When leaders ignore people's voice, allegiance shifts and trouble sets in

President William Ruto. [File, Standard]

Samson woke up one day in the arms of Delilah. He had no hair. While he slept, the Delilah barbershop shaved his head. Hairless, Samson still thought it would be a normal day.

The tragedy was that he did not know the Lord had left him. With his hair gone, so was God gone from him. For the first time in his life, Samson was powerless. This was an unfamiliar place. He was born a strong man and his divine mission required that he be physically strong.

Things had changed overnight – literally. The deliverer became a captive. The feared one was now the mocked one. The strong one had been tamed. Details of this story and the unfortunate turn of events show the strength of Samson had never been in his hair. The unshaven hair represented a contract of faithfulness to God.

As long as the hair was unshaven, the secret between Samson and God was safe. The shaved head that morning was the evidence of betrayal. Delilah’s love destabilised Samson spiritually leading him to leak a secret that had been between him and God.

That the Philistines had never known the secret until Delilah extracted it shows it was well-guarded. Romance made Samson break a law that had been upheld for a long time. His strength had never been in his hair – it had always been in the presence of God. When the Lord left him, power left him.

You may deceive yourself you still have the glory but things begin to set up an unsettling reality – God left you a long time ago. People who cheered you now jeer you. Crowds that thronged your meetings thin and then you turn to crowds-for-hire.

Strong allies begin to shift their allegiance to an opposing power. Loyalists become rare. Those who could never speak against you begin to contradict you. Charisma loses charm. Vision is dimmed by disconnection. What would come naturally is now forced. The glue begins to weaken as a fall looms.

“Hosanna” can quickly turn into “Crucify him!” Jubilant voices freed from Egypt can easily turn into stressful voices demanding a return to Egypt. Maintaining the attention of people is a hard thing. Higher bidders are hovering to buy off your supporters. When people are annoyed, approval ratings fall freely.

That you can still sing the hymns, recite Bible verses and attend church services does not mean the Lord is with you. Delilah derails. The bad news is inevitable when leaders, who came to power in the name of God, convert themselves into gods. They plan to pick up God on their way to the campaign trail in a few years. But God doesn’t fund the agenda of gods!

Kenya is suffering a severe case of self-exaggeration. National grandiose is our condition. It is valid to ask: do our political leaders live in Kenya? Does “hustler” and “Wanjiku” still make sense to them? Relief is what Kenyans want. However, what they eventually get is the opposite. The tax raises and conflicted priorities tell of a leadership that is insensitive to the people.

People feel the government is busy doing something else – what they see they are unlikely to get. The ego of those in power has ballooned to the extent that they don’t care about the citizens. People are no longer at the centre of the government’s actions. It is their time to shine even if it means mwananchi cries. The heightened appetite to tax citizens is worrying.  

The political leaders have usurped the voice of the people. They are specialised in imposing their thoughts on the people. And they expect the people to take up these thoughts and own them. They consider themselves geniuses.  The mantra seems to be “people are not listened to – they are told” - people exist to be seen but not heard. But muting the people is not working. The regime may think of itself as being in control but what the people think may be quite different.

No one wants to give their extra coin to the government in the form of taxes. People feel they are already giving too much. While people are truly cash-strapped, the other reason for the unwillingness to pay more is that the people do not trust the government.

The government cannot blame the people for being suspicious about all the extra charges. The rulers must remember they don’t have a clean record when it comes to the use of public funds as corruption is the order of the day. The public perception is that this regime could be worse than any other government Kenya has had. Their suspicion is not baseless. A tax base without trust is trouble.

If the government was on the outside looking in on the issue of affordable housing, they would change tact. But they do not have the advantage. From the people’s point of view, the government seems to be having another agenda, no wonder the life-and-death push to implement the housing levy.

Pleasing the people seems not to be the goal of the government at present. It is a season to squeeze and harvest more from the people. But the promise of “cry now laugh later” is faulty because most of the politicians are already laughing while the people languish in poverty, and crying with the cost of living hitting the roof. Who should laugh first, the leader or the led? It is as if the government is running a different race but using the people’s lungs.

One wonders who the advisors of government are! The tragedy could be that the leaders are not taking advice. They own a monopoly of wisdom, so it seems. Those on your payroll will advise you to the extent they can keep their jobs and win a promotion. Here, people are more likely to tell the king only what he wants to hear, or even worse, what he demands to hear.

A king who demands only what he wants to hear may shut out the voice of reason. However, he may not succeed in stopping the actions of the people.