Call to patience: Real change takes time to happen

President WIlliam Ruto addressing the nation from State House, Nairobi.

Photo credit: File I Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • History is replete with examples that illustrate that governing is a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Nelson Mandela emerged from prison to become the first black president of South Africa.

The euphoria that envelops the onset of a new government often yields underwhelming sentiments.

Understandably, to many, the delivery of campaign promises should manifest instantaneously. Yet in a country like ours, where political scavenging is rife, grumbling over ‘undelivered’ campaign promises is perfect fodder for political mileage.

Once the chorus of discord hits a certain decibel, the illogical conclusions about non-performance that take centre stage can morph into ugly altercations that spare no one. 

But history is replete with examples that illustrate that governing is a marathon, not a sprint. Indeed, some of most transformative leaders across history faced initial hurdles before tattooing lasting legacies to their tenures.

When Abraham Lincoln assumed office in 1861, the United States was teetering on the brink of civil war. Lincoln inherited a nation fractured by slavery and a seemingly insurmountable internecine conflict.

Yet, through sheer determination and courage to confront a political riddle head-on, he steered the nation through a dark stretch, ultimately preserving the Union and abolishing slavery.

Transformative change

Today, we remember him as one of the greatest leaders that ever bestrode the earth. 

Similarly, Franklin Roosevelt assumed the presidency of the US during the Great Depression — one of the darkest periods in history.

Faced with runaway unemployment, extreme poverty and widespread despair, Roosevelt embarked on an ambitious programme, the ‘New Deal’.

Despite fierce opposition and scepticism, his determination ushered in an era of transformative change, leaving a lasting legacy that has since underlined the role of governments in defining the fate of countries. 

The telltale story of Singapore’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, is pointedly instructive with regard to how perseverance is critical in the conduct of nation-building.

Upon gaining independence in 1965, Singapore was a small, resource-poor country grappling with high unemployment, housing shortages and ethnic tensions.

Resilience and determination

But under Lee’s visionary leadership, it underwent rapid industrialisation and economic development. Through prudent strategic planning, Lee transformed Singapore into a thriving global economic powerhouse. 

Closer to home, Nelson Mandela emerged from decades of imprisonment to become the first black president of South Africa, inheriting a deeply divided nation rife with racial tensions and economic disparity.

Despite the enormity of the task, he reconciled and unified the ‘Rainbow Nation’, setting the foundation for a better country.

Progress was gradual with numerous setbacks but Mandela’s steadfast leadership ultimately laid the foundation for a more inclusive and democratic South Africa.

To deliver this legacy, he braved stiff opposition from jingoists who would have preferred the easier route of vengeance. 

Meaningful change takes time. By drawing inspiration from the resilience and determination of leaders who stuck their necks out to nurture the greater good in times of distress, we can appreciate patience and perseverance in nation-building. 

Mr Gikuru is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya. @GikuruSK