President Ernest Bai Koroma
Last year I wrote an article entitled ‘Taming First ladies.’ My aim was to slam on wives of the bigwigs in the upper echelons of power in Africa that steal from the hoi polloi. This, itself, is corruption that is sinking Africa to penury.

This September witnessed two rare, chivalric and exemplary events. In the first event the president of Sierra Leone Ernest Bai Koroma declared his wealth as opposed to the stance many African freebooters in power take.

The first person to do so was Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania. This won him accolades the world over. But all went under when it came to light that he stole a lot of money from public coffers shortly before leaving office. This hypocrisy has haunted Mkapa so much that he lives under the shameful mercy of his successor, President Jakaya Kikwete.

The second African president to do this was Umaru Musa Yar'Adua of Nigeria in June 2007. This was his second time as a senior civil servant. He was said to have declared his assets in 1999 when he assumed office as Governor of Katsina state.

More on Koroma, It needs a very big heart and the courage of the mad to declare wealth especially in a corruption-laden continent like Africa. His exemplary take should not be turned into what became of Mkapa when he later left the office.

My second heroine this time is Ida Odinga, wife of the Prime Minister of Kenya, Raila Odinga. Ida refused a hefty amount of $ 6,000 monthly. Hear what she had to say on this: "The legacy I have built is not worth $6,000 (£3,000). I thank Mr. Muthaura for appreciating that there is a heavy responsibility that comes by virtue of my position. But I will not take the money."

We’re told the first lady; Lucy Kibaki does away with $ 8,000 monthly for doing nothing. How painful is this sacrilege committed by a country suffering from stasis thanks to bad governance and corruption! The looting does not end up here. The wife of the Vice-President, Pauline Musyoka, also enjoys this generous offer from the government. This typifies how African rulers are in power to serve themselves. This game is the demise of common Joes in the streets if we face it point blank.

Mrs Odinga’s brilliant and selfless take and love for the nation should be emulated by first ladies in Africa.Will they willingly do so? Citizens need to wake up and blot them shall Africans deserve to do away with this systemic rot and abject poverty she is in. Had this money been legal, all ministers’ spouses would be paid for sharing bedrooms with the high and mighty. Are they being paid covertly? Who knows?

In many African countries, the first ladies coupled by the second and third ladies, without any pittance, have calved their own illegal governments behind the curtains. There is a deep seated hatred towards them save that their spouses are using state organs to thwart and dispel it. This is systemic stinking corruption.

In Tanzania, the former first lady, Anna Mkapa is mentioned almost in every mega scandal involving stealing public money. She and her husband, formed a company known as ANBEN (The initials of Anna and Benjamin) whilst their son Nicholas emulated his parents by forming Fosnik (The initials of Nicholas and Foster his wife). Under their companies which they awarded the tenders of purchasing public utility prominent one being Kiwira Coal Mine based in Mbeya, they loaned much money from public institutions to buy public properties! For example, Mkapa and his family under phony Tanpower company ‘bought’ the said Kiwira at Tshs. 700,000,000 as opposed to it’s actually value of 4,000,000,000 as per 1980’s evaluation of the same.

Mrs Mkapa did not end up forming companies only. Under her controversial Non Governmental Organisation known as Equal Opportunity for All Trust (EOTF), she solicited a lot of money from controversial business people behind mega corruption scandals such as External Payments Arrears (EPA) account of the Bank of Tanzania (BoT), a prominent one being an Indian Jayant Kumal Patel alias Jeetul Patel who features high in this scandal. Some analysts have nicknamed EOTF as Economic Opportunity Trust for First Lady.
Stealing from the public coffers is sweet in Africa. Even the current first lady, Salma Kikwete, has followed suit. She currently runs her chicanery Wanawake na Maendeleo (WAMA) outfit or women and development from the State House.

Why should the wife of a president found an NGO after her husband ascends to power? Why has her love for women suddenly emerged after her spouse assuming the office? She is collecting non-audited money from whoever is ready to contribute regardless of his history! What pains and appalls in such a situation is the fact that these bigwigs cheat people they are in power for them. Since Mkapa left office, nobody is ready to contribute to his wife’s outfit.

Selfish and greedy as they are, they have reached the point in other countries to threaten people who want them before the court. They say such people are endangering peace and national unity! This, in Tanzania, has become the song for a shameless embattled Mkapa.

Going back to my heroes of today, Mrs Odinga has opened our eyes. We didn’t know that spouses of our corrupt rulers are also paid without any dockets. Kenyans must ensure that their money is not stolen under such pretext of paying the wives of their rulers. I know Kenyans can, thanks to their tenacity and audacity.
As for his Excellency Koroma, stay put as you toe the line that failed many pretenders and hypocrites as we have seen in Mkapa’s abracadabra. To the hoi polloi and wretched of the world, please do not fear to raise your voices to stop this gang rip-off by our rulers and their families.

Source: The African Executive Magazine September 10, 2008.