Having the chance to address an audience is always an honour for anyone human enough. Just think of the biggest crowd you have ever addressed and the feeling of importance that was flowing through your veins at the time.
It could have been your graduation party or wedding day as you thanked all those that had contributed to its success.
The prestige that one seems to command as they address a big audience is what sometimes makes some of us to envy religious leaders, head teachers, and of course politicians.
Try and imagine being offered the opportunity to address a fully packed Amahoro Stadium more so if your speech is being beamed to the rest thanks to live broadcasting on Radio and TV.
I know many of you would have been overwhelmed if asked to say something briefly during Michael Jackson’s funeral.
Worldwide, politicians seem to be having the lion’s share when it comes to the pride of speaking to a large audience. Barack Obama has actually made it an art with his trademark flowery and inspiring talks.
When you look at what we often call quotable quotes, you will find that almost all of them are from speeches by politicians and society’s opinion leaders.
Martin Luther King Jr, J.F Kennedy, Mandela, Patrice Lumumba, Mahatma Gandhi, the list is simply endless. Such quotes have tended t give these leaders an air of immortality.
However like everything else, not all speeches turn out to be as great as we expect them to. It is not rare to hear a politician saying what can easily pass for nonsense or even plain rubbish.
Sometimes it is a result of arrogance, ignorance or even a combination of the two. Some politicians do this deliberately to attract media attention and thus extend their political presence in our minds.
The politician who set the precedent of uttering outrageous messages is none other than Marie Antoinette, the female villain of the French revolution of 1789.
With a population dying of poverty and hunger, she had the audacity to ‘advise’ them to eat cake if they could not afford bread.
Now we all know which of the two is more expensive. If we didn’t, then we would be having bread on our birthdays and a huge loaf being cut at wedding parties.
I hope you have not yet forgotten what the Iraqi president told his captors on being discovered in a hole in the town of Tikrit. “My name is Saddam Hussein.
I am the President of Iraq, and I want to negotiate.” The question is, since when did presidents start holding negotiations in holes?
Still in Iraq, one man really made a career out of being silly. Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf was the Iraqi Information Minister during the 2003 American invasion of his country.
Al-Sahhaf a.k.a Comical Ali is mainly remembered for his daily press briefings during the 2003 Iraq war. On April 7, 2003, he claimed that there were no American troops in Baghdad, and that the Americans were actually committing suicide!
This was at a time when American tanks were patrolling the streets close by.
In Europe, the award for what one Italian politician called “planetary gaffes” goes to none other than Italian PM, Silvio Berlusconi.
He once said, “Read the Black book of Communism and you will discover that in the China of Mao, they did not eat children, but had them boiled to fertilise the fields.”
The New York stock exchange remembers him more for his advice on investing in Italy.
“Italy is now a great country to invest in…today we have fewer communists and those who are still there deny having been one.
Another reason to invest in Italy is that we have beautiful secretaries…superb girls.”
Closer home, Idi Amin seems to have given way to people like Robert Mugabe, Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma. He is however not so betrayed by his successor, Yoweri Museveni who recently had the audacity to tell all those listening that Migingo Island was actually in Kenya but the waters around it were in Uganda!
To cement his folly, he assured the world that the Luos were mad. I hate to think that Pres. Obama, another Luo, was one of the people Museveni was talking about.
However, the new South African leader really took the day during his famous rape trial in Johannesburg.
He is remembered for having said, “You cannot leave a woman if she is already at that stage (of sexual arousal).” And on why he took a shower after having unprotected sex with an HIV-positive woman he had this to say, “It would minimise the risk of catching the disease.” So, now washing your private parts is, according to Zuma, a form of protection against HIV! God bless us.
As Jacob Zuma was going on and on about his innocence, Mugabe was still telling us that “The only white man you can trust is a dead white man.” And Mbeki had just finished trying to convince the world that poverty, and not HIV is what causes AIDS.
Surely, at this rate, when you say that we (the youth) are the leaders of tomorrow then I cannot think of a worse insult. Our politicians really need to be doing more thinking than speaking.