Aside from being the native land of Microkhan’s most beloved soccer star, Benin is also currently home to one of the sketchiest political dramas in the Eastern Hemisphere. To hear the nation’s government tell it, President Yayi Boni (above) narrowly escaped death when a plot to poison him fell apart—a plot masterminded by a wealthy businessman named Patrice Talon, one of Boni’s staunchest former allies. But the details of the case seem more than a little head-scratching, to the point that the plot’s existence must be called into question. Talon himself recently weighed in from exile, and his interview with Radio France Internationale (translated from French) provides a compelling peek inside the machinery of a corrupt, dysfunctional state. Suffice to say that Talon admits nothing, and blames the whole affair on a falling out between himself and his powerful ex-friend:
Q: After the victory of Boni Yayi, you secured big markets, such as the management of the PVI, the audit programme of imports at the port of Cotonou. A few months ago, you lost this market, why?
Talon: For me, it may be a punishment.
Q: Is it for the same reason that you lost the monopoly on imports of inputs, fertilizers, insecticides, in the cotton sector?
Talon: I can say that yes. Always as punishment, it was brutally decided that the intervention of the private sector must stop; a sector, which is a responsibility for private activities in Benin for almost two decades. Therefore, everything was stopped overnight. But this is not the first time. I was stopped like that in the past, arbitrarily, for two years. I waited. You know, when you know you are right, you wait for the return of the truth. I`m used to it. One must also agree to get accustomed to this kind of setback and be patient. I know how to do this.
Q: This is the story of Superintendent Fouquet under Louis XIV! You became too rich, too powerful?
Talon: It is to be believed, but I think that my misfortune is to be too independent at times, not putting my person totally at the service of things which I do not believe in.
Talon is so obviously arrogant that it’s tough to entirely trust his denial of involvement in the alleged poisoning plot. But what he says about the unpredictability of Boni does ring true; the powerful have a way of turning on their closest associates for reasons that are clear to no one but themselves.