We need more frank speakers like Rigathi Gachagua

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua officially opens the Nairobi International trade fair at the Showground Arena. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Days after Rigathi Gachagua was named Kenya Kwanza running mate, some nifty Kenyans coined the hilarious phrase ‘give Gachagua the mic.’

That time, the Mathira MP was known for fiery creeds against then President Uhuru Kenyatta and the so-called State capture. Some of his hard punches, though, bordered on the politically absurd.

Give it to him, Deputy President Gachagua has used the ‘mic’ well since he became the second most powerful man in the land. Last week after embracing his ‘Riggy G’ nickname, he shared candid thoughts on the shamba system.

Then, he said the media had taken his views out of context. Earlier, he calmed real fears over his wardrobe, saying he had no luxury to dress well because he was living in fear of an overbearing regime. Meanwhile, as an antidote to witch-hunt, he wants police and sleuths never to ‘raid’ government offices.

On his big day at Kasarani with President William Ruto on September 13 – the occasion at which they officially inherited ‘empty’ State coffers – he remarked that the absence of Azimio leader Raila Odinga from the event was the “least of my worries”. He derisively calls Raila a “senior citizen whom we will take care of in retirement.”

This week, the DP announced what he calls a paradigm shift in Kenya’s foreign policy. He has a new assignment for Kenyan envoys abroad on seeking wider markets for our produce failure to which “we will recall them.”

On Kerio Valley, the DP wants a quick return to normalcy, declaring “leave that to me.” Cattle rustling does not deserve the president’s attention, he says. But it’s not just him who’s candid. Ruto has raised the red flag over decency and etiquette. Some of his troops lack the art, or is it the science, of using cutlery. The president is equally candid on the CDF billions. He says the kitty is value for money – its unconstitutionality aside. He has also been fairly magnanimous with kind words towards the opposition.

Honest opinions, political or otherwise, have not been in short supply lately. In my view, we can all make this a season of bold speak in public interest. There have been loud shades of jitters around Gachagua’s impulsive style. But in politics, civility is not an issue.

We can listen to him to understand rather than to react. The DP, his admirers say, is simply forthright. Critics claim it will be his waterloo. That his quips could see him overshadow the boss. The way I see it, his modus operandi suggests political honesty that could earn him trust and endear him to Kenyans even outside Mt Kenya.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua.  [Samson Wire, Standard]

Bold speak leads to fruitful debate followed by apt fixes. We must speak all that’s up our sleeves. Not speaking one’s mind can be a breeding ground for resentment. Some leaders thrive on ‘good’ manners and PR gimmicks but deep inside, bitterness eats them up.

Author Shannon Alder insists that when you give yourself permission to communicate what matters to you in every situation, you will have peace despite rejection or disapproval. “Putting a voice to your soul helps you to let go of the negative energy of fear and regret.”

Let everyone speak louder. The new administration must strike a different cord by allowing everyone to talk. Be they the church, the media, civil society and everyone else. In essence, we must be ready to handle what we like to hear as well as what we detest.

A society where people tolerate each other’s views is poised for greatness. No State officer or prefect should bend the law to decide what to allow and what to gag. Gachagua has told Kenyans they can criticise the government without fear of reprisal.

Let’s trust his word. We need many more frank speakers. But it comes with responsibility.

The writer is an editor at The Standard. Twitter: @markoloo