Why we feel so much let down by our leaders

Last Tuesday, The Standard published an interesting illustration of poisonous foods that find their way to our dining tables.

The menu was short and incomplete but all the same, it was an eye-opener. In a simple plate of ugali, beef and green vegetables, an average city dweller will have probably consumed every kind of chemical and harmful metallic substance.

The ugali flour may have been milled from maize already certified positive for aflatoxin. The stew will have been prepared from beef well preserved in sodium metabisulphite, a chemical used in the preservation of fruits and chewing gum.

Poisonous food

The green vegetables will be a product of a swampy sewage garden at the lower ends of the city, hosting all kinds of harmful chemical substances.

And should the Nairobian wish to down the sumptuous meal with a cup of coffee, he may only hope and pray that the sugar will not be contaminated with mercury and the milk will not be a compound of illegal preservatives.

Just a couple of months ago a popular brand of peanut butter, meat, and sugar brands were taken off the shelves in supermarkets and upmarket stores after allegedly testing positive for a variety of harmful chemicals and substances.

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A Nairobi city resident has to pray to survive regardless of their social, economic and even cultural status.

In my opinion, we need another special body besides the Kenya Bureau of Standards to deal specifically with the regulation of the production, marketing, distribution, sale and consumption of food products.

It is possible for a country to play games with all other fake products, but not with food safety. Food should be handled separately, much in the same way it is packed separately from other items in a shopping basket.

Don't settle for less

That opinion notwithstanding, do Kenyans value standards and quality of products and services? Why and when did we settle for the least in terms of quality? A building put up in Nairobi in 1936 is far much stronger than one constructed in 2016.

Today, you have to pray that the roof and walls of your apartment do not collapse on you one rainy day due to shoddy workmanship. Compromise in quality runs across our entire spectrum of life and we have accepted it as a way of life. Start with the quality of our political leaders, the ones we elect every five years.

Kenya is not short of persons of high calibre and integrity and moral fitness who could offer themselves for elective positions. The problem is, we reject them and go for thieves and perpetual fraudsters seeking leadership opportunities to entrench their criminal careers.

We then whine when they grab our public land, corrupt our institutions and empty the Treasury. A good lot of them have fake academic papers acquired through fraud. Yet we expect the same individuals to streamline the standards and quality of our education system.

In Kenya, you are lucky if your land title deed or your car log book passes the test of authenticity. Worse still, fake documents including passports and identity cards are in the hands of criminal gangs.

Interestingly, the fake papers are not generated in the demonised River Road any more; they are issued at government offices by the very officers who give out the valid ones. In Kenya, you have to pray and hope that the fuel you will buy at the next filling station will not be contaminated and knock out your car engine. You have to pray and hope that the cooking gas cylinder will not explode.

Country of fakes?

In Kenya today, the new Sh1,000 note -- released by the Central Bank of Kenya mid this year -- is already competing in the market with its fake twin brother. You have to view it against the rays of the sun to notice the difference, if you are lucky. Take note of the water mark of a lion head, a wide golden line and a set of other features, or else you will be dealing in a fake note.

In Kenya, you have to trust God that the church you are attending is not headed by a man who plays holy priest during the day and turns fraudster, child molester and criminal gangster at night.

In Kenya, you must pray and believe that the drugs you are buying across the counter in a pharmacy outlet are not cheap power tablets manufactured in a backstreet in Nairobi.

The list is endless. But the beginning of the solution is securing quality and high standards in one of the above -- the persons we give the power to lead us.

Mr Thuku is an Advocate of the High Court [email protected]

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