Problem isn't fake papers, it's our mindset

Greed for success, power and money is risky. [iStockphoto]

Growing up on the farm in Kaguria, Homa Bay County, my grandma Beldinah always warned me against overtaxing my imagination.

Nyar Oyuke told me never to assign goats the task of pulling an ox plough. Likewise, she cautioned me against hitching up chicken to a plough and expect them to prepare a garden for sowing.

Such counsels, however jocular, were meant to discourage folks from sparring with fantasy in the name of solving problems. Wrong methods and flawed models in crisis management are absurd.   

The fake academic papers saga comes to mind. Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua recently revived the debate at a wage bill forum in Nairobi, calling it a disgrace.

The truthful man ‘Riggy G’ told President William Ruto to his face: “Some of the academic cheats are sitting here with you… some of them are governors...” As he spoke, there were blank stares, fidgeting and drooped heads in the room.  

Mr Gachagua’s claim to have a long list of bigwigs with fake degrees further sent tongues wagging. Someday, the man from Mathira might reveal the list or go the Aden Duale way. In 2015, a feisty Duale promised to name Al Shabaab backers only to mellow when the oven became too hot.

Let’s agree the fake papers mess isn’t a new phenomenon. In 2022, aspirants’ credentials were a big issue.

One glitzy governor hopeful was at pains to prove when and where he graduated. That time, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) also promised to smoke out culprits.  

But the anti-graft agency cried out loud that even if it exposed damning information, not much was to be done to bar flagged aspirants. Some felons won seats. Others continue to serve despite being indicted. Now, we hear that some countries plan to blacklist Kenyan degrees.

According to the Kenya National Qualifications Authority, at least one out of three people employed in Kenya has a fake certificate. It’s a major blot on Kenya’s workforce. Our permeable system has allowed the trend to eat us up bit by bit to the core.

President Ruto, a competent leader who cherishes results, says those with forged credentials should quit and refund salaries. Yet apart from academic papers, the River Road mob has extended to land papers, death certificates, car logbooks, leases and even birth certificates and passports.   

Who will bell the cat, and when? And in the political space, why do we make Chapter Six of the Constitution look like a box-ticking affair performed only to fulfil legal and bureaucratic requirements then grumble later?

Why would integrity vetting be done if the system routinely gives elements with dubious inclinations a through-pass into plum public jobs?

The idea of the National Forensic Laboratory brought hope as far as handling forensic fingerprint identification, document examination, ballistics, imaging and acoustics, evidence management and crime scene investigations are concerned. But behold, we are stuck in the muddle.

Academic charlatans are powerful people who’ve cut the ground from under our feet.

Making belated efforts to catch them is like shadow-boxing. It’s why the EACC, DPP, police, Judiciary, DCI and the Commission for University Education (CUE) and others who should restore integrity and dignity are in a surrender mode. Deviations from the law has brought fatal outcomes.

Moreover, graft, ‘wash wash’, tribalism, tenderpreneurship, tax evasion and other ‘capital’ sins that we’ve lived with make fake certificates a lesser evil.

The ‘bandit’ system glorifies ‘bad boys’ and perpetuates the mindset that you don’t need to go to school. All you must do is to ‘cut corners’ and ‘know people’ to succeed!

Attempting to correct the fake papers mess by way of mere verbal threats will end up in another Tower of Babel. It is just what it is! There’s only one solution. That’s to pray for attitudinal or mindset change among Kenyans. Greed for success, power and money is risky.

-The writer is a communications practitioner. X: @markoloo