It's time to shun corrupt politicians, make hard work cool and sexy again

How we have managed to remain afloat as a country given the impunity with which public resources are looted must rank as the ninth wonder of the world. Graft has become so entrenched that it is presumed to be the only way for ‘clever’ Kenyans to create wealth.

We have become a people where a humble, decent, competent and honest civil servant cannot be elected or invited to address a church gathering whereas a barely literate thug who was generated massive wealth by stealing from the public is welcomed with vifijo na nderemo.

How can we make honest hard work cool, honourable and inspirational — something the younger folk aspire to live by, wear on their sleeves with pride, and looked up to? How do we make corruption and lack of integrity shameful and despicable?

This could just be the magic bullet against corruption as opposed to our talk-shops and blame games, fervent intercessions and throwing our hands up in surrender. This is the only way a public servant will feel pangs of guilt for even considering looting public coffers to finance a flashy lifestyle.

But how did we get here? It all started with the desire to make it by all means possible, and be seen to do better than most people, of course driven by the fake, exhibitionist lifestyle we live on social media. The genesis is in the inordinate emphasis on the age at which people attain certain achievements. That an achievement is more prestigious when attained before a certain age, thus inspiring a mad rush to get to the destination earliest, for the applause.

This is the reason stories abound of individuals who would rather have Kenyan children die because of drug shortage in hospital, because whatever funds earmarked for this were channeled towards acquiring a chopper, palatial home or property.

Remember the sob stories of pyramid schemes – of life savings, loans and meagre resources collected by unscrupulous individuals out to enrich themselves by all means possible? Still, such individuals sleep soundly and live as if nothing happened. Just as the Good Book aptly poses, of what benefit is it to a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?

We have to redefine what is considered success. Whereas a lavish lifestyle is desirable for all, the means with it is attained is equally important. It is important to recognise that the journey is equally as important as the destination. That there is huge pride in the hard work and the sweat; and that shortcuts are totally not worth the while. That the same way anyone driving their parent’s car is not entitled to speak in a council of bicycle owners, is the same way anyone with hundreds of acres that have been questionably acquired cannot utter a word at a gathering of those who own an eighth of an acre gotten by grit and sweat.

 It is all about integrity. Integrity is the foundation upon which we will build trust and restore our faith in mankind and leadership. It is because of integrity of our leaders that we can inculcate faith that institutions and the people who lead them are always looking out for our best interests; and that whatever policies that are introduced are for the good of the majority and not a conduit to benefit initiators and their kin. And it has to start from early years.

As organisational expert, Simon Sinek counsels: “Experiences we have during our formative years shape us into who we are, not just as individuals but as a collective.”

Over time, graft would not even concern us as a people because it would die a natural death, starved by flourishing integrity and lack of adulation that meets ill-gotten wealth.

— The writer is a communicator and blogs at Twitter: @butunyi.