The political recklessness that we witnessed this past week could easily set the nation on fire. The very unbecoming utterances by Johanna Ng’eno, the Emurua Dikirr MP, and his Kapseret counterpart Oscar Sudi not only took the nation by surprise, but also stirred serious negative emotions.
The attack on President Uhuru Kenyatta, and especially on his mother and late father, was not only crude, but totally uncalled for. Irrespective of what any of us may think or feel about the president, he remains the Head of State and deserves the respect due to him by dint of that office. It is no wonder that the attacks immediately drew the ire of many Kenyans from across the political divide.
As we have observed in this space before, politics is a game, and like any other game, it must be played within acceptable parameters. Hurling abuses and insults at perceived opponents has never been an acceptable practice in any game.
Unfortunately, we are seeing this culture taking root in our nation – especially among political leaders. It is particularly worrying that such insults are increasingly becoming so base as to target family members, especially spouses and parents.
Back in 2014, Aden Duale, the then Jubilee Majority Leader, had a spat with the then Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto. Duale took a swipe at Ruto over the governor’s use of the county resources. In a moment of rage, he told Ruto, “Hii pesa sio ya mama yako bwana. Hii pesa si ya baba yako (These funds do not belong to your mother or father).” Then, like now, those utterances drew immediate public condemnation. But when called upon to apologise, Duale scoffed: “Some say I need to apologise, for what?” Instead, he justified himself, arguing that he was under obligation to defend the Jubilee government. “I must also defend URP where I am the spokesman, and will do so with passion and dedication,” he added. It does appear that Ng'eno and Sudi are reading from the same script. They, too, have categorically rejected calls to apologise. This is unfortunate.
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In leadership studies, there is a new competency that is gaining great currency as being critical for successful leadership. Several studies have shown that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is far more important than the much touted Intelligence Quotient (IQ). Whereas one’s IQ may open doors for engagement, what will keep and propel you to the top is your EQ – the capacity to master your emotions under even the most provocative situations. It is, therefore, really sad when national leaders exhibit extremely low levels of EQ in public.
Moreover, words such as uttered by Duale, Ng'eno and Sudi cannot be mere accidental slips of the tongue. Jesus made it clear that it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks. Therefore, such words inadvertently reveal the inner sanctums of one’s heart. This is unfortunate because these are honourable leaders who are supposed to be role models in society. One can only imagine what impact their conduct must have on the impressionable minds of our children.
What should, however, really worry us, is the fires such conduct could be stoking around the nation. Ours is an extremely inflammable society that can be readily ignited by the smallest spark. Like has happened before, this nation can go up in uncontrollable flames in but a flash. This we can ill afford at a time when the national economy has taken such a serious beating from Covid-19. What would be expected of our leaders is to join hands and focus our energies on restoring the confidence of local and international investors, so as to inject the much needed resources into the critical sectors of the economy. From the look of things, the 2022 elections are likely to be highly competitive – and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
It was by our own choice that we introduced a competitive multiparty democracy into our electoral system. Such competition should, however, be run with absolute decorum, affording every candidate and their party the latitude to sell their vision to Kenyans. We are well able to decide who we want to lead us at every level of government.
Such decisions should not be made through coercion or by stirring ethnic hatred. Instead, every political leader or party should aim at touching our hearts and minds through well thought out manifestos and clear strategies. It is the only way through which we can continue to nurture our democracy towards a value-based and issue-focused politics. Otherwise, as Apostle James points out, the tongue can set the whole course of life on fire. Let us tame it.