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How dirty orgy of graft and ethnicity kills leadership

By Barrack Muluka | Published Sat, March 18th 2017 at 00:00, Updated March 17th 2017 at 23:09 GMT +3

The season of anomy is here, yet again. It is time to throw away what is left of standards within us, both as individuals and as a people. Election campaigns in Africa herald carousal and degeneracy. It is a time to eat, drink and make wild merry. It is a season of treachery and suspension of the law and common decency, alike.

Campaign brokers move frantically from this candidate to that one. Their tongues are coated in sugar and in the power of doublespeak. “Mheshimiwa everybody is talking about you. This thing is yours. You have already taken it. But don’t be close-fisted. Speak well to these people.” They firm up appointments for the politicians, to “meet and greet voters.” Men, women and children alike abandon everything, to focus on freebies. In echo of Elechi Amadi’s eponymous Isiburu, patriarchs leave their farms untended. Newly wed young men leave their fresh brides unexplored. All go out to scramble for freebies.

Religious leaders are not to be outdone. They organise special prayer sessions. Each session is crowned by a special collection of alms. For, God too must eat, in this electoral season. Like the great-unwashed masses, the men of God and their God eat from all candidates. The holy book of God and the sacred edicts within must also take a rest.

Five months hence, many a candidate will be sitting somewhere, looking back at the ended season of anomy. They will be wondering what hit them. For it is only when the elections are done, the votes counted and winners announced that the scales finally fall off the eyes. There will be the victor’s celebration here and there. But there will mostly be a quiet licking of wounds everywhere else. Nothing new here, it has been this way since the politics of money replaced the politics of issues.

Going hand in glove with the politics of money are the politics of the herd. In all constituencies, from the presidency to the county assembly, we are focused on our herd. At one level, our herd is our tribe. But even within the tribe, we have our clan – or our region. While tribes are divided against one another, further division obtains within the tribe. And it cascades all the way to the family.

Will Kenyans vote wisely? The question is almost redundant. There is no place for conventional wisdom in the Kenyan electorate. The only wisdom that matters is the wisdom of the stomach. Thoughts are processed in the stomach. Disguised as words, they exit through the relevant orifice, disguised as the oral cavity. We can identify them by their awful smell.

We vote with our feet at times such as these. Ivory Coast’s late literary icon, Ahmadou Kourouma, takes a dim view of the African electorate. He sees us in the image of “wild beasts waiting to vote.” We go whichever way we are herded through the power of money, fear, voodoo, dark propaganda and the breed.

In the season of anomy, “Even the youth grow faint and weary,” as the Prophet Isaiah said, “They stumble and fall.” A cursory perusal of the social media reveals that Kenya’s youth have stumbled. They have fallen in the pool of the eating and voting beasts. They now look for freebies, just as hard as anyone – sometimes harder than most. In Kouroumian perspective, youthful zest is instrumentalised for mobilisation of the rest of the voting beasts. The difference between the young man and a billboard on the roadside and a spear in the hand is in style rather than substance. There is no difference between him and gunpowder.

In the context, even the level-minded aspirant slips and falls. S/he succumbs to the gods of money and wicked angels of ethnicity. From a sober independent middle ground, s/he goes back to the tribe, to dance to the tune of the tribal chieftain. Woe unto the stubborn one who attempts to hang on to his own beliefs.

A good man in Nairobi goes back to the tribe, as does a good woman in Kirinyaga and another good man in Kisumu. Loaded with the twin assets of tribe and a financial war chest, they now stand a good chance of Pyrrhic victory. The quality of leadership is the worse for it. For, even this lonely sober woman is now lost, echoing the cacophony of the tribal choir. Corruption of the best is the worst. The conquered good man must prove that he is fully converted. He dances harder than those whom he found in the malevolent camp.

Today the country is divided right in the middle, in two mutually hostile political camps. The ethnic formations in each camp are complete and clear. The money factor within each camp, too. If you don’t have the money “to support the party” you are in trouble – even when you are in the correct tribal camp. For the gods in the party must also eat, in this season of anomy. The female candidates, moreover, are expected to bring other assets – mostly of horizontal character. If not, their candidacy will drink the water of affliction.

It is a dirty orgy, this African political campaign and election. We process garbage in the electoral machine. The final product is, therefore, garbage. Garbage in garbage out, they say. The leaders we get at every level are accordingly inclined to be ethnic supremacists and kleptomaniacs. But why would we expect anything different?

If they bought their way to power, they will steal to remain in power. If the ethnic card helped them, they must continue to nurture negative ethnicity. To keep the hope of enlightened leadership alive, therefore, we need to spare a good thought for the independent candidates and those running on small parties.

These lonely independents represent the little good that is left in us. They are our conscience. Unfortunately, they are so weak, just like our conscience.


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