Politicians have killed patriotism through consistent finger-pointing

Kiambaa resident que to vote at Karuri Primary School. [George Njunge, Standard]

You do not ask for more time from your opponent. Your competitor cannot grant such a request! Instead, they will seize the request and exploit it for their gain. Telling the opposition “Give us time” reveals the existence of incapacity, confusion, and weakness. As in a boxing match, your opponent will keep punching your now revealed weak spot aiming for a killer knockout! Political maneuvers require that when the opposition makes unreasonable demands, the ruling administration counters not by revealing its soft areas but by demonstrating its ability to work and deliver under pressure. This is where sleepless nights designing strategy comes in. But only if the leaders came into power with a working mind!

Playing a blame game is lame. The blame game necessitates hiring name-tarnishing experts. But more is required of the ruling administration than name soiling and “toboa “ chants. Blaming the opposition for the mess the country is in is valid, but it hurts the opposition way less. They are no longer in power!  Eyes are less on them and more on those presently in charge. Citing the past continuously to explain the stagnation of the present communicates paralysis. People know the past but they are interested in the future. The leader should spend more time pointing the people to the future not straining their necks in the direction of the past. Scape-goating as a strategy describes the reason for helplessness but what people need is deliverance.  Sandwiched between the Red Sea and the armies of Pharaoh, you need a special strategy that must work – and work swiftly.

Kenyan politicians win gold for exaggeration. An exaggeration is a form of manipulation. We witness this frequently in political promise-making.  In the current call to lower the cost of living, the opposition creates the impression that if they were in control, the prices of essential products would come down and stay down immediately. This is not possible. It is not that simple. The government on the other hand dresses up the promise to bring down the price of Unga with days, times, and even shops where this will happen. When the day comes, the promise broken is now blamed on processes and players. Consistent promise-breaking serves to make the idealistic proposals of the opposition more attractive. Exaggeration curves the leader as more endowed than they really are. With the same measure, the leader is falsely expanded, and they are propped for failure. Exaggeration gifts magical powers to a mortal man. But sooner than later the reality of their flesh and blood will be on display.  At the end of the day, truth laced in wisdom will always be superior to lies laced in wit.

Patriotism is a dead phenomenon. If Kenya was loved, it would show. It has been 60 years you know!  Love gives the loved a glow that only lovers can grant. A love-strapped person shows. There is something dim about their look. Who loves Kenya anymore? Kenya has been molested by greed and selfish ambition. It is about getting out as much as possible with the least effort. Givers are gone and eaters are in. Even seeds of “Buy Kenya build Kenya” no matter the pomp of their launch land on thistles and rocks. Patriotism erosion swept away the fertile soil.  Building Kenya is rarely a raw motivation.  We build ourselves and if Kenya is built in the process, good for it! Very few will connect with the initiative of “Build Kenya by buying Kenyan.” The tragedy is that Kenya as a brand does not appeal even to its own citizens. An attempt sometime back to have a national dress like some of our neighbours failed.  Dressing Kenyan is not appealing. The question is: what if the patriotism revival never comes?

Young people do not register to vote less because they have no education but more because they are disconnected from their country. They apply for identity cards but hardly collect them. They will pick them when they need them. To them, the identity card is strictly a legal document, not a patriotism statement.  Yet, when they receive a green card to settle abroad they will throw a huge party! No tears for Kenya. A toast of Champaign as I disappear into the West! If the present leadership is really serious about growing this country, a robust, continuous, practical, and authentic demonstration of acute patriotism is an indispensable ingredient. Otherwise, they will shout themselves hoarse speaking to distracted people.

Innovativeness is not limited to technology! We cannot boast to be an innovative country yet practice closed-mindedness that we can only look West or East. Both West and East are struggling in very obvious ways. Their future as blocs of world influence is at a crossroads. Yet we still anchor our progress on their aid. But must we?  Julius Nyerere may have been sidelined but one thing can never be taken away from him: he was a versatile thinker and a political innovator. He designed a system of government not by looking to the West or East but by looking inside Africa. We could be trooping East-West looking for help while we could birth the solution East-West is looking for. No one has declared this thinking a no-go zone.

 If only spirituality was oil! Kenyans have huge reserves of spirituality. But these wells can actually be turned into a factor of production. Religion has a whole developmental dimension. The connection between spirituality and development is rarely made. Religion is seen more as a morality provider and less as a significant and strategic contributor to local and national development. This lack of recognition stifles the possibilities of valuable innovation. Worse still, the prevalent brand of spirituality is miracle-based. This brand promises quick solutions to gigantic national situations through speech-invoked divine power. With all due respect to this school of religious thought, the quick solutions seem slow in coming. The dimension of spirituality’s long-range thinking needs a return from the fringes. 

The Lord’s Prayer expresses a grand ambition in “May your Kingdom come.” This possibility arouses curiosity and stirs the imagination. Going by the demonstration and investment Christ made in liberating people – giving them new status and new systems – there is definitely a physical dimension for the world to wow at.