Can The Owner Of The Yam Be Left To Eat His Own Yam?

There is a poem I love a lot written by Niyi Osundare from West Africa about the owner of the yam specifically titled; Famine. And there is a specific line that is so lovely until when you read it, it simmers on your lips. The line goes, “THERE CANNOT BE PEACE UNTIL THE OWNER OF FOOD IS ALLOWED TO EAT HIS OWN FOOD!” Actually when the owner is about to feast on his food, is the very moment a neighbor comes running and too caring because he heard a sound. Don’t forget that you can’t really pocket the aura of cooked food. Add up the science of food and visitation and conclude for yourself.

The story of many African countries can resonate very well with the yam and its owner. In this case, the owner of the yam is the continent’s lovely electorate while the visitors (neighbors) can be likened with the politicians of our time. Every time the meal is ready and the people wait to enjoy the labor of their democracy, unlike in the poem it ends up being enjoyed by the graft of the so called visitors.

The funny thing about this graft is another analogy of a story I read somewhere a long time ago about a selfish neighbor. Once he cooked a very tasty meal, precisely chicken. And When he was about to sink his teeth into the piece of soft chicken thigh, a friend knocked on the door. Without hesitation the neighbor threw the chicken pot below the bed. That is when things went haywire.

The story continues to tell us that the visiting friend overstayed definitely cognizant of the fact that there was something unusual in the house despite the owner of the house insisting that all was well and that there was nothing to merry on. As is always the case when the world turns upside down on you, a cat that was sleeping under the bed was treated to a daring meal without asking.

I imagine the cat thinking to itself, “am I dreaming? What came over my master today to give me the juiciest meal of all?” Then it shook itself to confirm it was not dreaming before starting to munch the heaven sent food.

The owner of the meal on suspecting some unusual certainty in the house makes to check if all is well, perhaps scratching the leg for bend to get a proper glimpse of the safety of his meal only to realize that hell had broken loose already and the cat was almost done with the once-in-a-while life saver meal he had prepared as a treat to his miserable body.

Notwithstanding the pain of losing the meal, he reaches for a hefty stick and goes for the cat. The cat not ready for a beating of death reaches for one more piece and rushes out with it to the dismay of the unsuspecting visitor. All the beans are spilled and as is the case with the individuals who have perfected the art of moral decay, life goes on as usual save for the embarrassment of the moment. Fact remains though that there will be no peace until the owner of the chicken is left to eat this own chicken.

Corruption is deadly and we must stop it. Photo Courtesy of World Bank.

The immediate story illustrates clearly how grand graft works. Before the whistle is blown, there is someone who must have gone to visit because the aroma was very welcoming. On finding the owner is using very weak ways to protect the catch, the god send cat comes in and makes away with the catch. The only difference here is that the god send cat and the visitor are friends or even the same thing and know how to work their way around the ignorant chicken owner who unlike in the story is doing the keeping of the chicken in good faith.

In other cases the owner of the yam entrusts a third party to take care of the yam and manage it for him with all the rights. And this is where things go wrong. In our governments, we entrust the leaders to take care of the resources and ensure equity prevails in all national cake allocations. Instead of working as per the requirements of the electorate, the so called leaders turn on that cake and feast on it leaving the real owners of the yam hungry and empty handed. And now that the situation is getting out of hand in all completeness, I am asking if it is possible for the owner of the yam to be left to eat his own yam if peace is to prevail.

The answer lies in finding out the root cause of all these misfortunes of corruption that has befallen the continent and our country. I can’t hesitate to say that it is nothing other than moral decay and lack of civility. Civility is defined as an individual act or a manner of behaving which conforms to social conventions of propriety. This is to mean that the larger society sets the social norms and conventions which are to be followed for civility to be described of a group emanating from such a society.

This then means that maybe as a people, for instance of Kenya, we have set it a norm and convention to let corruption flourish freely among ourselves. The institutions that ought to fight corruption end up victims in themselves and the continent keeps talking about how we want to develop to reach a first class status. We have to change our approach. And this is the approach I propose in the following conclusion remarks.

At times we have to take decisions which don’t align with the popular opinion. For instance we have to pay the cost of achieving that civility even if it means paying by our own precious blood. We can deal with the corrupt cream from up the seat of power and get down to each one of them with time.

The business of scratch my back I scratch yours has to be made obsolete. The fact that our ego gets massaged as the left hand strips us of all we have is never going to be common. Like Dr. Stockmann in Henrik Ibsen’s novel An Enemy of the People, we might need to fight the majority “right” through tooth and nail and stand at nothing short of achieving our objective, that of ending graft.

When revolutions are cooking all over, we can’t watch blindly unless we want it to catch up with us. It is very dangerous for the majority youth to be unemployed and yet people engage in mega graft in broad daylight and we think all is right. The greatest enemy is the enemy within and for that matter the silent one. Mugabe and Zuma can atheist to that in real life. If reality will be hard, Mtemi Bokono in Kifo Kisimani by Prof. Kithaka Wa Mberia can be a case study.

Yes the owner of the yam can be left to eat his own yam and there can be peace. After all it is his yam and he is at liberty to enjoy it alone. But being African, he can willingly choose to share it with moderation of course. Not the yam being taken away from him totally and he remains hungry as though he never had any.


Copyright @ 2018.


Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege is the Editor and topical contributor for the Daily Focus. He writes in the areas of Science, Politics, Policy, Technology, Current Affairs, Opinion, Agriculture, Energy, Education, Entrepreneurship, Governance, International Emerging Issues, Society, and culture. For featuring, promotions or support write to us at
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