My attention is drawn to an article titled ‘Mandago: Rungu Governor with a sharp tongue’ published in the Sunday Standard of January 21. The writer, Jonathan Komen, views Mandago as a politically intelligent albeit disdainful, unpolished and (un)popular leader of his time. He equates Mandago to 1960s US President John F Kennedy in whose era a group of young politicians in Michigan drafted The Port Huron Statement. James Miller in his book ‘Democracy Is In The Streets’, says the manifesto introduced ‘participatory democracy’ to geo-politics. This ideology encourages independence of opinion within an organised socio-political structure where leaders and community have equal stake. A government of the people for the people. Like Kalenjin’s generational leadership structure, each age group has its leader who will/must never clash with his senior leader; at the moment we look up to Deputy President William Ruto.
North Rift and particularly Uasin Gishu politics is famed for its strength in grassroots opinion. Therefore, alleging that Mandago loves to go back to mashinani and whip emotions is wrong unless the writer can point out a politician who has won without getting his backyard support. If anything, former US House of Representatives Speaker Tip O’Neill aptly says that ‘All politics is local.’
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As regards Mandago being disdainful and condescending I am reminded of the (in)famous run-in between foreign NGO members and his administration. Komen’s favourite author Chinua Achebe says if a man defecates at your doorstep, you must pick a stick and chase him! The writer has drawn a blurry line between defiance, controversy and a leadership’s strong sense of opinion. Eight years ago, the DP, advised the Kalenjin to ‘look to the mountain’ after a near-miss attempt at 2007/08 presidency. Mandago in his own wisdom came up with Community Procurement Management Committees which ensured that projects were managed and executed by the people in the grassroots. Pesa Mashinani, much to the chagrin of tender-prenuers. The governor is a filial generation of Ruto’s political gene pool with strong self-opinion and loyalty to the leadership of the day. How could Mandago be unwanted yet he is always asked to represent the presidency in Rift Valley and Western? There was no acrimony between Bishop Cornelius Korir (RIP) and Mandago.
Komen has also not given a record of Mandago’s prosecution on tribal slur claimns by NCIC except for sensationalist claims during the lobbying for appointment of Moi University vice chancellor.
The governor has not had a run-in with his Nakuru counterpart Lee Kinyanjui. While Mr Kinyanjui’s political advisers caused him to make his thinly veiled remarks about ‘his people in Diasapora’, Mandago has focused on ensuring that Eldoret is well planned by moving hawkers to the west of the town. For a politician in North Rift to be re-elected means they are cognizant of change. I would rather Komen had equated the governor to Obierika, Okonkwo’s friend who upon witnessing the great (but obstinate) Okonkwo’s demise, said; ‘Until you change, unless you change, except you change, you will struggle fruitlessly to be, to belong, to become until exhausted you fall by the wayside.’ To compare Mandago’s political life with drowning in a bathtub is condescending.
- The writer is a communications consultant