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In the good old days, the buying and selling of influence (public/state) was considered an abomination. Paying money to politicians/bureaucrats to obtain unfair advantage was thought a foul game. Awarding government contracts unethically, allowing tax breaks improperly, peddling public land as if it were a throwaway thing, availing ‘non-payable’ credit to cronies, etc. were the epitome of bad governance. Being on the payroll of the Mafiosi was a crime against the sheeple (human mass), clear and simple! Known players in this game were socially ostracized and publicly prosecuted, when caught. As a result, such dealings took place mostly underground, i.e., in the dominion where the Al Capons, the Corleones, etc. reigned. But that was then!

Today many places on earth condone influence peddling. In the United States of America influence buying/selling is refined to an art form and has many names. We will only stick to ‘lobbying’. By any measure, lobbying cannot be ethical in the real sense of the word. In Washington D.C. there are a multiple of lobbyists for each lawmaker (congressperson). These lobbyists are well paid and well connected, since they have to know their way around the power corridors. Corporations, continuously trying to get one favor or another (from lawmakers), are the main employers of these solicitors. Many of these individuals were at one time or another state functionaries; hence have already developed a knack for working politicians to submission.

Recent study by Princeton University pointed out; most lawmakers in D.C. are more concerned about the interests of the corporations than the welfare of the human constituency that elected them! Even by third world standard the American situation is beyond pathetic. In Western Europe such a thing is literally illegal, particularly when it comes to election contributions. In the US on the other hand; elections, presidential or otherwise, are highly influenced by corporations and their proxies. The current presidential campaign has clearly put the whole distasteful arrangement in clear perspective, at least to outsiders. What is sad is; this pay-to-play or influence peddling, which is celebrated in the United States, has had its bad influence in a number of countries across the globe.

Ethiopia also witnessed the ascendance of such tendencies during the last quarter of a century. Wholesale buying and selling of influence became a respectable activity, business activity we might add. Ethiopia’s polity made it a legal and worthy vocation to raise money from unsavory characters under the pretext of laudable causes. In all the various fundraising activities, the intention of many a payer was very clear; it was to get closer to power so that one day, in the not-so-distant a future, the bill will be presented for payment, of course payable only with generous public resources! In those days various fund raising occasions were invariably oversubscribed, so long as the gathering was attended by luminaries of political power! If democracy, i.e., the wish of the sheeple, is to prevail, pay-to-play must be abolished. Luckily, the emerging attitude worldwide doesn’t seem to be in favor of such things. This is why the Clintons and their Foundation are having a hard time dealing with the revelations that are continuously streaming out of the likes of the Wikileaks and the FBI.

Up until recently, shady operators in Ethiopia (both locals and foreigners) were dashing head over heels to contribute money to all and sundry, with the expectation of becoming the most favored in their respective occupations. To be fair, it is unfair to blame only the accomplished crooks for doing what is expected of them by the power that be. After all, these activities were all legal and the logic was simple, at least as far as these ‘donors’ were concerned; give a million and receive benefits worth tens or even hundreds of millions (compliment of sheeple’s resources)! By openly soliciting money from all sorts of immoral characters, the ruling party became de facto, protector of selected unsavory individuals at the expense of the larger community. These so-called ‘donors’ or ‘sponsors’ were automatically attached to known power wielding ‘god fathers’ to facilitate their greedy ambitions. These crooks were literally guaranteed never to see the court of law, so long as they were current in their payments. Trying to do something meaningful/significant, without the protection of a powerful ‘godfather’ became a futile exercise, as pay-to-play became the only rewarding game in town driving away kosher operators in droves from various productive engagements. Lately however, ‘no payment no benefit/protection’ seems to have lost some of its luster!

Admitted or not, this mafia like operation is one of the reasons behind Ethiopia’s current mass uprising, as the ruling party itself acknowledges. So long as this criminal activity continues there will be no let up, ‘state of emergency’ or not! The sheeple is slamming the break on this warped governance all over the world; from South Africa to South Korea, from the US to Ukraine, from Estonia to Ethiopia, it is up in arms determined to dismantle such disgrace and replace it with rule based equitable governance that is built to reinforce justice. See the articles next column, on page 30, 41 & 46. As the old revolutionary put it simply and boldly: “You can fool all of the people some of the time or you can fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” Abraham Lincoln. Good Day!