The error of worshipping politicians


A member of the crowd climbs up on a politician's car to dance during the Azimio la Umoja rally at Kamukunji Grounds in Nairobi on May 15, 2022. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]


Cheer your leaders till your voices go hoarse. Dance vigorously for them until your legs go limp. Wear their T-shirts, socks and khangas. But do not worship them. Political campaigns are about praising human ability. Exaggeration is intentional and humility is suspended. “I” is the main word. One must appear as standing on their own two feet. One is doomed if they appear as piggy-backing on another. Such are dismissed as unworthy projects. Overconfidence is the staple expression. It is wrong to say “if” we win. You must say “when” we win. Optimism must be limitless. There is no moderation of victory probabilities. Even the least likely statistically must pose as boisterous. Discussions around acceptance of defeat are often emotional and very conditional.

Competition—even when their strength is open for all to see—must be consistently bashed and dismissed. Some cams borrow from the vice world and rain abuses on their competitors. One may want to think that of these exaggerations and an abandon of realism as part of the political “game” until there are court cases rejecting the results. Then it dawns that the investment went deeper—desires chanted over and over crystalised into facts and the camp metamorphosed into a cult. The dream sublimed into reality and even when morning had broken the light of reality could not stir some from their slumber.

Cursed is he who puts his trust in a man. This Solomonic wisdom points to the existence of a realm beyond the human one. Not even for the most excellent humans are exempted. This pithy saying lays it bare: humans have value but even the greatest should not be termed inevitable and turned into an object of worship. Human greatness is not self-generated—it is delegated. This truth should be every human being’s screen saver. No human being can turn another into a god. And no human being should consider themselves a god!

One nation under God

In the intense season of seeking political power, aspirants tend to say in different languages “Cursed are you if you do not trust in me!” Their lethally loyal teams present themselves as literal lifelines and label their opponents as agents of darkness. Some deteriorate into threatening that if not elected the community will suffocate in regret. The acute acts employed to secure votes paint a picture of people who perceive themselves as holding the fate of the community in their hands.

But this cannot be. No aspirant should pose as the ultimate decider of Kenya’s future. As the Constitution acknowledges, we are a nation under God. Even the most confident of us face bouts of self-doubt. Even the best of us bears deep stains of fallenness. Even the wealthiest of us suffers fatal poverty in areas. Even the wisest of us carries their burden of foolishness. Even the most positive minded have their walk on the second-guessing street. In our romantic highs we call some humans “angels” but fact is that angels have no humans in their league. To deify a human is therefore ridiculous and an act of indescribable blindness. An attempt to install oneself as a god is the highest of prides. Competing with the Creator is to boost the serpent’s cast in the Garden of Eden scene.

Some politicians do not mind a blind following. If they minded it, they would denounce it in public. They dislike independently minded people because they do not want to be challenged—their decision and desire is final. Despite their dances with darkness they demand god-like treatment. Though their weakness and sins are ever before them, they still pose and present themselves as angels of light. They are humans, but they want the loyalty given to the gods. Their deceptive mannerisms should be believed. The want their troops in a trance, obeying their every word and hailing their suitability.  

Condoning blasphemy

God is the bunker where people run to when humans hurt them. To trade this refuge for a human cover is a risky exchange. But there is a tendency to transfer religious practices into political paraphernalia. The songs. The chants. The praises. The symbols. The loyalty. The shrines—Gatundu, Sugoi, Bondo, Kabarak—are often mentioned with spiritual honours. Let God be God. Let us not chop God into political pieces to distribute in the name of undefeatable aspirants. The line must be drawn. Authentic spirituality guides that those who seek power approach God’s throne for the help they desire. Aspirants however popular and powerful cannot be God. Such an act would amount to the error that you can turn anything and anyone into God. For any aspirant to sit back and watch as excited followers accord them qualities of a god is condoning blasphemy. Kenya wants God-fearing leaders not self-deifying leaders. Our leaders may embody the hope we need, but that should not turn them into objects of worship. Even the best of leaders should worship God alongside the citizens and not turn their homes into shrines where they set themselves up as gods.

The most respected of leaders has their cracks. The most feared leader has gaps. Let us not transfer what belongs to God to any human. To do so is to build a community that has little if any need for God. Spiritual maturity guides that even when we have the best of men, they will not take up the place of God. The voice of the most eloquent leader should never be elevated to the voice of a god. In the instance where we have the worst of men we should not be without a higher help. Authentic spirituality will always form a central chapter in the story of liberation and many times has been the chorus in the hymn of freedom.