Politicians or leader? Why we must set bar high and be led by firsts amongst equals

When fofrmer Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission Chairman Eliud Wabukala shook hands with Salaries and Remuneration Commission chairperson Lyn Mengich during after signing a partnership MoU. [David Njaaga, Standard]

Whenever you bring up the issue of academic qualifications for political office holders in Kenya, or Chapter Six of the Constitution or any other qualifications, politicians, activists and enthusiasts come out guns blazing.

Some of the political office holders and hopefuls even go to the extent of contravening Section 349 of the Penal Code to have themselves constitutionally compliant, just in case the law refuses to be a servant of idiosyncratic political interests. 

What people don’t understand is that being a leader and being a political office holder or politician are two very different things. Anyone can be a political office holder when given the right tools and environment, or based on their associations or orientations but not everyone can be a leader. Leaders operate with a code and like standardised environments, politicians like operating in chaotic jungles where they can take advantage of the chaos to advance their personal interests. 

Leadership involves a vision and a conviction to solve a certain societal problem for the global benefit of the people by building value within the existing structures while innovatively generating new ways of building more value for the people or jurisdictive space, with excusable conflict or interference to the existing systems. This is usually facilitated by the unconditional collaboration and unity towards global goals that are a constant in leadership. Politics on the other hand involves the intentional and sometimes unwarranted distraction and destruction of existing value systems and structures to create new ones that provide opportunities for the new political officer holders and their allies to satisfy their personal interests that motivated them into those political offices; such as government restructures, or the replacement of competent senior and strategic government officers with the “trusted allies” of those in charge. 

This is as a result of the near colonial magnitude battle-for-occupation-like war that precedes the election, with limited and very conditional collaboration that largely serves private and personal interests of the politicians. Anyone can do the latter, but not all can do the former.  Nobody can stop anyone from being a leader in any personal interest of their choosing within the precincts of Chapter Four of the Constitution, where the rights in the Bill of Rights provide a multitude of opportunities through which anyone can qualify themselves as a leader by starting their own venture in an effort to provide opportunities through which other Kenyans can get access to those rights, then create their own qualifications for its leadership to suit their qualifications or lack of, and then lead it under their own terms, as long as they are constitutionally compliant. 

However, the Constitution has an obligation of ensuring that we have the right minds and bodies for the constitutional offices that it creates; and thus a bar must be set to ensure that we are led by the firsts amongst us equals that have the ability to purposefully and indiscriminately unite us and create opportunities for our collective prosperity, not just anyone with a nationality designated as Kenyan in their ID, some of whom cannot even read and understand the Constitution and oath of office, nor comprehend their obligations to the people and nation at large; due to their lack of intellectually empowering academic qualifications or their limited knowledge on anything of national interest that is beyond their local village exposure and bare literacy levels.  Why do we put qualifications for all other constitutional office holders but want to joke around with the direct political ones that are the most critical and powerful in any functional democracy? How does a class seven drop out in the name of MCA or MP oversight PS, CS, parastatal CEO who is a polished FCPA, Doctoral Economist, a former “Fortune 100 company CEO”, a civil/structural engineer with an additional Masters in Project Management, or a Professor of Law? Why do we like taking our jokes thus far? 

Why must politicians make it look like everyone must occupy political office for them to be impactful or considered leaders in the society? Weren’t Bishop Muge, Chandaria or Muguku leaders? Aren’t Peter Munga, Rev Njoya, Mary Okello, Peter Mwangi, Gideon Muriuki, and many other great Kenyans not leaders just because they didn’t aspire into or don’t occupy political offices? 

Leadership is a “safe driving spirit” that is harbored and nurtured in people, a spirit that powers their “progressive rage” towards the harmonious, collaborative and all targeting growth and development of their jurisdictive spaces; for the greater good of the people or the organisation. 

Leaders are qualified naturally and/or perfected by their passion, interests, education, trainings and experience that are geared towards giving solutions through continuous and genuine engagement for improvement.

Political office holders are qualified by the Constitution that creates their offices and roles; and should therefore not be qualified by nature or God, but by the provisions of the same Constitution and laws that created those positions and roles. Politics in Kenya, from a brick-and-mortar perspective is merely the mobilisation and organisation of resources to capture power; by whatever means necessary, consequences be damned. What the power capturers do with that power after capturing it is a story for another day. Functionally, leadership is the organisation and mobilisation of resources for purposes of serving the people by improving their lives; or for attaining certain global goals that bind all the stakeholders with proportionate responsibility and actionable consequence in case of failure to attain those universal goals.

Kennedy Odweyo is a Political economist

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