The word corruption has become a near indissoluble stain on the Kenyan moral fabric. We often speak about it in our private conversations and come across it quite frequently in the news and in the papers. Nonetheless, what does it now evoke in the mind of a Kenyan, especially the youth?
Plausibly, for many of us young people, the first image that flashes across our impressionable minds is that of the good life; tenderpreneurs adorned in expensive suits and jewelry, reclining pensively on leather seats after a hearty meal as they peruse government tender documents for one more opportunity to make a quick shilling supplying air to a Government institution.
Land Cruiser V8s with heavily tinted windows cruising away elegantly from the madness of the CBD towards the serenity and tranquility of posh neighbourhoods like Runda. Trips to exotic holiday destinations where we simply lie on the beach sun-basking as polite waiters refill our whisky glasses. Getting perfect opportunities to take selfies and pictures for our social media accounts under catchy hashtags like #HolidayInTheBahamas.
Being part of a club of untouchables commonly portrayed as ‘cartels’, whose members revel in an air of awe, mystery and invincibility when their names and faces are plastered on the front pages of mainstream newspapers. In the worst-case scenario, being exposed to the public with catchy headlines like ‘Corruption cartels unearthed’ or ‘The new millionaires in town’.
And herein lies the danger. With the implicit glorification of corruption and the attention we give to the individuals associated with it, should we be surprised when the youth, who are the leaders of tomorrow, give up on their dreams and decide that tenderpreneurship is a smarter career choice? Perhaps we shouldn’t. Because the subtle association of corruption with objects of success and invincibility is sending a subliminal message to the youth that corruption is one of the ways to achieve what we desire the most; a shot at a better life.
Subsequently, values like hard work, persistent dedication to mastery of the principles of steady wealth creation do not stand a chance against the allure of instant success promised by corruption.This reason, among many others, should cajole us to take action as a society. More so because corruption is blindingly dangerous.
What would it take for us to start exposing its naked ugliness to young people so that they can see its deceptive nature? Shouldn’t this begin by examining the link between the effects of corruption and the deterred dreams of the youth? Interestingly, like other forms of deception, if we examine corruption closely, its fanciness withers away and we see it for what it is; ugly. In retrospect, shouldn’t we then call it a name that captures its ugliness? Isn’t ‘cartel’ too fancy a word that awes?
Then let’s also call the people who engage in this theft by their rightful name; a group of thieves. Further to this, let’s expose the destructive effects of corruption.
When for example, a group of thieves raid public coffers and steal funds that would have otherwise been used to build wholesome capacity for young entrepreneurs so that they can be able to access markets, capital and mentorship for their businesses, and these young people consequently become unable to grow their businesses, should we be surprised when they turn to crime out of frustration?
When these young people who have now turned to crime end up being felled by police bullets, doesn’t this mean that the group of thieves are responsible for their deaths? Let’s imagine another hypothetical situation where a young person has a talent for sport but is living in the ghetto.
If this young person is denied the chance to advance this talent because another group of thieves stole funds that would have opened doors of opportunity for this young person, who is to blame?
It is because of this soulless greed for public funds that talents are being drowned in cheap liquor pubs, and many young people with aspirations are painfully shelving their ambitions because of lack of access to opportunities and resources to give form to their dreams. We are a society that abhors any form of theft, especially petty theft.
Therefore, let’s abhor corruption the same way we abhor other forms of theft. I am of the opinion that if we expose the ugliness of corruption, then it will lose its lustre and the youth will shun it like they shun mediocrity.
Let us acknowledge the yearning the youth have to achieve their aspirations and perhaps create the right environment especially in the private sector for the youth to pursue their ambitions.
Mr Mokamba is Communication Consultant in Nairobi