A battered looking piano turned up for sale at an auctioneer’s yard. When the bidding started, there were no offers at all. Then a stooped old man walked over, sat at the piano and launched into a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Prelude in C Major. Fingers flirting lovingly over the keys, he brought out a complex interplay of harmonies, hauntingly beautiful sounds that held everyone spell-bound to the last note. When the auction resumed, the price had changed significantly with the winning bid being several times over the reserve price.
“What caused the change of price?” several people asked, unable to come to terms with this seemingly inexplicable change of fortune. “It was a touch of the master’s hand” came the most convincing response.
The appeal of the language of music is at once innate and universal. Human beings are born with an appreciation of melodious sounds so that it seems only natural to incorporate music in many functions of life. Britain’s Brexit Prime Minister Theresa May had a tacit understanding of the power of song even if her musical jigs were baby-like and unrhythmical.
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From dancing in Kenya with a troop of boy scouts to prancing around at a Tory party conference, her enthusiasm was infectious; sadly, not enough for the “Dancing queen” to hold her own in a country that is ambivalent about its departure from the European Union. She has since resigned.
Two lessons obtain from Theresa May and her Brexit fiasco. The first is that party management must never take precedence over national issues. The Prime Minister was so caught up trying to survive a vote of no confidence by her own Conservative Party that she was unable to build crucial consensus over Brexit with others. A coalition with Labour Party centrists came too late to halt her inexorable downward spiral.
The second is that when an elected leader fails to deliver on a commitment, the honourable thing to do is to resign their position. Theresa May’s brief was to honour the results of a referendum on whether Britain should exit the European Union. As she explained, “in a democracy, one has a duty to implement what the people decide.” The people voted to leave. Ms. May was unable to get Members of Parliament to agree on terms of departure. Her resignation was therefore a matter of principle.
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The Jubilee administration has struck a discordant note in the hearts of many Kenyans. It has become a beta noire even in places where it previously had the strongest support. A clash of personalities within the Jubilee party has been made more combustible by the fact that combatants have arrogated themselves the right to speak on behalf of both Mr Kenyatta and Dr Ruto, albeit from opposite poles. Even as internal party feuds take centre-place, national issues are relegated to the periphery.
The President’s intended legacy of food security, affordable housing, universal healthcare and manufacturing now appears moot. The timbre of his pledge to rout out corruption, to some, appears hollow, like that of a tone-deaf orchestra conductor, unable to pick out jarring sounds from offending instrumentalists.
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Some of Dr Ruto’s supporters have distinguished themselves more for their entertainment value than for an ability to articulate issues closest to the hearts of Kenyans. Dr Bonnie Khalwalwe’s jigs have been the subject of much merriment, even when he dances to odes in praise of self. But it is Malindi Member of Parliament, Aisha Jumwa, who risks crossing the red line. In a country that is predominantly Christian, she may have offended the sensibilities of many faithful when she recently ascribed praises to Dr Ruto in a song that Christians reserve for God alone.
Questions arise. Theresa May came to the inevitable conclusion that “compromise is not a dirty word” and that “life depends on compromise.” Can the Jubilee party reach a compromise to end its unseemly internal squabbles? Can it build consensus over what constitutes inclusivity in the sharing of national resources? Having failed to deliver on the most basic elements of the social contract it has with Kenyans, will the leadership of Jubilee follow in Theresa May’s example and resign?
Kenya is like a battered musical instrument only awaiting the master’s touch to come alive and take its rightful place of eminence on the continent. The current crop of leadership have shown themselves to be bereft of that touch. Voting them and their acolytes again will only be a game of musical chairs; an exercise in futility. Will the real master stand up?
Mr Khafafa is Vice Chairman, Kenya-Turkey Business Council