What you need to know:
- In Europe and America, you will see buildings or roads named after individuals — but not when they were in office.
- It is the people who decide that you deserve to be remembered for the services you delivered, but long after you leave office.
Naming public-funded projects after themselves serves politicians, not their constituents. Period. We vote for politicians to serve us, not for their names to be put on public projects that self-aggrandise them. For example, new public schools in various constituencies have been named after the respective serving MP.
Around the country, politicians have named public facilities after themselves. Naming of institutions should be an honour bestowed by someone else; not you.
Of course, we should celebrate good leadership and service. But there should be a body that regulates it; otherwise, we will have every publicly funded project named after a politician.
In Europe and America, you will see buildings or roads named after individuals — but not when they were in office. It is the people who decide that you deserve to be remembered for the services you delivered, but long after you leave office.
It feels a little bit shameful that you are the serving MP, it is public money you are using but, for your own interest, you go around naming projects after yourself.
Some people have gone as far as naming boda boda sheds after themselves. We even recently had a case of a governor who named free early childhood development (ECD) milk after himself!
Naming anything is gratitude for service; it is appreciation for the good somebody has done to humanity. For instance, in my birthplace, Kibera, Nairobi, after establishing the first school library, I named it after Marcus Garvey, who inspired me when growing up in a hopeless environment.
“The ends you serve that are selfish will take you no further than yourself, but the ends you serve that are for all, in common, will take you into eternity,” said the inspirational Jamaican activist.
Our leaders, therefore, have to understand the need to do projects that will take them into eternity rather than those that will just win them the next election. Public office should be used to serve mwananchi, not for branding or personal gain.
We should stop politicising projects funded through taxes. There is a need for legislation that spells out guidelines for naming public projects else every Tom, Dick and Harry name things after themselves.
While this has its challenges, given the same culprits are the ones to come up with law,s it is important for the public to see beyond these gimmicks.
In his ruling when quashing the Nairobi City County’s renaming of Dik Dik Road after Cotu Secretary-General Francis Atwoli this week, Justice Anthony Mrima said the decision should have been subjected to public participation. Indeed, that’s the way to go. Members of the community should agree whose legacy should be celebrated and how.
Most importantly, we need our politicians to campaign by delivering change and services — not brandishing their names left, right and centre.
Mr Odede, founder and CEO of Shofco, is a member of USAid Advisory Board and World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. @KennedyOdede