enough they will be whatever they want to without being a lelope or being associated with a certain group.
So many things had been said about Boko, and it has been mostly about how overly confident of himself. But fa o sa ipoke o tla bokwa ke mang. Most successful people I have read about have been overly ambitious, they believe in themselves.
Ambition is deeply frowned in our society. Former Vice President Ponatshego Kedikilwe and the Phakalane mogul David Magang, have spoken about how you can be punished for showing ambition in Botswana. It actually explains why we have failed on innovation and other areas, leading to non-citizens pretty much controlling our economy, simply because we don’t believe in ourselves. Re e bitsa Pull him Down syndrome (Phd).
I have read somewhere that you are likely to be jealous of someone closer to you than Bill Gates or whoever is far removed from you. That is because people closer to you remind you of who you could possibly be , and if they succeed, you feel bad because you also know it’s possible for you to be like them.
As such, we tend to revere people a bit removed from us since we can make excuses for how they attained their success. That’s how Ian Khama dominated us for over 20 years as the son of the the first president. We made many excuses for him. We sleep better at night after justifying that well they are where they are because of this and that. But when someone like Boko, who has started from nothing like most of us, says I’m also enough, we shudder. How dare he!
The truth is, Botswana has some of the smartest minds. In fact we have had countries like Rwanda, the now wonder kid of Africa, coming to benchmark here. But our problem has been playing it safe. Our enlightened minds are afraid to show initiative and innovation, because that can be misconstrued for “trying to be better than leadership”. Instead, those who can speak out, especially those with influence, they hesitate since it can mean an end to their careers or business interests.
But for how long are we going to play the humble card, and wait for our turn? Is it for this reason that President Mokgweetsi Masisi said he had to pretend during Ian Khama’s administration, because showing any sign of brilliance would have meant the end of his career? We have heard how the whole cabinet was afraid of Khama, and how they all fell over themselves trying to please him, and if anyone dared to differ with him, he was quickly reported as harboring dangerous ambitions.
However, people like Boko should be inspiration to all of us that a child of what’s considered a nobody can shatter the glass ceiling and be unapologetic about it. That your definition of what you could be is not dependent on being humble and not showing your heart’s desires.
I have been fortunate that I worked for parliament and witnessed this man in action, on how he took on the state machinery, bold and intelligent in his submissions, and refusing to play nice or compromise on his talents and abilities. The only thing they could muster at parliament was “wena Boko ke gore o akanya gore o Botlhale go Gaisa mongwe le mongwe”. And in the back of my mind I will wonder, “but what’s stopping you guys from showing your intellectual prowess? “ Was it because you are afraid of showing independent thought lest you are punished for it?
Today I’m particularly happy that in a country that does not promote diversity, many will get to finally hear Boko make his contributions during the presidential debate . Perhaps then, some will realize the audacity of hope, and inspire us to be the best versions of ourselves without the fear of “batho ba tla reng”.
Dare to be different.