What Tupac can teach us about fighting corruption

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My favourite matatu in Nairobi is the Tupac themed one. I must admit it, I was a huge Tupac fan. He was ahead of his time, and he was killed before his time.

Perhaps his most well-known song was “Changes”, a hip-hop anthem that focused on the war against drugs, the relationship between black America and white America, racism, poverty, violence, and the vices of contemporary USA. The bottom line is that the situation in society cannot continue – “changes” have to be made.

As we embark on our own introspection exercise, with the battle against corruption, we would be wise to take on board some of the lyrics from the treatise of “Changes”.

The famous song opens with the words. “I see no changes, wake up in the morning and I ask myself”. We are seeing some changes. And finally, the tough questions are also being asked of us. The question is, are we asking ourselves the tough questions? When Uhuru made his speech in Kisii and called upon us all to take matters into our own hands, to perform citizens’ arrests, who listened? Who took it upon themselves to report the crooked officials in their local community? Who said to themselves, what I do is not right, I too must change?

Tupac goes on to preach in pain, “I’m tired of bein’ poor and, even worse, I’m black”. While he is referring to the situation of Black America, there is no doubt that the poverty of Africa is a matter which corruption is making much worse. We are tired of poor, but as proud Black Africans we believe that there is a better way, a better path. Tackling corruption will require real cooperation.

This year the African Union has made the fight against corruption its main goal, something to unite all its members. Uhuru’s efforts, in collaboration with the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Director of Public Prosecutions are making headlines across Africa and beyond. We must learn from our African brothers too. What is Rwanda doing right? How is Ghana tackling corruption? Even Nigeria, through its cooperation with Switzerland has managed to return hundreds of millions of stolen moneys.

“My stomach hurts so I’m lookin’ for a purse to snatch” says Tupac early on in the song. Unfortunately, desperation causes people to do illegal things, to snatch a purse, to steal a shilling or two (or in the case of our parastatals, a hundred million shillings or two!). However bad the situation may be, we must keep on the straight and narrow, we must avoid the temptation.

Tupac shouts in the song with the passion of someone who believes changes can be made. “It’s time to fight back”…“I got love for my brother, but we can never go nowhere unless we share with each other”. For too long the corrupt have been enriching themselves at the expense of the poor. Where is the brotherly love? Where is the sharing?

“We gotta start makin’ changes, learn to see me as a brother instead of two distant strangers, and that’s how it’s supposed to be”.

So, as we look upon this campaign against graft we must all remember that this is not rocket science. This is about doing the right thing versus the wrong thing. It is a battle of good deeds versus evil deeds. In the words of Tupac, we must “Take the evil out the people”, so that “they’ll be actin’ right”.

The fictitious character in the song claims to have “made a G today.” He is boasting about how much money he has made illegally, only to be humiliated by the phrase, “but you made it in a sleazy way.”

We must now humiliate all those who dabble in graft. We must come together to call out those who make their money in sleazy ways, illegal ways, and immoral ways. We must get behind the words and actions of Uhuru and Ruto, of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission collaborations.

Tupac to some was a philosopher, while to others he was an inspirational musician and rapper. Through his music he inspired ‘changes’. In today’s Kenya and the fight against corruption, changes are just what we need.

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