Don't blame rotten leaders, they are a reflection of society


Young boys on top of a building follow proceedings during a political rally at Shianda market in Mumias East on August 5, 2022. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

In the perpetual cycle of elections, citizens often find themselves entrusting power to individuals who promise vision, intelligence, and reasonability, only to witness their transformation into kleptomaniacs and dictators. This enigma begs the question: Why do such figures persistently ascend to the apex of leadership?

Blaming leaders alone overlooks a fundamental truth - the root cause lies within society’s values and aspirations. Leadership, akin to a contest, crowns those who best epitomise prevailing societal ideals. Just as beauty standards vary across cultures, so too do the traits revered in leaders. Whether it be a beauty pageant or a political race, the victor mirrors the collective ethos of their constituency.

Analogous to the natural order, where the mightiest creature reigns supreme, the ascent to leadership often favours the most dominant figure. Yet, amidst grievances over corrupt leadership, citizens seldom reflect on their role in the selection process. Every leader elevated to prominence is akin to a tortoise atop a post placed there by the hands of the electorate, albeit sometimes through flawed electoral processes.

But why do citizens rally behind candidates with dubious credentials? The answer lies in the shared aspiration for personal gain. Beneath the façade of ethical governance, lurks the tacit acceptance of corruption if it benefits individual interests. Tribal affiliations further complicate matters, as voters prioritise representation over integrity, foreseeing a share of the spoils of corruption.

However, disillusionment strikes when the promised largesse fails to materialise. Locked out from the proverbial table of corruption, citizens bemoan their exclusion, oblivious to their complicity in elevating leaders who reflect their own aspirations.

Consider the allegory of the chicken coop. A negligent owner introduces a mongoose and is astounded by vanishing fowl. It’s a predictable outcome; the mongoose preys on chickens. Similarly, entrusting kleptomaniacs with resources guarantees misappropriation.

Recall the timeless tale of the scorpion and the frog. The scorpion’s sting is inevitable, regardless of the consequences. Similarly, the penchant for corruption among leaders is inherent, manifesting despite societal expectations to the contrary.

The refrain, “people get the leaders they deserve,” rings true. Citizens elect reflections of their aspirations, not necessarily their virtues. To demand better leadership necessitates introspection and a recalibration of societal values.

In essence, leadership reflects the collective aspirations and values of a society. To break the cycle of corrupt leadership, citizens must embark on a journey of self-reflection. Only by fostering a collective ethos of integrity and accountability can society usher in a new era of ethical governance.

As citizens reflect on leadership woes, the onus lies on each of them to examine their values and aspirations. Only then can we escape the clutches of the paradoxical cycle and chart a course towards a brighter future.

Mr Njora is an advocate and expert in property law. [email protected]

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