What you need to know:
- A young country should not be led by old people; it should be led by a mix of old and young people with the young ones being more than the old ones.
- In the old days, warriors were forced to retire and sit down and let younger braves take over the job of making trouble and rustling cattle.
Does anybody know where the offices of the Njuri Ncheke are? I’d like to apply to join that august body so that I can dress politicians in wet skins and promote them to “elders”, sit in judgement of wayward husbands, eat roast and boiled goat given as fines by land thieves, give advice at weddings, speak at funerals and generally enjoy great food, stress-free assignments and sitting under a tree where the air is clean and views gorgeous.
As the father of a teenager on the verge of adulthood, I can join any council of elders. I can join the Kikuyu Council of Elders and receive applications for the presidency from sixth-tier politicians, the Luo Council of Elders and spend the rest of my life speaking a lot of English with the same message (yup, it’s Tinga), the Kalenjin Council of Elders and hang out with ex-military bigwigs or the Kaya elders in Kilifi and do voodoo in forest shrines.
Three-quarters — 75 per cent — of the population of this country are aged 35 and below. A full 40 per cent are 15 and below. Only three per cent are 55 and above. When Kenyans talk about representation, they are thinking about tribe. How many parliamentary seats are being created in Mandera, how many new seats for Central, and so on. Nobody ever thinks about the most important representation of all: Generational.
Your stage in life is everything. It determines your ambitions, your dreams, your perspectives, your priorities. There is no such thing as shared goals: It depends on your priorities, and they are different at various points of your life.
Without a future
I had planned to write about failure and disappointment but when I saw the One Kenya Alliance good folks and the plans to link up with the Jubilee-ODM axis to form one grand, happy coalition, I changed my plans. I thought, Kenyan politics is like a fixed interview process: It gives you the wrong outcome, irrespective of the talent you feed into it.
William Ruto, 54, Raila Odinga (76), Kalonzo Musyoka (67), Moses Wetang’ula (64), Musalia Mudavadi (60) and Gideon Moi (57) have a combined political experience of 168 years. If you combine their ages, 376 years, you are operating in the Methuselah zone. Demographically, they represent about three per cent of the population.
I’m promoting ageism? How can I? I am making the point that our political process, fixated on preserving the established political class and its hold on the teat of state largesse, is missing the most important variable of all: The seething fury and disappointment of that 75 per cent of the population, the one that feels misunderstood and neglected, the one that feels hopeless and without a future, the one that feels that they will never find a job, the one that fears that the country is set against them.
Dr Ruto is looking like a hero because at least he talks about the youth. But his idea of a wheelbarrow as the symbol of economic rescue; how do you think those dreaming of being lawyers on Wall Street, actors on Broadway and doctors in Chicago are going to receive the news that their presidential candidate is dreaming of a future full of pushing wheelbarrows for them? They are thrilled, right?
Mr Musyoka is a nice guy and good leader, first elected 36 years ago. He has been in office longer than 75 per cent of the population has been on this earth. This is not a bad thing. But the question is, if he is still fighting for the job, when will the young ones get a chance to try their hand at it?
Recycling glorious past
A young country should not be led by old people; it should be led by a mix of old and young people with the young ones being more than the old ones. The profile of leaders should approximate the profile of the population. The trouble with Kenya is that old people like me have all the jobs and the young people are out in the cold.
Age is not just a number; it is also the psychological, social and physical being. Your age determines what you think, what you need and how invested in the future you are. The trouble with our old leaders is that they have not modernised their thinking. They have nothing in common with the majority of the citizens — not even wheelbarrows.
In the old days, warriors were forced to retire and sit down and let younger braves take over the job of making trouble and rustling cattle. Older elders were also retired from decision-making to rolling the condemned down a hill in beehives.
Our politics should be a process of transmitting leadership to the youth, not recycling the glorious past. If Mr Odinga is a candidate brilliantly reciting the national anthem and talking about South Korea and Malaysia in 1963, I’ll wake up to vote only if it is mandated by the Njuri Ncheke. I do know for a fact that my daughter will not vote in that election, not for that or the wheelbarrow stuff, no matter how many dresses I buy her.