It was the late George Saitoti, a one-time minister for Internal Security and Provincial Administration, who said: "There comes a time when the nation is more important than an individual" It is perhaps his most often quoted statement, and the one for which many Kenyans remember him. That statement is as true now as it was then.
It is very difficult to understand why the preservation of one individual's position in Government – never mind that he has more than once proved himself totally unable to handle his docket – is more important than the safety of a nation comprising more than 40 million people. Joseph ole Lenku, the Cabinet Secretary for Interior, has defiantly stated that he sees no reason why he should resign over the latest security debacle despite Kenyans saying – not for the first time – that he cannot, and should not, be allowed to do the job. But even more baffling is why his boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta, continues to keep him.
It has been said that Mr Lenku, whom every Kenyan knows is a trained hotelier with no background whatsoever in security matters, was the token appointee for his community; that he was the reward given for his community's overwhelming endorsement of Jubilee in the last General Election. Well, that is the way politics goes, but that is not the reason why Kenyans are angry.
It is one thing for a national leader to demonstrate incompetence and agree to be corrected by humbly stepping down; it is quite another for him to rehash Press statements that inspire no confidence in his ability, and then arrogantly declare he has nothing to be sorry about. Meanwhile, dead bodies are still being discovered in Mpeketoni.
It is a dangerous trend when a head of State makes the choice to turn a deaf ear to the people who elected him based on his promises to lead them to better times. If the people say something is wrong, then something is wrong! When the President addressed the nation following the Westgate Mall attack last September, it was important for citizens to feel assured that he was on top of things and that – going by his assurances – such a thing would never be allowed to happen again.
However, between Westgate and Mpeketoni, there have been too many life-costing attacks that have served to diminish, not increase, the nation's confidence in the ability of its security chiefs to protect lives and property. The President should realise that there are people who have not been able to "accept and move on" following the Westgate horror.
There are people who remain terribly traumatised either because they lost loved ones in such a brutal manner or because they themselves experienced the horror of having to hide for hours from trigger-happy gunmen, not knowing if – or when – they would be discovered and shot. Some have remained gripped by a fear of shopping malls since then; others of boarding public service vehicles. Today, not even an ordinary day at an ordinary market is fun day out shopping.
There are a number of reasons why a person may not be able to perform his or her job optimally. It may be because that person lacks the necessary resources. Or maybe he or she has an unco-operative team to work with.
And then there are those who are simply not suited for the job, and the longer they stay on, the more glaring their inadequacies become, and the more unimpressive their legacy. When human life is at risk and bodies are actually being counted even as demands for accountability from the very top of security are growing louder, then there is cause for serious worry. Kenyans are saying Joseph ole Lenku is not fit for purpose as the Interior supremo. The President would be well placed to give this sentiment serious consideration.
If George Saitoti were here, he would probably repeat his wise words. But since he is not, we can say it for him: "There comes a time when the nation is more important than an individual." Is anyone at the top listening?