Don’t waste university degrees on politicians, give them to voters
By Ted Malanda
| June 20th 2021
Rumour has it that tens of politicians have been burning the midnight oil to graduate from university by 2022, lest they get kicked out of parliament and county assemblies.
As someone who attempted and spectacularly failed to balance school, kids, job and the pub as an adult student, I salute them. My job was not half as demanding as that of waheshimwa. I didn’t have an army of hungry constituents to feed and attend to, funerals to address at the weekend, a harem to manage and rapidly shifting political trends to calculate and fit into.
And yet I found it impossible to manage the demands of my small job and family against the rigour of mastering one theory or other. So I slunk out of class, tail between my legs.
I, therefore, I doff my hat to politicians who somehow found time to forage in swamps collecting specimen as part of their Master’s or PhD research. That they went ahead to write and defend their theses in record time – something that has defeated thousands of Kenyans with all the time in the world who have been mark-timing in Master’s and PhD class for years – is the stuff of legend.
That these politicians, however, seem unable or unwilling to develop, frame, articulate or debate ideas better after their graduation is neither here nor there.
But that is the point. Either you are a smart adult or a daft one. If you are the kind of fellow who is predisposed to debate with your wallet, loins or fists and have the manners of an alley cat, even a good PhD would struggle to cure that malaise.
That is why we have illiterate village elders whose fluidity of mind is remarkably keen, but political scholars whose analysis of national issues is as pedestrian, selfish, narrow-minded and tribal as that of the stoned, illiterate vagabond leaning on a shop pillar. Indeed, that is why Tom Mboya, who never sat a form four exam, was debating globalisation in the early 1960s, while we have politician lawyers and economists fanning tribal war and investing in village political parties today.
Our problem, therefore, is not that we are represented by people without university education, but that we are a nation of illiterate voters.
First, we believe that we elect leaders to bring us “development”, which is, of course, arrant nonsense. Second, we think development is building things – roads, schools, factories, hospitals and markets.
But what is the cost of this road? Is it built in a national park? Will the school that mheshimiwa is building be adequately resourced and staffed? What are our children learning anyway? What is inside that shiny hospital building? Medics? Medicine? And what are we going to sell in that new market? Yawn.
Worst is our sense of civic responsibility or lack thereof. We have highly educated Kenyans who live and invest in Nairobi, but who drive to the village every five years to elect strangers. Our Constitution demands public participation for nearly each government process or piece of legislation, but how many Kenyans bother to air their views? But how would we participate and make meaningful contribution when we can barely comprehend what’s going on?
And why are our political leaders surrounded by heavily muscled and inebriated goons and loafers with not a cow, kiosk or granary to their names? Why must our elections be characterised by voter bribery, electoral theft, knobkerries, teargas, violence and murder?
These things don’t happen because our leaders don’t have university degrees. They happen because we, the electorate, lack the sophistry to understand politics; that nation is bigger than tribe, that we have a duty to evaluate who we are electing and why, and to call them out when they become stupid.
If voters were better educated, wananchi would not turn up at political rallies to be entertained by educated politicians with two left feet making a mockery of dance. They would, instead demand to hear what the politicians and their parties stand for. They would also be very clear about their needs, versus the duty of government and the roles of those they elect.
By the way, Mvita MP and chairman of the Public Investments Committee, Hon Nassir, Abdulswamad Sheriff, doesn’t have a university degree. But former Nairobi Governor, His Excellency Mike Mbuvi Sonko, does.
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