Kenyans, please accept that you are just part of a big herd of other Kenyan cattle.
Which is a pity, because our country has some of the finest minds in the continent. Travel around the continent and you will find Kenyans directing corporations, advising governments and making things work.
Regionally we have an unmatched work ethic. But with all our brains, creativity and industriousness, we still suffer from a severe case of Herd Mentality Syndrome. Even if you are angry with me for calling you a gullible ng’ombe, you know deep down that your herd is your tribe. Be honest.
Let me calm you down with a story. On August 25, 2010 a small aircraft crashed in the DRC. It was travelling from the capital, Kinshasa to a town called Bandundu.
The crash happened as the plane was coming in to land. Twenty people on board, including the two pilots, were killed instantly. There was only one survivor, who was immediately rushed to hospital. But no one could figure out the cause of the crash.
The Congolese Ministry of Transport, which was undertaking the investigation, was baffled.
The plane was modern and in mint condition, the weather and visibility were excellent at the time of the accident, the two pilots were qualified and experienced.
The wreckage was examined and everything was found to be in good mechanical order.
They could not find a single reason for the plane to crash. Until they finally questioned the only survivor, who was still in hospital but had recovered enough to speak about the crash.
He explained what happened and it was something no one could ever have guessed.
He said one of the passengers had hidden a small crocodile in their bag, a medium sized backpack. Since it was illegal to transport wildlife, the person had smuggled it on board.
And because there were no overhead cabins, all the passengers’ luggage had been stacked at the back of the plane. But as the plane was beginning its descent to land in the Bandundu airstrip, the crocodile in the backpack somehow went loose.
Upon sighting the reptilian passenger, the stewardess ran to the front of the plane in a panic.
When the passengers saw her running away from the crocodile, they all ran after her. All the weight shifted to the front of the plane and it went into a nose dive.
One of the pilots began yelling at everyone to get back to their seats, as the weight imbalance was causing the pilots to lose control of the aircraft.
But with the plane completely nose-down, the passengers couldn’t climb back up the aisle. And some of them point blank refused to go back to a little crocodile on the loose.
Unfortunately, the pilot couldn’t pull the plane out of the dive. The plane crashed head first, and 20 people died. But the crocodile lived, because it was in the rear. It crawled off the plane and escaped into the bush.
Without the account of the survivor, no one would ever have known what caused the plane crash. Who would even think that a crocodile would cause a plane crash? What would a crocodile be doing on board in the first place?
Ironically, this crocodile wasn’t a fully-grown, 20-foot-long man-eater. After all it was a baby small enough to fit into a bag. The worst it could have done on that aircraft was to give someone a nasty bite. In fact, the 20 people could have found a way to subdue it.
But no one was thinking. The crowd’s decision was the individual’s decision. Herd mentality is a strong force. Here in Kenya, the tribal herd is so strong, that it overrules reason, logic, debate and even common sense.
If Raila Odinga says he will swear himself in as the president, the Luo herd would flock to see him take the bootleg oath.
If Uhuru Kenyatta says that the Constitution should be amended to incorporate inclusion, only the Kikuyu herd would agree wholeheartedly.
And the agreement will be based on their Kikuyuness, not because they think that the present constitution sows division, hate and bigotry and spins the country into a volatile election every five years into perpetuity.
If William Ruto says that the constitution should remain as it is, the Kalenjin herd will agree without question. They will not engage in debate because their ‘herdsman’ has spoken.
No member of the herd will think critically about why Ruto does not want an amendment, or why his stand should be evaluated further, or if an amendment would actually be beneficial.
In fact, they will deliberately choose not to think.
And this is why we are in constant danger of a nose-dive. The herd never allows its members to think.
–The writer is a PhD candidate in political economy at SMC University. [email protected]