President of Benin
Patrice Talon

Patrice Talon scored these sweet sunglasses for free from his eye doctor.

If, like me, you have a website in ranking all world leaders in order of hotness, then you’ll be excited to learn that the country of Benin has a hot new president. (Well, “new.” He’s been in office for like a year. It’s not easy to keep websites ranking all world leaders in order of hotness up to date, as you of all people would understand.)

The new president’s name is Patrice Talon, but people call him the “King of Cotton.” I could tell you why, but I promise it is more fun not knowing. Now, how does a successful cotton businessman (whoops, sorry!) end up as the president of Benin? The answer is that the Benoise electorate LOVES political outsiders. It actually makes you feel kind of sad for all of the career politicians in Benin, who would probably really like to be president but don’t stand a chance against some random banker or their mailman or whoever.

When Patrice Talon ran for president, he was the ultimate political outsider. He was even more of a political outsider than YOU are, which is saying a lot, given that you only just now learned of Benin’s existence. Let’s take a moment to compare.

Who is More of a Political Outsider: You or Patrice Talon? Patrice Talon You
Has never held political office of any kind
Spent the last few years living abroad to avoid embezzlement charges *
Was accused of trying to assassinate the last president of Benin

*I just assume that this is why you are not currently living in Benin.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Who would want to (allegedly) assassinate former president Yayi Boni? He’s adorable, sometimes he wears a bowtie, and it is fun to whisper his name to yourself over and over. (Go ahead and give it a try. “Yayi Boni.” “Yayi Boni.” “Yayi Boni.” See? You’re having the time of your life!) What makes his name even better is that I can’t figure out if it’s “Yayi Boni” or “Boni Yayi.” I’ve seen it written both ways, sometimes in the same news article. So maybe both ways are correct, like a reversible sweater.

Before the whole (alleged) attempted assassination thing, Yayi Boni and Patrice Talon were friends. Talon financed both of Yayi Boni’s campaigns for president, and in an unrelated gesture of friendship, Yayi Boni let Talon buy a bunch of government-owned cotton gins. But nothing good lasts forever, and as with all friendships, it was only a matter of time before one friend tried to poison the other.

In this case, Talon (allegedly) offered Yayi Boni’s niece and his doctor $2 million each to replace Boni’s painkillers with capsules full of poison. Which they apparently did. But the whole scheme came to light when Boni’s niece, arguably the worst co-conspirator ever, mentioned the plot to a few other family members, who then proceeded to tell Yayi Boni.

Mysteriously, Yayi Boni pardoned Talon and everyone else involved in the plot, instead of trying to exact revenge. Unless his plan is to get revenge is by leading a life well-lived. So…I guess we’ll see how that works out for him.

After you’ve been pardoned for attempted murder, a good way to celebrate is to run for president. That’s exactly what Patrice Talon did—and he won, after running on a platform that within 5 years, he would bring “miraculous change” to Benin. Which sounds a little too good to be true! And I can’t help but wonder, “Who would believe a promise like that?” But as someone who lives in America, I’m not really in a position to make fun.