It's only a selfish State that would turn a deaf ear to cries of Kenyans

Chapati preparation along the street in Nairobi.  [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Kenya’s ruling party promised a hustler’s government.

The expectation was a disruptive government where through political innovation, Wanjiku the hustler would be positioned in the middle of the bottom-up community.

Though bottom-up is an economic approach, it was popularised and received by people as not just a way of doing math but a possible way of life.

Imagine a Calvary moment where Jesus stuns the disciples by turning to them, pointing to the crosses on the ground and says, “It is you to die for me!” The shock on the faces of the disciples! Part of the reaction would be a question of authenticity, and the disciples would ask Jesus, “Were you lying to us all along? You said the cross was yours for our sake.” The other would be an expression of regret: “I wish I knew. I would not have been such a fool.” The other reaction would be disbelief: “Is this a big joke?” It would be tragic to see the joke turn into a real citizen crucifixion.

Deception. Regret. Disbelief. These are accurate descriptions of the state of many Kenyans. They have their jaws dropping to the floor as they witness the greedy tax attacks targeted at them. When they question the volley of tax arrows, the State leaders retort, “Where did you think we would get money from?” But just to confirm the deception, should they have disclosed this tax-overload approach during their bottom-up campaign, chances are slim they would have been voted in.

Kenyans were already in a hard place – they needed someone who would take their wounds seriously and set them on a healing path. Truth be told, Kenyans then and now did not expect the government to take away more from them. For a long while now, they have been longing for a government that puts money in their drought-stricken wallets.

It is not that Kenyans do not understand the necessity of taxation – they do! They have been giving to Caesar what belongs to him since the country began. But in the current political season, common public sense expected the government to prioritise and widely publicise an initiative to seal all money pits and suffocate corruption. People were waiting to see an influx of redeemed and re-routed funds with a monthly display of the ‘home-coming’ money bags. This, according to public opinion, would release more money to development projects while simultaneously unclogging blockages in public service systems.

The appointed think tanks should then not be mere power-point boardrooms but ‘Bunsen burner’ development laboratories. Kenyans expected and still expect to witness more governance creativity from the ruling regime. But time for a miracle is running out. People have been staring at the stick of Moses for close to two years, hoping to see its response to Pharaoh’s snakes.

But it seems Moses has been impressed by the power of Pharaoh. He wants a share of this greatness. He wants his own pile of bricks and heap of straw to build his own great cities. He wants slaves too. The one who hyped people with songs of deliverance is now humming tunes of selfish ambition. It seems the great escape from Egypt is officially delayed.  

No wonder the think tanks are only thinking about new and quick avenues to generate money for the king. The people are wailing under the weight of the tax load but their cries are muffled by the urgency of Moses’ Babel dream. All the think tanks can think of is money – and the time is short. Moses’ stick is not for deliverance anymore but for whipping people into compliance. But here is a stubborn fact: a country shall not live by an economic equation alone.

Taxation uproar

The uproar from Kenyans towards the tax proposals makes one conclude that the tanks are tanking in their thinking. The famed minds are not yielding impressive genius and the issue is not their capacity but the contract terms. What is emerging from the think tanks is a mad version of the ordinary – ridiculous and desperate money-hunting escapades. Caesar has his share but is breaking boundaries, coming even for what is God’s! As the political clock ticks, Kenyans are beginning to push back in resistance. When hope-raising saviours appear in the name of God but are impressed and captured by the wealth-minting gods of Pharaoh, people become their own Moses.

The reference to the hustler is now faint and intermittent. Mentions of bottom-up sound dislocated and incongruent with reality. What is clearer is the raid on the bottom carried out by orders from the top. As it is now, while the bottom is crying for boats to cross to the other side of the floods, the leaders are flying in Boeings across the world.

The opaqueness in this conversation and the multiple varying justification versions of the same story tell of a system that is not only struggling with accountability, but is not ready for it. Otherwise, the great public interest in the jet matter presents a grand opportunity for the State to ‘preach’ an integrity sermon by presenting not only the figures but the reasoning that informed the decision.

A government that is sensitive to the poor would have a reputation of empathy. The wails of the people should mean something. That stop at the kiosk by a vote-seeking aspirant to eat ugali with the people should not only be a public relations photo pose. A think-tank laboratory should subject that moment to heated minds and emerge with ‘kiosking’ as a detailed style of leadership inspired by the bottom. 

A memorable leader is an ideology factory. They think up unique approaches to systematise their passion for peace and prosperity for their people. It is the fruitfulness of such home-made ideologies that earns a leader respect amongst peers. Copy-pasting of leadership approaches is lazy and ends up inviting the old colonisers or new ones who happily exploit the ideological slothfulness.

When the speed of selfishness overtakes the spirit of service, the citizen fades in value and becomes a slave to serve the order. A leader who is steered by selfish ambition demands worshipful obedience. The only acceptable voice from the people is the song of praise to the king.

Several times, the ruling party has used its favourable numbers in Parliament to stamp its position. The concern is not the stamping but the prideful spirit with which it is done, even when many Kenyans habour a contrary opinion. A display of political might could, on the other hand, communicate to citizens the State’s heartlessness.