Being in office is about serving

elachi
elachi

What you need to know:

  • Kenya must train and indoctrinate its leaders so that people stop going into government to serve their personal interests.
  • The members of the Nairobi County Assembly were on the warpath, conspiring to overthrow Speaker Beatrice Elachi.
  • The efforts of the NMS to clean up the city and take services to disadvantaged communities without taking them political hostage has, of course, been noted with satisfaction.

Last week, we were treated to the usual bad manners and violence at that most uncivil of institutions – the Nairobi County Assembly. The members of the assembly were on the warpath, conspiring to overthrow Speaker Beatrice Elachi.

Beneath that were two layers of conflict: The fight to replace the Clerk of the County Assembly, who was being investigated by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission; and the broader conflict arising from the partial removal of Governor Mike Sonko and his administration and some of their responsibilities being transferred to the Nairobi Metropolitan Services headed by Major-General Mohamed Badi.

The drama, the general air of vacuity, incompetence and corruption at City Hall, is intolerable to Nairobi residents and the country. The efforts of the NMS to clean up the city and take services to disadvantaged communities without taking them political hostage has, of course, been noted with satisfaction.

Providing services

This presents an opportunity for a clear message to the MCAs that the Badi team is better at providing services than the administration they seem to favour and we are not going back to that madness.

Secondly, it should provide an opportunity for us to start a conversation about Kenya’s biggest weakness as a nation: Leadership. Or lack of it.

Leadership is the X factor in the development and prosperity of the country, just like it is the most important ingredient in the success of any endeavor.

Kenya must train and indoctrinate its leaders so that people stop going into government to serve their personal interests. Whether it is the political parties or some other system that need to provide that training, it must take place.

I am going round talking to leaders and trying to provoke that debate. And, for now, I want explore national issues around six factors.

First, I want to get a sense of how a leader thinks. Is the leader a problem solver, a servant, a facilitator – what do they bring to the table?

Where I come from in the media, the job of a manager is not to find out problems and report. It is to solve the damn things and, if possible, anticipate and sort them out even before they occur.

There are caretaker leaders and there are disruptors. If you have a system that is in trouble, you need someone who will come and turn everything on its head, not engage in endless crisis management.

Secondly, there is the whole question of literacy and general ability. I have heard many times that leadership has nothing to do with education. Fine. But if you are required to handle complicated systems involving technical information on diverse issues such as the economy, law, technology and so on, your brain need to have been trained to acquire, assimilate and use large volumes of concepts. If you can do that without any training and education, good for you.

Anyone aspiring to leadership must be a democrat with a basic understanding of democracy and the principles along which democratic governments are formed and run. I don’t know whether it is the late Otieno Kajwang who used to say that you can’t do reforms without reformers.

Similarly, you can’t do democracy without democrats. Leaders must understand and accept that power belongs to the people; that they represent and act on behalf of the people.

Which leads me to my fourth point. The people lend governments their power; in exchange, governments must serve the people.

When governments cease to serve the people, they lose legitimacy and should be sacked at the ballot. There is a fundamental misunderstanding of this principle right across the public service in Kenya, where folks think that they work for the government or the county administrations.

Serve the people

The people pay their salaries to serve the people, not the government. It is perfectly OK to work for your own interests but, if you go into public service, you agree that there is a contract between you and the people and that you are their servant and not the other way round.

If this were the case, police would not be shooting innocent civilians and folks would not be stealing public money.

A leader must clearly think long-term and have a clear vision of where he wants the country, or county, to go. Such a vision should include a clear understanding of the resources required to achieve it and a preparedness to deal with unexpected – or expected – shocks.

A good example is climate change. If you are planning the future of your county, your plan must take into account the impact of climate and should include mitigating measures. If you have no idea where you are going, you could end up almost anywhere. And hope is not a plan.

Finally, a corrupt person should not be within a mile of public office. A person without a strong sense of resource stewardship should not be allowed near our taxes. Political parties, the recruitment arms of the government, IEBC and other institutions should be of such calibre that they can exclude demonstrably corrupt people from office.

Rather than having a fight between tribes, why don’t we have a debate about this?

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