Let us walk the talk on women empowerment

Deputy President William Ruto with Rehema Jaldesa (Women Representative Isiolo) during a women's empowerment programme, Kinna, Isiolo South, Isiolo County.

Fifty-six years after independence, we still have not gotten some very basic things right.

For example, we can’t agree on how many we are. No sooner had the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) released the results than politicians started to complain that their villages have more people than were counted.

The obvious Kenyan mantra: we must have 99 problems to every 1 solution.

Politicians forget that population is not just about how many people you give birth to; it is also about how many die, how many migrate and how many children per woman you get. It is not a number you can see with your eyes.

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Generally speaking, dear politician, your population grows around Christmas because your sons and daughters who left to seek the opportunities you failed to provide show up in the village to point at things with their car keys.

Clean census

We forgot that KNBS delivered the census results on time, within the budget and so far, corruption-free. Instead of praising it, some of our leaders are focused on their villages, tribal and clan mathematics.

This is the shame of being Kenyan; the main thing is always the sideshow.

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No sooner had the census results been released than our politicians began to argue about why Kibra was lost, or won.

Some opine that had former Senator Bonny Khalwale and MP Didmus Barasa been near the polling station, then former International football star McDonald Mariga would have won.

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Thus, they say, Kibra was lost because the violence kept their votes away; never mind that 11,000 of the votes were cast in their favour.

Sure, violence should be condemned in the strongest terms, but it is false to claim that chasing away Khalwale and Barasa constituted the loss.

For how many votes had Khalwale and how many had Barasa? At the same time, can those who shout loudest for justice also shout for vote-buyers to be arrested? What is good for the goose should be equally good for the gander.

Obsession with 2022

But, my friends, I digress. Kenya needs to get its act together. The sideshows and worship of 2022 will not help us.

Our excuse is always that we are a young nation, a tribal nation; our democracy is young and we have all the time in the world to change. The truth is vastly different; we don’t have the time and we should be in a big hurry to change.

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Thanks to our senate, we have 9 trillion reasons to hurry.

Singapore is a hodgepodge nation, made up of Indian, Chinese and Arabic people. It has no vast mineral resources, no large landmass and was independent at about the same time as Kenya.

It is one of the richest countries in the world and we are one of the richest in Africa (yes, we are the tallest among the dwarfs).

The GDP per capita of Singapore is $57,000 (Sh60 million) while that of Kenya is $1,500 (Sh160,000).

How did the Singaporeans do it? First they don’t steal. They don’t steal from the government and they generally don’t steal from each other. It means when they say they are building a water dam, they build it at the least cost, with proper contracts and with proper feasibility studies.

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This also means that those who steal are not glorified and sang to like we do here. Instead, they are punished severely. In fact, public vandalism is punished by caning, a rule Nairobi would do well to have.

Those who litter and destroy our city should be caned.

Singapore’s example

Singaporeans succeeded by simply being focused on a singular vision and not allowing themselves to waste time dancing for politicians who are unable to deliver on promises made years ago. We in Kenya would do well to borrow a leaf.

A nation is not built on grand steps; it is built by many small steps. It is built by inches. The first inch is citizens who in their small sphere do right and shun what is wrong.

It is citizens who refuse to listen as a collective of tribal sheep, but as collective of responsible citizens of a state.

These citizens then chose and hold to account leaders who are visionary.

Leaders who are selfless and wise enough to answer what Kenya in 2069 will look like. Leaders who resign when they are implicated in crime and inappropriate acquisition of assets.

Leaders who feel ashamed when asked about promises they made and never kept. Together these leaders and citizens can prosper a nation. We need nothing more just good manners and accountability.

It is therefore my wish that when the BBI report is released, it will underpin the idea that our biggest problem is lack of ethos as a nation.

That our software is moribund and we need to hit the reset button. I hope the report gives us practical Singapore-like steps towards success. For we are already late, we need to hurry or doom will soon overtake us.

Bichachi is a communication consultant. [email protected] 

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Kenya National Bureau of Statistics