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What all aspiring leaders can learn from Moi’s career

By Mark Oloo | February 8th 2020

While on a recent trip to Tallahassee town in the US State of Florida, a resident invited me for what she called an ‘African dinner’ at her home in Leon County.

She had read in the local media that a Kenyan journalist was in town, and would be spending some time at the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper courtesy of a global editors’ fellowship.  Our first encounter was at the Capitol building where I had gone to meet with the then Governor Charlie Crist who, I came to learn, had an extensive knowledge of Africa’s politics and affairs. 

A few days later when I honoured Liz Hollster’s invitation, accompanied by journalist Jullian Pecquet, something caught my eye. In her living room was a portrait of former President Daniel arap Moi complete with inscriptions of his name and title. There was also a miniature Kenyan flag.

Probably aware of the pleasant surprise in me, my host felt obliged to explain it. Hollster, in her 60s, said she acquired the portrait while living in Nairobi in the 90’s and brought it home to be a living reminder of her ‘hakuna matata’ experience in Kenya. One thing was memorable to her ­— Moi’s assertiveness when he was Kenya’s chief executive.  

In her own words, Moi was cut from a different cloth from many African leaders in the sense that he detested biases against white visitors, who were at the time looked at with veiled curiosity and sneakiness. In many countries, citizens believed their problems stemmed from colonialism or neocolonialism and hence every ‘mzungu’ was guilt-ridden by default.

There are native Americans who think Africa is a country. But here, Hollster was telling a story of Kenya, a country she believed was an epitome of law and order in Africa. As we wined and dined away the rest of the evening, I wondered how Moi had won hearts far and wide.

It made me appreciate that there are a few things that define good people. Honesty, pure heart, the ability to embrace even your foremost adversaries and the spirit of always saying let’s forget the past and move on and cross the bridge when we get to even more challenging circumstances.

A good leader isn’t simply empowered to achieve everything he sets out to do. Sometimes, it’s the spirit and the will that matter. In Moi, we learn many vital points. It’s doesn’t matter where you start, what obstacles are stuck your way or what amount of time it takes to carry out a wish. What matters is your ability to keep your eyes on the prize.

I celebrate Moi’s positive side, and as we mourn his demise, let’s appreciate the fact that not everybody who speaks loudest, including shrewd political schemers and thieves in our midst, can lead a nation.

Moi’s biggest leadership strength was his ability to be fully in-charge of his nation. He was omnipresent in virtually every sector. You could literally feel him in every corner of the republic. Even when things were coarse with multiparty agitators and Briton wood institutions, escapism disguised as delegation of responsibility wasn’t his style.  

He had a positive impact, ever preaching unity of purpose devoid of name-calling. His high moral and religious values were an asset. Seeing events of 2007, 2013 and 2017, we should know better what political brinkmanship, which Moi detested in his popular saying of ‘siasa mbaya, maisha mbaya’, can do to a nascent democracy. When he peacefully handed over power, he proved to the world that Kenya, and Africa by extension, could manage its destiny.    

- The writer is Production Editor at The Standard.

Twitter: @markoloo

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