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Political leadership is more than riding on others’ backs and brandishing fake papers

By - | January 19th 2013

I am disappointed. I had thought it was an ill wind that blew nobody any good. I thought I had seen some good out of our shambolic political party nominations.

I had thought I could see some hope for redemption. I was wrong. Must I continue to believe that the beautiful ones are not yet born?

Let’s face it. Political parties in Kenya don’t have the capacity to conduct nationwide primaries through universal suffrage. They cannot do it even for only one position, leave alone six. They lack the funds, the essential logistical support and the human capacity. It is an impossible mission, an exercise in futility. Since 1992 our primaries have been a confounding drama of the absurd. We have heard time and again that the insane will do the same thing over and over again and yet expect different results! We simply refuse to learn.

In spite of this, I had thought that some good had come out of the mess. People used to riding on others’ crests had gone tumbling down, they said. Most notable were Oburu Oginga and Jakoyo Midiwo. Dr Oburu lost then regained his bid for the ODM ticket as Governor for Siaya. Jakoyo missed the Gem parliamentary ticket – maybe. If people were honest, they would confess that Oburu is a freeloader. He reaps where his brother sows and gathered where his father scattered.

Jakoyo, a first cousin of the Odingas, is no different. He hogs the Odinga name. Together with people like Otieno Kajwang’, they survive on PM Raila Odinga’s coattails. Away from embarrassing sycophancy, it is difficult to see what value people like Kajwang, Oburu and Jakoyo add to leadership in Luo Nyanza. The voters don’t want them. But they are imposed on the electorate.

Siaya people have threatened to vote for TNA or stay away from the ballot altogether, if Oburu is imposed on them. I am afraid, he looks like he must have his way, watu wapende, wasipende. Those in the Luo community used to whining about domination by the Odinga family will be saying, “Don’t you see?” It has often been said that being born in a stable does not make you a horse. Oburu may have been born in the Jaramogi stable. But he is not a horse. He will be the poisoned political chalice in Raila’s lap. Raila seems keen to take a sip. Beware the political death knell. Time is up.

But it is not just hangers on whose time is up. The political death knell has also been sounded for academic masqueraders. My good friend and teacher, Philip Ochieng’, does not respect university degrees that much.

Ochieng’, himself a man of no mean academic standing, has often talked derisively of “degreed people”. This is as opposed to “educated people”. I appreciate the mediocrity that pains Ochieng’ to draw such distinctions.

Yet, could anything be more scandalous than pretending to be “degreed” when you clearly know that you are not? You just wake up one morning and decide, “From today I am going to be a Bachelor of Whatever!”

Good grief! I can assure you that these degree things are not easy to get. It is obnoxious for someone to walk out of his house one morning wearing the mask of a degree. University degrees are not about posing for stylish photographs in academic regalia. They are about seeking, discovering and taming knowledge.

The electoral process is beginning to peel back academic masks, so to speak. Such masks preponderate in our society. I know of a character who once materialised from the blues. He arrived claiming to hold degrees in Literature.

He said they were from the University of the West Indies, at Mona, Jamaica. I was excited at the opportunity for intellectual discourse on the Literature of the African Diaspora with this man of letters. But this Doctor So and So got very nervous. He broke into a visible sweat, quickly changing subjects to pig rearing. I later learnt that he was a wheeler-dealer who had docked in Kingston. When not wheeler dealing he would wine, wench and generally sin himself out of money.

When he finally ran out of all luck and cash, he assembled sham literary paraphernalia. He was soon seen in Kenya, mystifying himself as Dr So and So from the University of the West Indies, at Mona, Jamaica. He thought Jamaica was on Mars.

Have we also heard, however, that some other characters hold what are genuine degree certificates but that they never actually worked for them?

These fellows are said to pay for marks. They commission others to write dissertations for them. When all is done, they turn up to pose for photographs in academic regalia and to collect the certificate. But the fellow knows absolutely zero in Botany or Linguistics, which he now claims to be master of.

Is the unmasking of degree pretenders an invitation to interrogate the rigours of the academic certification processes in some universities? The broom of change would seem to have begun sweeping, despite the chaos in the political parties.

It is up to the Kenyan electorate to keep pushing the wheel of reform. In another forty-four days’ time, we have another chance to determine our future. The choice is yours. You can vote for your tribe or for Kenya. You can vote for chaos and impunity, or for law and order. You can choose status quo, or reform. At the county level, presidency, or parliament, you can choose a wheelbarrow, or a true leader. Whatever the case, this country will get the leaders it deserves.

I will vote in Kilimani Ward of Nairobi’s Dagoretti North Constituency. I am prayerful that my fellow Nairobians can join me in voting with our heads and not with our feet. We need good leaders in this city. We want a governor and a senator of world-class ranking. We have the chance to elect them now. But if we don’t want, we can still vote for touts and common loafers. The choice is ours, in Nairobi and throughout Kenya. We shall get the leaders we deserve. In all this, let there be peace.

The writer is a publishing editor and special consultant and advisor on public relations and media relations

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