africa / Opinion / Politics

The law of scarcity destroying the legacy of Africa’s revolutionary leaders

“The Sun. It can only be appreciated by its absence. The longer the days of rain, the more the sun is craved. But too many hot days and the sun overwhelms. Learn to keep yourself obscure and make people demand you in return.” ——-Robert Green

The ‘law of scarcity’ is often used by marketing companies to manipulate our innate ability or unconscious desire to acquire or purchase a product that is scarce.  This phenomenon has been the key to the rise of the most successful people in the world but it can also result into the downfall of our heroes. The key to this concept is to make one’s product or skill-set rare and difficult to find and suddenly its value will rise. Humans have been wired to respond to this mind-game.  We often see stampedes, fighting and injury as scores of people fight through the doors of shopping centers to get their hands on products advertised as ‘on sale but in limited quantities.’  Many line up outside shopping malls in the middle of the night during holiday sales. Please call immediately to avoid missing out on a once in a lifetime opportunity. It is a powerful marketing tool and TV ads will usually mention that there only a few items left in stock to turn on that switch in the mind of a consumer.

“Too much circulation makes the price go down: The more you are seen and heard from, the more common you appear. If you are already established in a group, temporary withdrawal from it will make you more talked about, even more admired. You must learn when to leave. Create value through scarcity.”

The law of scarcity is also prevalent in the political arena. When many of our leaders first arrived on the national scene, there was a sense of excitement and patriotism that unified the diverse sections of their respective nations. A journey through the list of the long serving leaders in Africa highlights the fact that many were viewed as revolutionary heroes.

Mugabe’s rise to power in the1970s following the Zimbabwe liberation war marked him as a hero fighting for the rights and freedom of the people of Zimbabwe. He won the general election in 1980 and became Prime minister.

Museveni as head of the National Resistance Army  came to power following a turbulent history of wars and blood-shed . In a period of 24 years since independence, Uganda  was home to seven military coupes, eight presidencies and  a loss of over 400,000 lives. Museveni was viewed as a revolutionary leader and symbol for change to restore Uganda’s greatness.

Ben Ali through a military coup in 1987 replaced Bourguiba  after declaring him mentally unfit to govern. Though a rather un-known figure at the time, he came with the promise of reform to propel Tunisia towards economic prosperity, stability, better standards of living and democracy . He organized the first multi-candidate election in 1999 which he won by 99% of the vote.

Mubarak having been elected as vice chairman of the ruling party in Egypt was an automatic pick in the succession line following the assassination of  Anwar Sadat in 1981. He was a very popular figure and also won the majority vote by a staggering 98%. Mubarak was a strong ally of the western world and was viewed in many circles as the anchor of stability in the Middle East. In his first decade in power, he was instrumental in igniting a stronger economy and advocating for affordable housing and health-care.

“Use absence to create respect and esteem. If presence diminishes fame, absence augments it. A man who when absent is regarded as a lion becomes when present something common and ridiculous. Talents lose their luster if we become too familiar with them, for the outer shell of the mind is more readily seen than its rich inner kernel. Even the outstanding genius makes use of retirement so that men may honor him and so that the yearning aroused by his absence may cause him to be esteemed”—-  Baltasar Gracian

The list of  leaders in Africa who were once outright heroes but have over the years transformed into villains is long and still growing. There is no doubt that some of them have continued to win the popularity contest during the national elections. Museveni is the most recent candidate who has once again overwhelmed the opposition even after 24 years in power. In spite of this success, the ballot does not defy the 16th Law of  Power. “Use absence to increase respect and honor.” No matter how successful a leader might be, the longer they stay, the more likely for the masses to get restless. Mubarak and Ben Ali exemplify the consequences of twenty four hours of sunshine. They never gave their people a chance to appreciate their contributions—and instead left behind a legacy many are eager to forget. The law of scarcity reminds us that it is wise for a leader to leave on their own terms before the audience grows tired.

© Kawuma


3 thoughts on “The law of scarcity destroying the legacy of Africa’s revolutionary leaders

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The law of scarcity destroying the legacy of Africa’s revolutionary leaders | MinneAfrica --

  2. Great read Kawuma. There is something to be said about he masses and the disorganization in facilitating the transition of power due to a weak, divided opposition. Why is it taking this long to rid of African leaders?

  3. I was actually considering writing about this issue following the elections in Uganda because it appears that it is much easier to over-throw an oppressive regime through a peaceful protest than the ballot. The key to most authoritarian regimes is control over the military. Most of the dictators we have/had— were strongly affiliated with the military to begin with. They use military resources to intimidate and suppress the opposition to the extent that they have no strong-grassroots movement to competitively contest in the election formality. It was the case in Egypt where opposing the government was a good enough reason to be sent behind bars with no questions asked (Emergency law). Gaddaffi used the same tactics and so did Ben Ali. Museveni is also a strong military man who in spite of growing un-popularity appears to win elections comfortably.
    What we are beginning to see is the fact that a sustained non-violent uprising by the people can fracture the relationship between the president and the military. Peaceful protestors have realized that they can take a chance if the international community can stand behind them—especially the international media. The CNN reporters were given a hero’s welcome in Libya recently because the people understand how powerful their voices can be if they are no longer caged behind the national boundaries. Gaddaffi of course is more extreme and is not willing to go down without a bloody fight but—who would have thought that in just 2 months Ben Ali, Mubarak and Ghaddaffi would have lost control of their Nations? The fall of all these leaders happened when the military refused to fully cooperate. The military in any of these nations has a tough time coming to grips with opening fire at their fellow country-men—hence the defections. Tunisia was a game changer, and many people are starting to realize that it’s actually not that hard to get rid of these leaders.

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