The ongoing controversy pitting Kenyatta University Council and the Government over the acquisition of the institution's land ostensibly to establish a WHO research facility calls for a conception reflection.
The University has fiercely resisted the move by state agents to excise part of its land without observing the due process in effecting the transfers. The Vice-Chancellor, Prof Paul Wainaina, and the University Council, led by Prof Migot Adhola, have since been fired in a move that appears to raise more questions than it answers.
I know that most people have argued that since all public servants hold their positions at the behest of the President, it's inconceivable for them to defy the Leviathan. Well, yes and no. In a primitive state where the Leviathan's word is law, and everybody joining the public service takes that as the unassailable position, then they cannot turn around and reject the sovereign's directives.
However, Kenya isn't a primitive society. Public servants in this country are appointed to pursue the public good. It's therefore, generally agreed that public servants hold their positions so that they can support the Leviathan in delivering public goods to the citizens.
In Kenya, the principle in the public service is the duty of care that enjoins all public servants from the sovereign to the least of them all. To deliver public good is to mean and do good for and on behalf of all the citizens of a nation.
Doing good means that where bad is rearing its ugly head, irrespective of whoever is perpetrating it, it must be nipped in the bud, sometimes through defiance, and often times by violence.
Everyone in society must be protected from arbitrary decisions of the sovereign and fellow citizens. That's the role of the law and its civil enforcement. All decisions must follow due process. That way, everyone, including the Leviathan, is protected from bad decisions that might boomerang on them.
There's a sense in which some Kenyans still believe that public property belongs to the sovereign, and that he can whimsically decide to do with or on it whatever he so wishes. Nothing could be farther from the tenets of a social contract.
Every decision of the Leviathan is made on behalf of the citizens. It's expected that all decisions must be geared towards promoting the public good, and where they don't, then they cannot be supported by the same citizens that their implementation hurts.
It's very well understood that human beings, irrespective of their stations in life, do err in decision making, sometimes, even if they mean well.
What distinguishes statesmen and others is that whenever statesmen err, and their attention is drawn to the error, they immediately reflect on, and reverse them, all for the sake of the public good.
But where the Leviathan remains recalcitrant even after his attention has been drawn to an error that he has committed or is about to commit, then his actions can no longer be said to be in pursuit of public good. Such actions lose the support of citizens. They become illegitimate actions, and will be promptly interpreted to amount to legal terrorism.
When the key trait of the Leviathan is legal terrorism, which he commits advertently and persistently, then he loses legitimacy in the eyes of the citizens.
In such circumstances, citizens find it difficult to obey Leviathan's instructions as they are considered illegitimate and inimical to public good.
No responsible citizen is morally and legally obligated to obey illegitimate and illegal orders even if they are issued by the sovereign.
As more and more citizens begin to ignore instructions issued by the sovereign, the country slowly but surely begins to drift to a state of anarchy.
In a state of anarchy, no one is immune or safe. The system becomes a danger to its operators and citizens. The sovereign becomes a danger to himself - self-annihilating - and to the citizens.
The system is a threat to everyone because when the sovereign makes a wrong decision that undermines public good, everyone's welfare, including his own is undermined.
In such circumstances, citizens have a duty and responsibility to defy the Leviathan. Citizens do so in order to maintain or restore the status quo, which is the public good.
If the status quo is threatened with the possibility of disastrous consequences for public good, such threat must be resisted and stopped.
Oftentimes, resisting threats to the status quo involves resisting the decisions and actions of the sovereign.
Such resistance should benefit from the unequivocal support of all well-meaning and enlightened citizens.
Where such citizens are available in large proportions, the resistance to imprudent actions by the sovereign is fierce, and the society has higher chances of becoming safer.
Societies that are safe have great opportunities for prosperity.
Prosperous societies produce good citizens
Good citizens are vigilant on behalf of other citizens. They become their brothers' and sisters' keepers. Such citizens have a high sense of civic duty.
A high sense of civic duty is the surest way of protecting society against arbitrary actions of the sovereign.
Societies, where arbitrary actions of the sovereign are rare, tend to follow due process.
Due process presupposes respect for the law, and allows room for citizens' participation in making decisions about things that affect them.
Where citizens make decisions that affect them, they are likely to protect their interests. Societies that protect citizens' interests tend to be driven by the need for justice and human rights.
Justice and human rights are at the core of human happiness. Happy citizens tend to express themselves freely and better.
Free expression enhances happiness
Happy societies tend to jealously protect their happiness for to not do so is to degenerate into unhappiness.
Unhappy citizens cannot be counted on to willingly discharge their civic duties. Nature abhors a vacuum.
Therefore, when citizens don't discharge their civic duties, the Leviathan steps in to fill the gap.
When the sovereign becomes the central figure in governance, dictatorship steps in. Dictators erode individual freedoms.
People who are not free cannot be happy
Since human beings exist to pursue happiness, anything that threatens happiness must be resisted.
This resistance must be led by enlightened members of the society; it's their civic duty to wedge resistance to protect the rest of society. Professors are the epitome of enlightenment in society. The societal expectation of professors is way above the rest of society.
When professors play their rightful role in society, society becomes more enlightened and safer. Professors owe society the highest duty of enlightened and enlightening care. We can't expect less from these juggernauts of knowledge.
It's against this background that the action of the outgoing Vice Chancellor of Kenyatta University, Prof Wainaina, in resisting uncritical decisions without due process must be viewed.
-The writer is a lecturer at the Technical University of Kenya (TU-K)