Natembeya represents new type of firebrand ready to rally the Luhya

Trans Nzoia Governor George Natembeya. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Trans Nzoia Governor George Natembeya’s tackles on National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetangula have simultaneously caused excitement and raised hackles among Kenyans who have been conditioned to bend to the wills and wiles of powerful politicians for no other reason than that they are in positions of authority.  

The culture of subservience to leaders has resulted in role reversal in the ‘master-servant’ relationship, and ended up creating demigods whose word is sacrosanct;  individuals who brook no challenge.

Power belongs to the people who should regularly exercise it, but they have willingly abdicated it to their servants- the leaders they elected. The recall clause in the constitution has hardly been tested. 

Thus, the status quo is ideal for the pursuit of self-aggrandisement and enrichment by some leaders. That explains why Natembaya’s decision to go against the grain has upset many, not least of all, church leaders and a handful of political hangers-on. In truth, Natembeya is cutting himself a niche as the new type of political firebrand, treading where others fear.  

In the 1980s, a breed of young legislators fearlessly took on the government, agitating for multipartysm and other freedoms. Their caustic agitation earned them the nickname “the Seven bearded sisters' from the then Attorney General, Charles Njonjo. 

The firebrands whose bold actions eventually forced the change we are enjoying today were James Orengo, Abuya Abuya, Koigi Wamwere, Mwachegu wa Mwachofi, Chibule wa Tsuma, Wasike Ndobi and Lawrence Sifuna.  In the 1990s, we had another group of political agitators known as the Young Turks.

Natembeya seeks to wake up a leadership devoid of fresh ideas. Even with devolution, Bungoma has not claimed its rightful place in terms of development, and this must change. Young, and more enlightened leaders with fresh ideas should not be silenced just to massage the egos of older leaders.

Natembeya’s broadsides have raised critical issues and are healthy. They are not,  as some are wont to say, ad hominem. In the exercise of the freedom of speech and expression, Natembeya is pointing out shortcomings that have been swept under the carpet, holding voters in Bungoma, Trans Nzoia and the larger western Kenya region captive for lack of understanding.

We should not continue to idolise leaders, we must hold their feet to the fire to rid them of complacency that is inimical to development. 

Supporters of politicians often engage in violent clashes because of the culture of intolerance inculcated in them, and regularly watered by pitiable handouts. This culture categorises alternative views, no matter how good, as a challenge that must be violently dealt with. When this is allowed to happen, productive views and ideas get trampled on. 

Properly articulated ideological differences are good for the furtherance of democratic ideals. They offer voters an array of things to choose from, from a point of information rather than coercion and fear of reprisals.

They open up space for ventilation on issues that otherwise wouldn't come up in an environment full of authoritarianism, thus allowing leaders to ride roughshod over citizens.

Plans to ‘reconcile’ Natembeya and Wetangula amount to muzzling free speech in an attempt to suppress the truth. Allow the leaders vent, because there are critical issues at play. At the end of the day, voters will be able to determine who is best suited to lead them as a community. 

There have been numerous attempts, mostly perfunctory, to get a Luhya kingpin and to rally the region behind one strong candidate. The leaders that the Luhya community look up to take the challenge have been lukewarm. If Natembeya is ready to wrest that crown from sweaty, reluctant hands, let him.  

Who knows, he might be the Moses who will eventually lead the Luhya, the second most populous tribe in Kenya, out of political bondage.

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