• April 24, 2024
  • Last Update April 23, 2024 10:40 PM
  • Nairobi

Kenya through the rear-view mirror

Kenya through the rear-view mirror

Kenya has often been referred to as a great nation by many leaders, especially those in the political class. As to whether this reference is because of the Kenyan people or the country’s natural resources is debatable. That said, any analysis that considers a country great without reference to the people and their potential is likely to be lopsided because the most important resource in any country is the people. Anything else comes second.

Chief Justice David Maraga once observed that a nation is considered great when her subjects adhere routinely to the rule of law and demonstrate fear and respect for God. The problem is human beings by nature attribute to themselves greatness that is often farfetched or outright non-existent. Like a woman who believes that her perfectly symmetrical face is everything even if her heart or posterior are not so attractive, or a man who believes that his height is enough even if his pockets are as empty as Jesus’ tomb.

In view of this, Kenya’s greatness may just be a fallacy. A country cannot be considered great when it is attractive only from the front or on the surface, while its hind parts or its depth are riddled with vices as dark as a black hole.

The most salient feature of any great nation should be the citizens’ pride to live in and identify with that nation. As such, their height, width, colour or texture cannot influence that nation’s functionality or greatness. The pygmies can still make a great people, their miniature stature notwithstanding; the darkest-skinned Africans can still emerge as the best, complexion aside.

We are human beings not because of our skin colour but because of our character traits; our values and virtues. Being human is more important than simply being because humanity dictates and determines our collective peaceful co-existence and happiness as a race, as a people and as a species.

It is a people’s belief in self-grandiosity that makes life unbearable in many countries of the world, especially Africa, and the reason many countries cannot be considered great. For both the able-bodied and the infirm, it is undesirable human behaviour that creates slavery and a sense of entitlement, and that has made Africa lag behind.

The acolytes of the universe have often said that the Creator was neither blind nor foolish when He fashioned the earth in its known form. The land masses, water bodies, trees, precious metals, animals and so on would be enough for all of us if they were equitably and wisely distributed and utilised.

The prudent use of these earthly resources would leave every mortal with plenty to eat and wear, and much more for our grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. The whole world would indeed be a great place similar to the biblical Garden of Eden.

We must be cognizant and concerned about the ominous environment in which we live today. The despicable living conditions and constant struggle to attain the most basic of needs should haunt our collective conscience. It should not be business as usual. The travesty that has often been visited upon ordinary citizens should worry us. The misplaced desire to celebrate deficient leadership should be replaced with the inquisitive desire to understand why we should remain poor in the face of plenty, and enslaved when the land belongs to us.

The strategies of political honchos in our country, as well as our naivety, are to blame for the current state of affairs. The leaders use political and ethnic bigotry to endear themselves to us for selfish, short-term gain. Sadly, the common man appears to have resigned himself to his fate – to be used and dumped by the political class like ordinary toilet paper.

Kenya would indeed be great if ordinary men and women really understood the calibre of leaders we have versus the ones we deserve. The destiny of the nation must therefore be guided not by the whims of gluttonous, myopic briefcase politicians, but by the will, focus and common good of the majority. Otherwise of what value is a beautiful, poetic national anthem when we barely remember or practise justice, which we claim is “our shield and defender”? Why is it that the “plenty within our borders” is in the hands of only a few?

Our nation would be great and enviable if the electorate voted not on the shaky platform of ethnic, clan or political party affiliations but on that of merit and demonstrated leadership ability.

Our nation would be great and enviable if the electorate voted not on the shaky platform of ethnic, clan or political party affiliations but on that of merit and demonstrated leadership ability. We must constantly remember that sound leadership is not and cannot be a tribal domain but a personal attribute. The blind obsession with particular leaders just because they belong to our tribes or political parties must end because it always leads to economic and political turmoil.

A person who has openly demonstrated lopsided leadership, an insatiable appetite for earthly possessions, intolerance for perceived opponents, vindictiveness, and lack of understanding for citizens’ needs should never be appointed or elected to any leadership position. If one cannot deliver on a light assignment, what miracle can he or she possibly pull off to fulfill a much-more demanding role?

It is such weak and unfocused leadership that has made it impossible for us to appreciate the true value of our symbols of national unity. Our leaders are known for their reactionary roadside declarations minus the commitment to pursue them to completion. In many instances it is even doubtful that they believe in their own declarations. It is the same case with the so-called party manifestos, which are largely meant to hoodwink gullible citizens into voting for these bloodthirsty political vampires who operate on the principles of blackmail, greed, manipulation and waywardness underscored by a bottomless desire for self-enrichment and patronage. 

Right from the time of our independence, leadership has been synonymous with privilege at the expense of struggling citizens. Ascending to leadership positions – whether in the Judiciary, Executive or Legislature – is often misconstrued as an opportunity for the leader to be worshipped, as licence to ravage public resources and as a time to hound perceived adversaries. If anyone ever observed us and concluded that we are a man-eat-man society, that person would be deserving of a gold medal. 

In Kenya today, if you happen not to be a thief; if you happen to cherish fairness; if you are inclined to mercy; if you believe in meritocracy, then you are the odd one out and you do not belong in this country! The unfortunate truth is that Kenyans adulate and venerate material possessions and power without caring about their source, or the means used to get them. This is what defines us today. We eat our children’s inheritance without clemency; we rape our economy without remorse; we gouge out our neighbours’ eyes with cold hearts, and we care only about today.

To survive in such an environment, everyone on the streets has become rough, hardy, busy and in a hurry. In this nation of hustlers, one must adapt quickly and develop a thick skin because no one has time to mother you, however young and inexperienced you may be. You must literally be born on your feet!

It is all about money; that is what matters across the country. If you have no money in Kenya, no matter how tall and handsome you may be, you will most likely die a bachelor because nobody’s daughter will identify with a church mouse or a loser like you. No wonder corruption has become the norm – everyone is bent on taking advantage of the other because everyone is in a hurry to become rich.

For instance, the motorcycle taxis, commonly referred to as boda boda, have given new meaning to the Kenya hustle. In their hunger for legal tender, the riders rule the roads and footpaths with thuggish carelessness and impunity, giving matatus – the traditional ‘bad boys’ of Kenyan roads – unrivalled competition. And despite many of these riders ending up in hospital with broken limbs, or worse, they continue to ride roughshod over every traffic rule in the book. Even the police have been unable to stop them.

This is indeed a Kenya where one wrong is repeated so frequently that it becomes a right before it eventually becomes the norm, and everyone feels at peace. 

The daring behaviour of boda boda riders mirrors that of our ‘waheshimiwa’. Our not-so-honourable Members of Parliament have abdicated their role as lawmakers and become the law itself. They feel nothing about increasing their salaries at will, even in the midst of a disaster like the Covid-19 pandemic, and nobody can stop them, including the Salaries and Remuneration Commission. 

In a country that has become so toxic, the questions we must now ask are: Of what value is this self-inflicted toxicity to us? Who will have the last laugh in this unpredictable environment? Are we really happy with the way we live, or is our internal competition so important that it is better for a minority to live in plenty while the majority live in misery?

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