How about a reward scheme for good deeds?


Recognition for being a law-abiding citizen need not be monetary. [Courtesy]

There is a poetic song titled “What’s in it for me” by Swedish singer Amy Deasismont. The title strikes a familiar code in Kenya. “What’s in it for me” is now a famed culture and a poignant way of life.

It comes alive time and again when people demand a reward for a service they are about to offer or a task, mostly shadowy, they are being asked to execute.

In Kenya, where there seems to be a shortage of honest, obedient and selfless citizens, it has become routine to partake in work and deals, lawful or not, so long as there are direct individual benefits.

In this bandit economy, as former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga once described it, the need to make money or derive a benefit from an activity outweighs the consequence. Many Kenyans do not worry for generations to come.

The law is the bloodline of a nation yet many of us are notoriously lax about obeying it. In many spheres now, doing right is burdensome than beneficial.

We thrive in lawlessness. Our coffers are sucked dry by graft. State agents gleefully disobey courts orders. Matatus are under the grip of cartels and drivers pay no heed to basic safety rules. And, politicians hold mammoth rallies despite Covid-19 protocols. We love evading truth. Last week, DP William Ruto was at it with a white political lie that he isn’t campaigning but traversing counties to supervise projects. It’s an endless dose of falsity and ills that seem to be pushing us into impunity as a way of life. It is not just the State at fault. It’s all of us. Having a civilised society today and tomorrow is a shared responsibility.

Since obedience to the law, the conventional way has eluded us, we can try a special reward system to fire up good deeds. I’m not sure which agency can work out this and how it can be legally grounded. But a one of a kind ‘keep it up’ scheme would suffice. Let us not live in denial. To get back our social and moral bearing, we must creatively think.

In Tokyo, law-abiding citizens are rewarded with e-money and in Manila, a man was recently rewarded with $38,000 for offering information on drug peddlers. In North Carolina, reporting illegal dumping into sewers attracts an instant $5,000 reward while in Pune, diligent drivers get discounts on select items.

Recognition for being a law-abiding citizen need not be monetary. It can be by way of public acknowledgement, say by the governor or the president, of a citizen’s exemplary efforts. Let’s not mistake this for dishing out top honours to ‘githeri’ men and bloggers.

Yes, rewarding good deeds has a multiplier effect and can return a society to patriotism and lawfulness over time. Ratcheting up of rewards to selfless people will teach young Kenyans that diligence pays.

 -The writer is an editor at The Standard and a 2021 RISJ University of Oxford fellow. Twitter: @markoloo 

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