Why the Kenya we want has been elusive and will remain so

Many are the promises being bandied around to entice voters. Wonderful propositions have been made on how Kenya will be moved to a prosperous middle-level economy.

Likewise, several initiatives have been canvassed to convince us that the next government will be the answer to all the decades old problems.  

However, I have been waiting to hear any of the candidates speak firmly and authoritatively on how they will pull us out of our moral crass. Because, in spite of our lofty dreams and good intentions, there is something in our national psyche that will undermine all our collective efforts to rise from the doldrums.

Steve Covey observes in his book – The 8th Habit – that the lives of all great achievers reflect a pattern. They have expanded their four native intelligences or capacities: vision as the mental capacity, discipline for the physical capacity, passion for the emotional capacity and conscience for the spiritual development. I have thus wondered how we rate as a nation in these four capacities.

Vision, Covey says, is the capacity of seeing with the mind’s eye what is possible in people, in projects, in causes and in enterprises. Looking at our nation, I have no doubt in my mind that this nation is possessed of men and women of vision. From independence to present times, we have had dreamers who have looked at the needs of our people and conceived great ideas that would take this nation to the highest heights.

In fact, some of the blueprints of our dreams have been borrowed by other nations and implemented with astounding results! Vision is thus not our problem. What about Discipline?

When it comes to pursuing vision, Kenyans cannot be accused of totally lacking in discipline. According to Covey, discipline is paying the price to bring vision into reality. Discipline, he says, arises when vision joins with commitment. It is this kind of commitment that Jesus spoke of when He said, "No one puts his hand to the plough and looks back."

In this regard, Kenyans are known to not only conceive ideas but to also pursue them against all odds. There are Mama Mbogas who rise early in the morning to take a few leaves of Sukuma Wiki to the nearest market; sell them for a few shillings, and be faithfully disciplined to save that money until it is enough to pay school fees for their little children. These poor Kenyan women have raised up top intellectuals that flood our universities and occupy top international positions. So then, could it be passion that we lack?

Covey defines passion as the fire, the desire, the strength of conviction and the drive that sustains the discipline to achieve the vision. Paul talked about it when he advised, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart.”  I am amazed at the passion with which Kenyans pursue ideas, whether good or bad. In a global survey report a few years back, Kenyans were ranked in the league of those who work hardest and for longest hours in the world. So what ails us?

According to Covey, top achievers and truly great people must develop a fourth capacity – the conscience. This is the inward moral sense of what is right and what is wrong. I am convinced that this is the one and perhaps only area of our development as a nation that could be undermining all our good efforts. Over the years we have so tolerated evil that our conscience is literally dead. It is amazing, for example, the vision, discipline, and passion that goes into conceiving, planning, and executing some the major scandals. This must change.

At the turn of the millennium, Philip Ochieng wrote on 31 December 2000, “The year 2001, the 21st Century and the third millennium will not lift Kenyans out of their moral madhouse if they do not stir. We must pull ourselves out of the Slough Despond, not by expecting a miracle, but through a conscious national effort at psycho-moral self-renewal, what Masters calls a ‘thoughtquake.’” I agree.

If we are going to progress, we need leaders who can awaken our conscience and help us pull out of the Slough Despond. Let us hear more of this on the campaign trail.

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