Do the children of corrupt public servants know their parents are thieves?
It is a question that has been bugging me as headline after headline keep flying in pertaining the recent graft scandals, each falling harder than the bad old mathematics teacher’s eucalyptus whips during those sessions that started with a “see me” note.
Do the children look at how their families’ fortunes have changed all of a sudden and wonder if the gravy was earned by their parent who has been telling them to work hard?
I would imagine such monies are gobbled in a hush-hush manner. The children should be content with getting new cars and tinting the windows for maximum sinning. They should be satisfied with their latest gadgets, whose names always end with a “plus”, travels to dream holiday destinations, the new-found respect among friends, and so on.
But if it were me, I would be sinning in that new car wondering if I will one day see my father’s photo splashed on the front pages, with information that he supplied nitrogen, oxygen, water vapour, carbon dioxide, argon and other gases — that mixture called air — to a certain government department and was paid millions for it.
I would be bating my breath awaiting that day when anti-corruption sleuths would turn our house upside down and violate the rights of all winged and non-winged domestic pests, searching for whatever they look for when they raid houses.
I have lived long enough to encounter a family that knew their father was a thief. He had pulled off one big heist, reaping millions in the process. It was not a robbery, though. He then invested the millions in a number of businesses.
His children, thriving in their father’s benevolence, could only treat him as the breadwinner. He had won them a large chunk of bread in one deft move, no?
Problem is, when your children know the money powering you was stolen, you automatically lose that thing lawyers call locus standi. You hold no moral ground to rectify any of their wrongdoings. At times I pity the indiscipline in the man’s family and what will befall its next generation.
My often-wandering mind has a couple of times travelled to the strong-gated compounds protecting houses of the people who plunder our taxes the way a buffet could be vanquished at a public wedding in my home county.
Whenever my mind tours those concrete-walled compounds, walls that are usually cooled by disciplined plants forming labyrinths on them, I wonder what the children in those households are being told about the source of the money that it making their lives that smooth.
Maybe they are told their parents are shrewd businesspeople who saved five of every ten shillings they made and who started from a rockier bottom than Drake — that US rapper who sings that he started from the hardest of beginnings.
Perhaps the children are taught to defy the headlines and all the reports about their parents because, you know that saying about a tree that has fruits.
Or probably the parents in those well-guarded houses have passed down the “you don’t always have to play clean in money matters” line. Or the parent may have brainwashed the rest of the family into thinking they have been benefitting from the sweat of their brow all along.
But what of the children of traffic police officers, who leave home in the morning dead broke but return in the evening with all the money a person could ever want?
Whatever the case, the wise old people said that the truth will out, and one day the child who had all the way chest-thumped to friends and foe will come to the realisation that they had thrived on ill-gotten taxpayer money.
That will be one generation down the line and that realisation will most definitely not stir any change in this son or daughter of a tax-eater. Probably that second-generation tax-eater will look left, right, left again and cross the Michela Wrong line: “It’s our turn to eat.”
In the meantime, the infuriating corruption headlines will continue to hit the newsstands, and I bet one day Wanjiku will be treated to a case like the Biblical Job: “I was in a storeroom with other notes this evening, then the bank manager came with a sack, in a mission to deliver us to some woman who has supplied air to the government. All the notes were taken and I was the only one who was left to tell the story.”
[email protected] Elvis Ondieki is a reporter with the Nation