Dar es Salaam. The majority of African politicians today are former university lecturers who have ventured into politics in search of greener pasture.
Politics rush is, however, not a preserve for the continent alone, it is also an emerging trend in the developed world as well. The US President Barack Obama had for years served as a university lecturer before fortune smiled on him in politics.
The list of all professors who ended up as politicians is too long for me to enumerate. In Ghana alone, one can cite a tall list of such ‘political professors’.
For instance, before he became Vice President in January 1997 and President in 2009, the late Prof John Atta Mills had for years been teaching Law at the University of Ghana where his salary was not impressive.
Then in 2008, Prof Agyemang Badu Akosa, a strong medical professor and academician, attempted to venture into politics with the hope of becoming Ghana’s president through the Convention People’s Party’s ticket, the political outfit founded by Kwame Nkrumah in early 50s.
Owing to the dearth of Orthopedicians in Tanzania, former minister for Education and later Defense, Prof Philemon Sarungi, a competent medical doctor, used to rush to hospitals in case an accident occurred.
There are many similar professors serving as MPs, ministers and ambassadors at the expense of local universities and research institutions which are facing an acute shortage of such academicians.
A glimpse at the Cabinet in the fifth phase government gives a picture of academicians enjoying their dockets like.
These include Prof Makame Mbarawa -- Works, Transport and Communications, Dr Husseini Mwinyi – Defence, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe -- Constitution and Legal Affairs, Pro Joyce Ndalichako -- Education, Prof Sospter Muhongo -- Energy and Minierals, Dr Philip Mpango -- Finance and Planning, Prof Jumnne Maghembe -- Natural Resources and Tourism.
Other academicians were appointed permanent secretaries or envoys while in classes, prompting some critics to believe the president wants to engage intellectuals in a bid to clip their wings.
But academicians can prevent the government from entering into dubious contracts whose technicalities some lay minsters could not understand, other critics opine.
Findings of the 2014 report by the Inter-University Council for East Africa blames the falling quality of education on, among other reasons, lack of adequate teachers to cope with the influx of students universities enroll.
Why are many professors gradually abandoning their calling in favour of politics at a time when tertiary institutions are in dire need of them?
The answer is not far-fetched: lecturers are turning into politics, the highest-paying job in Africa where ‘democracy’ is booming.
Politicians contend with American hip-hop stars and European footballers by flaunting their wealth everywhere.
Why should a professor remain in class when he considers himself more knowledgeable and hardworking than a politician?
A professor teaches ‘small boys’ who barely two years after they graduate become MPs or ministers and are paid Sh12 million a month each.
MPs and ministers ride posh vehicles laden with free of charge fuel, live in mansions, and frequently travel abroad on diplomatic passports, thanks to President John Magufuli’s stance against oversea tours, all paid by the taxpayers.
When a minister falls sick, he catches the next available flight to Europe for his medical treatment, leaving the poor taxpayers to die in horrible hospitals and expectant mothers lie on the floor.
The attitude among out politicians suggests that politics is not only a lucrative career, but is also a business which is booming more than narcotic drugs, let alone the oil and gas sector.
With corruption practices such as in the Cash gate in Malawi and Tegeta Escrow Account in Tanzania taking place unchecked and rarely punished, the political arena is the best career to associate with.
No wonder Dr Rajabu Rutengwe, a PhD holder in Food Security and Technology from Vaal, South Africa (2000- 2004) has of late been lamenting in the social media, as he sought Dr Magufuli’s merciful eye after the President dropped him from the Morogoro regional commissioner’s post in the recent reshuffle.
The former RC is seen repenting his weaknesses during his leadership, including his failure to contain the incessant the conflict pitting farmers and herder in Kilosa and Mvomero districts.
The embattled RC claims to have hailed from a poor family and has nowhere to go following the reshuffle. He does not think of going back to teaching profession, apparently because there will be policemen and women to guard him, let alone invitations to officiate at various ceremonies.
If a PhD holder cries for a political post that much, there is a need to question his capabilities. He makes the youth yearning for PhDs to have a second though and start eyeing political posts instead.
My own good linguistic teacher, Dr Michael Kadeghe, has recently ditched teaching in favour political posts. He is now a Kiteto district commissioner, warning wananchi over playing pool early in the morning.
The Magufuli Administration is full of academicians, it is time we revisited the meaning of political leadership. In the wake of many challenges we face, political leadership ought to be a service to a people rather than a platform for amassing wealth.
And instead of jumping on the politicians’ bandwagon, which is fueling Africa’s economic challenges, our professors should rather devise practical solutions for crises inflicting on the continent.