Beauty and political contests are an ugly business, but hey, who cares?

Thursday December 13 2018

While they aren't terribly relevant to a

While they aren't terribly relevant to a Ugandan's life, beauty queens and politicians cannot be ignored. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA | NMG 

JOACHIM BUWEMBO
By JOACHIM BUWEMBO
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I don't know many Ugandans who take beauty pageants seriously except, maybe, some of the contestants.

In the past, these things were big, because there was only one reigning beauty queen every year – Miss Uganda.

Then dilution set in and they started having Miss this and Miss that until every village, every school and every chronic disease association got its own beauty contest.

And at all levels, murky stories of how the winners actually got selected accompanied every beauty contest, and merit was not always in the picture.

Organisers' reputations went down the drain until everybody seemed to lose interest in the beauty contest thing.

Another contest that appears set to lose credibility the way the beauty contests did is the one on the political stage.

In the past, people found it meaningful to elect a certain individual to represent them, say, in the national parliament. Actually in the 1960s, constituents would raise money to enable their candidate to contest.

Today, it is the reverse as the contestant has to pay the voters, who don't care what the fellow does upon winning. And like the beauty pageants, political contests are multiplying.

General elections have some two million candidates from a population of 40 million, and then in the entire five-year cycle there are by-elections and vicious campaigns for them.

Before all that, parties hold primaries for the numerous contests, and these can get even more vicious.

So like the beauty queens, politicians too ceased to hold the public’s attention.

Yes, they are there, you can’t ignore them, but they don't really matter much to you.

Last week, one Ugandan called Brenda attracted more than perfunctory attention by her compatriots because she seemed to be doing promisingly well at the world level contest. But it was just that, perfunctory, then people got back to their life struggles.

The same happens with politicians: They stage their contests, the masses get involved, all the while knowing very well that once elected, the winners will cease being part of them. That is why they charge them increasingly stiffly for the votes.

But while they aren't terribly relevant to a Ugandan's life, beauty queens and politicians cannot be ignored.

The most beautiful girl in any gathering will be noticed and accorded recognition for her beauty, however irrelevant that beauty is to society's aspirations.

Similarly, however awfully the politicians behave, the Ugandans will turn out to vote for them for yet another five years, and not even bother to hold them accountable.

In fact, the people who ask questions about the politicians' performance are accused of rocking the boat by the people on whose behalf they are asking.

Final similarity: The beauty queens, like the politicians, have made their contests a profession. The aspiring beauty queens are now called slay queens.

They actually go out and claim the prize every day from the men they target. So do the politicians who, after getting the position from the voters, start calling themselves leaders and milking the taxpayers. You don’t want to know the demands of the politicians on the taxpayer.

They include the serious and the ridiculous: They expect to be fed, clothed, given personal iPads, cars and occasional emoluments and even refunds for inflation by the taxpayer.

Joachim Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. Email:[email protected]

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