Dr Rasuawahi did not sit down. He was puffing on his cigar and slowly moving to and fro as if in thought. He glanced at me and said,
“You must understand that the ladder to national service is steeped with unimaginable challenges. Hence, only those with a strong will, creative mind and strong heart are qualified for the job”.
He approached me, leaned forward and almost in a whisper he said: “Did you know that I had to do things I have never imagined I would? All in the interest of service to the people.”
“I became deputy President in 1993. In Juburti, the real power resides in the President and the deputy president is in reality…a waiting post. I realized that the President due to his age and probably because of his extra curricular activities was losing grip of the State. Slowly, slowly, he gave me more and more responsibilities but officially, he is responsible. I did not complain. It gave me an opportunity to consolidate the State institutions for the sake of the people. Then, we were hit, like you with the currency speculators attack on our economy in 1997”.
“ I set up a team to address the problem……, he paused, stroking his chin, “ But guess who the President appointed as the Chairman?”
“You of course”.
“That would be the logical thing to do. But no….for the first time, a post called the assistant deputy President was created by the politburo and…and….Lepaki, his 24 year old son was appointed to this new post and as the chairman of the Economic Recovery Team or ERT! Politically, it was a slap on my face”.
“Wow” was all that I could say. Then I continued, “Well, he was supposed to be President first, then you correct?”
“Of course, according to Juburti tradition. But people’s interest comes first. He is unfit. Needless to say he studied in the best of University but like most elitist children, spoilt and removed from the realities of life. Even his sister, my second wife is equally spoilt. He has a penchant, like his father, for women and the pleasures of life. He loves alcohol, the expensive ones. But….”
“But he expects to be President after his father and the people expect that too. That’s the way it is in Juburti since we were freed from the French. You must know that I love him like my son, but I love my Nation more. In fact without his father’s knowledge, I was sending him an extra USD5,000.00 a month for his pocket money when he was studying”.
He shook his head, as if in remorse and said, “Alas, as time went by, he abused the money and turned into an alcoholic, even experimenting with drugs to get the right high. He became a wreck and an embarrassment for his father by the time he turned 24. He was also undergoing alcoholic rehabilitation in Sweden. So, I could never understand his appointment”.
“Excuse me Sir, but why did you give him so much money knowing he is spoilt? Were you encouraging him?”, I asked trying not to sound accusatory.
“Friend. You don’t know about money either. Money has a power and life of its own. Its does whatever it wants in the hands of the weak. Lepaki only became what he was destined to become. Money exposed him. Even my wife Deli had accused me of bringing about Lepaki’s ruin. That’s ridiculous. I was busy assisting the President and serving the Nation”.
“I advised the President that my name should not be officially linked to ERT and that let him be the adviser to ERT while Lepaki is the chairman. This way, the people will see the President’s family as saving the nation. This will pave the way for lepaki to be President when he retires. I assured him I will get the best economic advisers for him”.
I had to interrupt him for I realized I may have misjudged Dr Rasuawahi, “That was magnanimous of you...to sacrifice name and glory and pave the way for Lepaki”.
“Yes, exactly what the President said. The Nation thought so too though they were equally concerned about the economy. When people suffer, they only want leaders who can save them..and they doubted the President and his son”.
“Well, our Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir saved us”, I proudly proclaimed.
“I know. We had the worst period of our life. The economic situation became worse. The people suffered. Unemployment rose, inflation soared, businesses were closed down. People became restless like hungry tigers. ERT failed”.
“Huh? I thought you had imported good economic advisers?”
“Yes. I gave the ERT the best advisers from the IMF, World Bank and CIA”.
“CIA? They are not economic experts. They are espionage experts”, I blurted.
“See. You speak like the masses. Many things you do not know. CIA is one of the best economic saboteurs in the world. They are effective because their hands are unseen. Non white countries love white advisers.. Whites are presumed to be clever”. He smiled like as if he was part of a clever plot.
“Did you now that the President summoned me before the Politburo to explain the failures of the ERT? I then knew that someone had poisoned his mind …he suspected I was using the economic situation to pressure him to give up power sooner and at the same time nullify his son’s chances of succeeding him. He did not accept any of my explanations. I had two weeks to regain his trust. For the first time, my political survival was at stake”.
I scratched my head to understand. “Wait a minute. You must be close to the Americans since the time you were governor of the Central Bank….did….you…collaborate…with them…to …..sabotage your own country’s economy…. so that you can rise to power? What about the ordinary people’s sufferings?” I was worried at my boldness. I was also confused about the man.
Dr Rasuawahi gave me a long, hard stare as if studying me. Then he slowly continued,
“Do you know…what dismounting the tiger means?”
“I thought so. It means giving up the seat of power. Once you dismount the tiger, it bites you. The more powerful you were, the more you get bitten, sometimes to death. All your alleged excesses will come out. You have to keep fighting until your death. You have keep whipping up the peoples emotions and keep controlling their perceptions. You have to keep denying and denying and denying. The whole state machinery will be against you. And the people?…ha ha ha”. He went into a hysterical laughter.
“The people will want to lynch you! It is an excitement in their small insignificant lives. They will bow until their head reaches their feet and lick your hand when you are in power. They know you are selling the country at a sale…but they will bestow more honors on you. But once you are thrown out, they will be on you like maggots. People indeed!”
He broke into a long, mocking laughter again. “I, my friend was at the brink of being lynched and you talk about the mindless segment of society called the people. You people never fail to amaze me!” He emphasized on the word “people” mockingly.
“Yes my friend. In politics, the people have to pay the price. That is their role. Listen to me carefully….the people are the stepping stones and the tool for politicians in their quest for power. That’s what political parties are about. We need people to clap, to cheer us, to jeer at the other side, to suffer so that we can save, to succeed so we get praised, to be disunited so that we can organize them, to be fearful so that we can reassure, and the list goes on. This and this alone is the role of the people”.
“As I said before, they are unable to think and handle information. For every clever one among the people, politicians can rebut them with hundred more clever ones that can be bought from the flea market”.
I began to feel dizzy from the knowledge that manipulation of real human beings can occur for the sake of power. Don’t people realize, I asked myself quietly? Is vested interest a more potent power than education, knowledge and selfless service? God!
“So you understand? The incompetent president and his son were trying to throw me out for the sake of their own power…after all that I have done! I, on the other hand had my destiny to fulfill. You may not believe but I do have the people’s general welfare at heart. I knew that I must be President at all costs. It is good for Juburti”.
“And I have just 14 days to protect myself from the injustice that the State is planning to visit upon me. 14 days….”
Next: Chapter 5: The Assassination Attempt.