I have learned that the political space is a living tissue. Just like all other tissues, it has to be fed and watered. It breathes. Without oxygen and freshness, it will die. I have learned that these things are not just metaphorical. They are real. Those who are burdened with the load of leadership must know this. This is regardless that they lead in corporate entities or in political organisations. My professor of journalism used to say, “There is politics everywhere, including in the private chambers in our homes. Even they need oxygen.” Those who do not air these spaces risk perishing.
I have previously written in this column that I was the secretary general of a political party. I no longer am. Nor am I still a member of the party. It comes with a whiff of freshness, such as you feel on your graduation day. My separation note to my political superior read in part, “... it is now fitting that the space around you should be decongested. This will allow you to make critical decisions on the population and leadership of the party under the new constitution.”
My former party has undergone quite some transformation over the past three or so years. It has energised itself across the country, courtesy of the constructive efforts of many people. Party branches and offices that are likely to be a headache to the competition are springing up everywhere. But most significant is a brand new constitution that will put to rest indiscipline and truancy. Party rebels, beware. We are going to witness a reborn and vibrant outfit beginning now.
You will ask me, “So why did you leave? You should have stayed on to drive the vibrance?” Which is a legitimate concern. Yet, it has often been said that you make laws for future generations, not for yourself. The revised Amani National Congress (ANC) party constitution was made with focus on the future. When people have made such laws, they should go away. They should let other people take charge. Hence, if Kenya is about to have a Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) constitutional referendum, the two principals who own this process should retire from politics after the amendments are made. Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta should retire after the BBI referendum.
Just like me at the ANC, they will have nothing new to add except, maybe, self-service. At ANC, we built the departure of the secretary general into the transitional process. We demanded that a new person should come to the helm of the party secretariat, within 14 days of the constitution being effective. It is the same thing as happened with the Constitution of Kenya (2010). The transitional clauses eased out of office the Attorney General who had coordinated the making of the new supreme law. When you don’t do this, you open up the space to self-service and abuse of office.
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Barrack has, therefore, left the space in ANC to others. The party will hopefully find freshness and enjoy a new lease of life. It will probably take advantage of the new opportunities in the constitution to shed off old baggage and populate itself with many new Kenyan faces in key places. If it does not, then the world will, someday, laugh at its lost opportunities.
Old habits die hard. In spite of a new constitution, you cannot do the same old things, with the same old team, the same old way, and expect new outcomes. The space around Musalia Mudavadi in ANC should be decongested, in order for him and the party to move forward. If it is not, he will be like a football team captain who wears heavy steel gumboots on the pitch.
The expected freshness around Mudavadi in ANC should become contagious. The party should feel this freshness. So, too, should the country. The leader and the party should exude nothing but freshness. For freshness is what Kenya needs – and badly, too. When people see and listen to the new Mudavadi, they must be overwhelmed with a new sense of hope for their country. That is why some of us must give him room.
For his part, Mudavadi needs to be a bridge to the future. He needs to populate the space around him with the energetic and inspiring youth in ANC. Let the country see young people everywhere as branch officials and even the officials of the national governing body. And when the time comes in 2022, let Kenyans see disciplined youthful ANC candidates everywhere. Mudavadi himself will probably have a dynamic youthful female candidate as his running mate in the race for president.
Those who have been around for too long can help him to move forward by voluntarily getting out of his way. The trouble with crowded spaces, however, is that everybody thinks it is everybody else who should move. We complain of overcrowded rooms and streets without acknowledging that we are part of the problem. We sweat in our cars in the traffic and complain about the jam. In point of fact, we are part of the jam.
Barrack can easily be the stumbling block in the room. He needs to lead by example. He must hold dialogue with himself and ask whether it is not time to leave. The beauty with leaving is that you often discover how that space has also been suffocating you. In leaving, therefore, you don’t just give the place room for freshness, you are also renewed. You are unburdened of the heavy toxic cargo in political environments.
If you are a pundit, such as I am, you now have the freehand to objectively comment on your former home, just as you comment on everybody else. There are fresh horizons everywhere. People should not overstay in any one place.
– The writer is a strategic public communications adviser.