Something very terrible is happening. And it’s engineered by powerful men and women within the upper echelons of the state. If we don’t speak up now, in the end, no one will be left to speak because we won’t recognise Kenya any more.
Remember Pastor Martin Niemöller’s haunting words at the hands of the Nazis. He failed to speak up when others were being persecuted until it was too late so that when the Nazis came for him “there was no one left to speak for me.” Is Dr David Ndii, the government’s economic czar, trying to avoid the pastor’s admonition, or is he a student of the Rigathi Gachagua School of Thought? Or is he a callous fat-cat?
Mr Gachagua, the state’s numero dos, has perfected the art that was the undoing of Marie Antoinette, the French royal. When the peasants cried out in hunger, she famously said they should eat cake if they didn’t have bread. The rest, as we know, is history.
For crying out loud, I don’t know why Mr Gachagua and his proteges in government are needlessly provoking penurious Kenyans. They haven’t seen a bird they could resist flipping. They seem to have the middle finger at the ready every time another tax burden is imposed on the people. The economic guru of this public callousness is none other than my fellow intellectual, the brilliant Dr Ndii. He’s outdone himself.
It’s true that Kenya is in dire economic straits. Any successor to the previous regime would’ve had to make very difficult and unpopular decisions to get the country moving forward. I get that – completely. But part of governing effectively is a ministry – the way religious people talk about their vocation. I have raised my children but if you want to get children to do or accept a hard fact, you don’t say “do it, even if it hurts.” You find a palatable idiom to communicate a hard message. A government that can’t effectively – and compassionately – communicate to the public is doomed to fail. That’s why governments hire public relations firms to help them sell difficult agenda.
In the context of some 50 million Kenyans, a few officials sitting atop wielding the instruments of violence shouldn’t be drunk with power. In my view, Mr Gachagua, Dr Ndii, and their ilk like Moses Kuria, Ndindi Nyoro, and Kiprotich Cherargei forget that they are minions compared to the citizens they serve. They should speak and act with humility.
In a true democracy, such characters wouldn’t last a New York minute in public office. All power is donated to the state and public officials by the people. Officials are public servants, not their masters. Power is a trust given to the state by those who hold the highest office in the land – the office of citizen. That’s the maxim in a democracy.
If the economy is reeling and the state has to make some hard decisions, is Mr Gachagua who looks and sounds angry, arrogant, and often unhinged the right person to sell that message? He’s not alone. The cohort of Dr Ndii and the others I have named above – men with gargantuan egos – seem determined to spit in every Kenyan’s face.
I have concluded that either they want to sink the Kenya Kwanza government, or they aren’t fit to serve in public office. Mr Kuria, for example, a man entrusted with one of the most important dockets, has become a master of toxic verbal diarrhea. He effortlessly and needlessly insults Kenyans. He says drill your oil wells if the cost of fuel is too high!
My view is that you don’t entrust your gun to a boy-child. You lock it up in a gun safe. I wonder whether Dr Ndii is a firefighter, or an arsonist. Even a fool knows that the Kenya Kwanza government doesn’t need an arsonist in its midst. But Dr Ndii and other senior honchos are just that – arsonists. He says he’s only telling the truth, not lying the way KK politicians lied to Kenyans on the campaign trail. He says politicians are hypocrites and shouldn’t be believed. Is Dr Ndii saying that his boss is a liar and a hypocrite? Did his boss send him out to say that? I doubt it. If so, why is he saying such a damned thing? Is he acting with impunity because he’s indispensable and, therefore, untouchable? Is he the regime’s proverbial sacred cow?
Dr Ndii may be a genius but a country isn’t a laboratory or an economics classroom for reckless experiments. He can’t express every mental lapse to suffering Kenyans. He can’t tell Kenyans to either face the music of high taxes, or go to hell. These statements would make even KANU’s Kariuki Chotara or Kihika Kimani roll in their graves. Dr Ndii’s arrogance trumps anything I’ve seen in public life anywhere. With friends like him, does Kenya Kwanza need opponents in Azimio?
Prof Mutua is SUNY Distinguished Professor and Margaret W. Wong Professor at Buffalo Law School, The State University of New York. @makaumutua.