President of Benin
Yayi Boni

USAID

You might assume that this is a photo of Dr. Yayi Boni raising his hand to volunteer as a white-on-white bowtie model.Or, alternatively, that he is crying out for help because some miscreant has stolen the rims off his glasses. But Yayi Boni is not doing any of things. In fact, this photo was taken seconds after Yayi Boni asked the rhetorical question “Who thinks saying ‘Yayi Boni’ is fun?” In response, he raised his hand and said “Yayi Boni thinks it’s fun! Yayi Boni!” And indeed, it is hard to disagree with him.

It is a scientific fact that some things are fun to say, and some are not. (In fact, some of the most fun things probably shouldn’t be so much fun. For example: “loose nukes.” Yes, yes, loose nukes are a scary concept, especially for those of us who work a block from the White House. But if muttering “loose nukes” to myself as I walk around downtown Washington is wrong, I don’t want to be right.)

“Yayi Boni” is one of those things that’s fun to say. I can’t pretend to know every single thing about Beninois politics, but I know that Yayi Boni couldn’t have gotten himself elected President of Benin if not for his fun name. Indeed, the mind reels at the playful campaign slogan possibilities:

“Enough Ennui, Vote Boni”
“Yayi Boni is the Key to our Glee!”
“Chablis et Boni? Oui, Merci!”
“Boni in 2006”
“Boni Will Punish Burkina Faso For Their Arrogance.”

Incredibly enough, however, Yayi Boni’s fun name hasn’t been enough to keep him out of trouble. In 2007, assassins attempted to kill him by felling trees across the road as his car approached and opening fire on it. It is enough to make the casual observer begin to question West Africa’s political stability.