Obsessive politics slowly taking Kenyans' reasoning ability away

Ballot boxes at Kasarani Constituency Tallying centre in Kasarani Stadium, Nairobi on August 10th, 2022. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

For all the energetic campaigns and subsequent acrimonious litigation, the just-ended general election stood out for the absence of violence which has sullied all the previous ones. It is a laudable sign of maturity. Kenyans are apparently finally learning how to accept unpleasant electoral results and move on with their lives.

Truly, there is every reason for us to redirect our vital energies to more worthy causes. After all, the local political arena has always been mired in corruption, muscular bickering, character-assassination and all manner of non-conformities in matters of civility. Why should we expend so much of our love and affection on a social sector which requires the lowest threshold of decorum and good manners, among all legally available professions? 

My first concern today, however, is with the vestigial undercurrent of hostilities that has outlasted the electioneering climax. Since the elections, I have observed my sulking friends, neighbours and office colleagues transform themselves into mutual rank strangers.

Increasingly, no matter how biting the cold becomes, no one seems willing to extend his blanket over you anymore as long as you did not vote for his/her preferred candidate. This insensitivity is clearly in direct contravention of our own ‘Undugu’ version of brotherhood, which our national anthem so passionately promulgates, and should stop. 

Secondly, it is extremely worrying how local politics has come to eclipse all other worthy vocations in both prestige and remuneration. It is synonymous with immortality; it is the elixir of life. As a result, so many unsatisfied Kenyan doctors, lawyers, teachers and even clergy are serving their positions only half-heartedly, believing that real living will begins the day they will join the political gravy-train.

It is easy to blame them until you realise that in this country, the lowest ranking politician (MCA) earns more than a university professor when you factor in allowances. This state of affairs is a perfect recipe for diminished national productivity. 

In saying all this, I am not ignorant of the important role politics and politicians play in the life of any nation. Without doubt, a key ingredient among the factors which spur growth and development will always be competent political leadership. Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohammed’s bold export promotion policies and his Vision 2020 goals, for example, resulted in a phenomenal and consistent annual economic growth of over 9 per cent for his country during the early 90s. This dramatically impacted poverty, increased in foreign investment, and spurred infrastructural development and industrialisation. 

In contrast, many a malevolent Third World dictator has grabbed the hands of his poor countrymen and marched them forcefully to a limbo of penury, hopelessness and ruin.

Mahathir’s script applies to many Asian leaders, and should form motivation for the new Kenyan administration to seize the tabula rasa it has right now and spearhead a similarly profound developmental revolution for us, which will be quoted in the history books of the future.

Third, the unreasonable belief, which many of my countrymen seem to have espoused, that the new office bearers will magically turn things around and soon deliver us to the pearly gates is utterly perplexing. I often pass by some self-declared ‘hustlers’, who idle in a certain town square the whole day raucously discussing the many economic miracles President Ruto is set to conjure. At a safe distance now, I can admonish them: The best way to help Dr Ruto govern Kenya successfully is to cut down on their pang’ang’a, acrimony and indolence, and get down to work.

Somehow, the rock star status of our politicians bears an uncanny resemblance to that of the British Rock band of the days gone by called ‘The Beatles’. Though I have never listened to its music, I can tell that it achieved unimaginable levels of popularity and critical acclaim during the 1960s from the way its name keeps popping up in much of cultural and musicological literature.

The obsession with the band was utterly fanatical. For instance, 4,000 fans, waving and screaming, reportedly escorted the musicians as they departed Heathrow for a United States tour in 1964. Another several thousand frenzied ‘Beatlemaniacs’ were on site at the JFK international airport to receive them. Their press officer Derek Taylor in an interview with a magazine explained how people expected more from the Beatles than they could realistically deliver. He said, “In Australia, each time we’d arrive at an airport, it was as if the Messiah had landed. The routes were lined solid. Cripples threw away their sticks. Sick people rushed up to the car, as if a touch from one of the boys would make them well again.” 

Whether by proactive civic education or any other means, Kenyans must be sensitised to the fact that the power to steer a country to great heights is not vested in the president or politicians alone. Rather, for every great leader, there is always that critical ‘support staff’ in the form of citizens ready to under-gird his vision by making serious sacrifices and working hard and smart.