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Political geniuses Uhuru, Ruto and Raila should be consulting

By Daisy Maritim Maina | June 7th 2020

At the curfew hour, President Kenyatta, Raila Odinga, William Ruto and all their political minions rush home to hunker over their political playbooks.

Because things are thick for some, and exciting for others, some books that had been gathering dust on shelves are now being consulted daily.

For the Deputy President and other leaders in the ‘downtrodden’ category, the Bible has been a popular text this season. The Holy Book presents ammunition when one is under siege or trying to besiege others. And going by Twitter, Bible verses can be used as insults disguised as prayers, rebuke veiled as meditation and political taunts camouflaged as deep religious reflection.

But I want to venture an educated guess that the scripts being underlined and annotated are the likes of the 33 Strategies of War. Everyone has gone back to seeking counsel from their favourite scheming instructor, the modern day self-declared Machiavelli, Robert Greene. We can even speculate which Chapter everyone is on. President Kenyatta is definitely on Chapter 1, keenly studying The Polarity Strategy: ‘Declare War on your Enemies’.  Lately the president has launched explosive missiles against his foes, and has clearly labeled them as ‘those who are against my Agenda’.

In this chapter, Greene cautions Uhuru against people who are subtle and evasive, “disguising their intentions and pretending to be on your side”.

Maybe Kenyatta has also been doing supplementary readings from the Gospel of Luke. As a physician, Luke was clinically stark in his declaration on Chapter 11 verse 23: “He that is not with me is against me.” Kenyatta’s readings are proving effective. Who knew that the sharp acid tongued Aden Duale, who was once so devoted to the DP, would one day be as subdued as a church mouse? Who knew that he would totally comply, even to having a political nanny in the name of Amos Kimunya to chaperone him in Parliament? What is Kimunya’s mysterious position as ‘Secretary of the Jubilee Coalition Joint Parliamentary Group’ if not a weapon of total war?

But when the president wants to take a break from enemy decimation, I recommend the book ‘How the Monk Sold his Ferrari’ by Robin Sharma as he mulls over the constitutional moment he told us he has been reflecting upon, trading it in for a ‘Probox presidency’ in 2022.  Because he seems to be inclined towards trading his for a Probox presidency.

Across town in Karen, Ruto is reading a different book by Robert Greene. He is hunched over Chapter 37 of the 48 Laws of Power as he sips his midnight tea. Here Greene is telling Ruto to create compelling spectacles.

He is telling him to strike imagery and grand symbolic gestures. This is the chapter that informs decisions such as going for a traditional cleansing ceremony at the crack of dawn with mystical Kalenjin elders. Although the ceremony was private, a local daily has somehow managed to paint a clear picture of everything that happened there. 

We are told that the Deputy President was ‘doused with milk and honey from a special traditional gourd by elders dressed in wild animal skins’ and that he was ‘handed leadership instruments, including a baton said to have been used by legendary Nandi chief medicine man or Orkoiyot’.

The normally articulate Ruto has been driven into a political corner and can no longer effectively use words for political expression. Instead, he has expertly applied the ‘arresting visuals and radiant symbols’ recommended by Greene.  

But there is another section of the book that we can suggest to the DP. That is Chapter 22, on transforming weakness into power. It says: “When you are weaker, never fight for honour’s sake; chose surrender instead. Surrender gives you time to recover, time to irritate and torment your conqueror and time to wait for his power to wane. Do not give him the satisfaction of fighting and defeating you. Surrender first.”

However, I suspect that the DP has read this chapter already. On Madaraka Day, no one clapped louder for the president’s speech, smiled harder at his remarks, or nodded more vigorously at his words than William Ruto.

So for the DP, instead of a book, I recommend something more relaxing to enjoy in these trying times: the 1969 song Flattery will get you Everywhere by Lynn Anderson.

As for Raila Odinga, I don’t know what he is reading, or whether he is reading at all. But I am sure he reads. For him I recommend Musalia Mudavadi’s book, Soaring above the Clouds of Passion. Although from the title it sounds like a book on aviation, or the name of a Latin American telenovela, it makes for an interesting political read.

Of course in the height of political drama, it is good to assume that our leaders read, and that their actions are informed by actual study. While Kenyatta, Odinga and Ruto look like they engage in some reading, many of their political minions sound like they only read SMSs and billboards. Any recommendations for them?

- The writer is a PhD candidate in political economy at SMC University. [email protected] 

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