Mithika Linturi's fate in face of 'scapegoat epidemic'

Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi when he appeared before the National Assembly Agriculture Committee over the fake Fertilizer at Parliament on April 8, 2024. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Numerous scandals have hit Kenya. But when blame games become the norm rather than the exception, it helps to heed prominent author Charles Henry Scherf’s counsel.

Mr Scherf warns that leaders who shift blame can never think straight. True leaders don’t run away from responsibility, they embrace it and face the attendant consequences.

The circus around Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Franklin Mithika Linturi, the cereals board and the fake fertiliser supplies saga remind us of what I call the ‘scapegoat epidemic’ in our nation.

Scapegoating isn’t foreign to Africa’s political space. Our elites often deflect accountability by blaming external forces for internal woes, a narrative that has persisted six decades after independence. Purported Pan-Africanists yell over sanctions, visa bans and lopsided loan terms.  

We’ve witnessed barefaced leaders like our pet neighbour Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, who after almost four decades at the helm, still point fingers at ‘past’ regimes and ‘colonialists’ for their countries’ poverty. How now?

Mr Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe hid his failures by besmirching Europe yet the truth was that he got bitter when his wife Grace and himself were blacklisted, denying them visits to London and Paris for their shopping sprees. Such was his twisted thinking that he kicked out White farmers.

Rwanda’s Paul Kagame has also turned the West into a punching bag. He keeps scapegoating whenever taken to task over his human rights record. “Those from the West think they are the face of values...We have values here in Africa and Rwanda too,” he often says.

In Kenya, scapegoating is on another level. During President Uhuru Kenyatta’s tenure, the nation watched in dismay as the National Youth Service (NYS) scam unfolded, with blame conveniently placed on a common hairdresser. Others quickly metamorphosized into State witnesses. 

Uhuru himself became a national laughing stock on the war on graft when he asked at a State House summit; “what do you want me to do?” signifying helplessness in taming theft of public resources. His scapegoat that time were ‘well-connected detractors’ within the system.

In recent days, we talk of ‘State capture’ and the ‘handshake regime’ even when airport roofs need repairs. Such instances only erode public trust. When leaders fail to embrace responsibility, Wanjiku feels abandoned. She wonders why accountability is an alien thing to Africans. There are examples elsewhere of leaders who owned up in public interest. Matt Hancock, the UK’s former Health minister, quit for breaching Covid-19 rules. Humza Yousaf quit from being the Scottish National Party leader before no-confidence votes had been processed.

David Cameron ended his premiership after the UK public voted to leave the European Union against his position. Portugal premier Antonio Costa recently resigned amid a probe into graft.

Barack Obama confessed ‘I screwed up’ when facts of a controversial appointment he had pushed emerged. Yet Richard Nixon’s denial of the Watergate and Bill Clinton’s rebuttals in the Monica Lewinsky saga didn’t save them from indignity.

As scapegoating persists in our midst, the plight of hustlers is overlooked. Thursday’s debate during which MPs approved a motion to impeach Linturi, who remains innocent until proven otherwise, is a passing cloud like the one he tried against Anne Waiguru in 2014.  

Partisan interests that gripped the House on Thursday will still outwit the House committee formed to probe claims against Linturi. Remember the intrigues that befell the Cleophas Malala-led Senate panel that handled the Kirinyaga impeachment in mid-2020?

The die is cast. Mr Linturi’s ouster will come a cropper. Now, Kenyans must wake up and question how these futile impeachments address the moral implications of scandals, real or perceived. 

President William Ruto’s reform agenda offers a glimmer of hope. Let decision-makers readily admit their mistakes but take timely corrective action.

The writer is a communications practitioner. Twitter(X): markoloo