Academic qualification doesn’t guarantee productive political leadership

Academic qualification in political leadership has been an ongoing conversation in Kenya. The recently amended Election Act that requires anyone who wants to be an MP to have a degree has been a subject of debate in and out of Parliament.   

While some argue that a good leader is one with impeccable academic qualifications, others say one doesn’t need a degree to serve the people.

History justifies the two arguments differently. Some of the most atrocious, corrupt and incompetent politicians the world has ever seen have university education. Others didn’t.   

Once upon a time, there was what has come to be known as the “imperialist robber war”. Communism triumphed over national socialism and fascism. Both ideologies were conceived and promoted by either semi-illiterate or relatively initiated chaps.    

So, you cannot really tell how one will perform upon assuming political position based on the number of university degrees they have. If anything, Kenya’s failed political leadership, for instance, has largely been facilitated by the country’s most learned. 

A university degree loses its redemptive power and restorative potency that civilisation and human psychology associates it with if it cannot remind the holder that participating in or abating activities like corruption is morally wrong.

Majority of Kenya’s academics hide behind college titles to cultivate respectability in order to further narrow agenda for which they are often rewarded by the powers that be. If education cannot help a people to interrogate the primitive nature of their nakedness, the supreme law of humanity, then what is its essence in the first place? Kenyan academics are intellectually dishonest, and that is to put it mildly. Intellectual dishonesty, like war, has the potential to drive a country to a crag of annihilation.

If Kenya is in a crisis, her intellectuals have done little to help. In fact, they have become the main artery, the bastion of all that troubles the country.

Trapped in the foul embrace of negative ethnicity, Kenyan intelligentsia has facilitated the collapse of the Kenyan dream by joining and/or helping politicians change their ideological positions with what British journalist Michela Wrong calls bewildering frequency. A society that engages in intellectual mendacity is contemptuous, slow in human development and is likely to become violent and unaccountable. Those who oversee electoral ritual in Kenya every five years are highly learned been-to-Europe folks. Endemic culture of state impunity is perpetrated by experts. The good chaps who defend electoral coups are self-declared “learned friends”. Kenyan project has corrupted intellectuals into weak, desperate home guards undeserving of their titles. Instead of speaking truth to power and exposing lies, they have become accessories in building a country for a few people to live in, in a cover, at the expense of the masses.

Whilst some have familiarised themselves with the culture of pretense, a good number have openly involved themselves in entrenching impunity, facilitating economic crimes and promoting ethnic nationalism.

If Kenyan political leadership is a citadel of private political power, the academy is the motor that propels it. Ideally, intellectuals should be the bedrock of any successful government. But that is just what we think they should be.