Rewarding loyalty is important; keeping promises is more crucial

Deputy President William Ruto address believers at Nyayo National stadium during a prayer service.

President William Ruto. The president is correct to insist that lenders must use the score, and not just a negative listing because the score contains a more holistic picture.

Photo credit: File| Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Azimio was a forced marriage jaywalking its way into the abyss, intoxicated by astonishing delusions expressed through wildly unrealistic narratives.
  • Kenya Kwanza appeared to possess an enviable strategic fit, a productive working atmosphere, a uniting ethos and esprit de corps, and seamless harmony among its leadership.
  • What the fifth administration is normalising is a new standard in presidential politics and executive administration.

The main campaigns in the last elections took different approaches to coalition building.

One employed persuasion, the articulation of a compelling platform and an appeal to complementarity.

The other deployed its access to raw state power in terms of both coercive capacities and policy instruments, overt and implicit ultimatums, and leveraged ethno-regional rivalries.

Each coalition, therefore, was defined by its fundamental strategic posture, and its electoral fate was accordingly sealed.

As soon as the BBI was unmasked to reveal its naked power-crazed, avaricious essence, its leadership resorted to legislative strategies to set up and hold together an unstable, dangerously ramshackle coalition bereft of central mobilising incentive except for superstitious appeals to ‘the system’ and ‘the deep state’. 

This is how the Political Parties Act was amended to introduce the unwieldy contraption known as the coalition political party, whose sole aim was to sustain the perilously disoriented Azimio la Umoja coalition until election day.

Such a brazen use of state violence to artificially support untenable political pacts was both indicative of Azimio’s unwillingness to confront its inherent deficiency of an organising principle.

Without a clear purpose, and sustained by force, Azimio was a forced marriage jaywalking its way into the abyss, intoxicated by astonishing delusions expressed through wildly unrealistic narratives.

It quickly collapsed into an echo chamber that actively resisted more rational and soberer interventions, and was last seen merrily plunging off a cliff, singing ebullient airs of “smoking guns” and

On the other hand, Kenya Kwanza appeared to possess an enviable strategic fit, a productive working atmosphere, a uniting ethos and esprit de corps, and seamless harmony among its leadership.

William Ruto had famously pointed out that no amount of contractual innovation and legislative tinkering, and no instrument, however fool-proof, could keep together coalitions, if leaders do not keep their word, or honour their promises.

There is no doubt that this observation hit home, instigated deep reflection across the political terrain, and instigated more pragmatic realignment, often in defiance of the coercive prerogatives of the formidable Azimio coalition leadership.

At this point, politicians and Kenyans remembered Ruto’s insistent mantra of ‘kusema na kutenda’, and wracked their brains in futile efforts to remember one instance when he did not deliver on his promises.

This afforded tremendous comfort to Kenya Kwanza coalition partners, their followers and to Kenyans across the political divide in general.

Ruto’s determination to keep his word is highly reassuring to all. His resolve to discharge his day one commitments, and sustain the spectacular momentum of consistent promise-keeping, has been a pleasant surprise to many sceptics, and the cause of surging confidence that the economy, society and the state need.

Executive administration

What the fifth administration is normalising is a new standard in presidential politics and executive administration.

It is now clear that all markets: financial, commodity, political, relational and so on, respond positively to the idea that referents possess strong credibility in the sense that they are as good as their word.

The corollary equally applies: a reputation for Machiavellian deception, cynical dissembling and performative commitments that are manifestly, or ultimately hollow, lead to low trust, necessitating the use of violence as a substitute for credibility.

A sombre cumulonimbus, pregnant with broken promises, overhung Azimio la Umoja like a spectre from the diabolical realms.

Political culture

It is fair to observe that a radical transformation of our political culture is underway. Kenya Kwanza is pioneering a new normal. A person’s word is their bond.

The important lesson to draw from this applies to the many successes and failures of iconic leaders of yore.

Kenyan history is replete with accounts of many sleek politicians, festooned in scintillating aspirational optics of righteousness and fluent in the self-righteous vernacular of progressive movements, who fell on the sword of treachery or succumbed to a propensity for fraud. 

This is how the promise of Uhuru dissipated instantly at the dawn of self-government. It is also how the second liberation remained a perpetual mirage, to be salvaged by a veteran establishment stalwart who strategically reinvented himself when the coast was finally clear.

In the new spirit of sporting consideration, I refrain from remarking upon Raila Odinga’s numerous aborted quests to capture ultimate state power.

The point here is really quite elementary: it helps a great deal to have a reputation for promise keeping.

However, it is by far a superior proposition to possess an empirically verifiable track record of honouring commitments and redeeming pledges.

Most importantly, it is important to demonstrate that regardless of prevailing conditions, an actor nevertheless delivers, even at a great personal cost.

Many commentators have posited that rewarding loyalty is the best currency of the political marketplace.

That is only one dimension of the thing: nothing comes close to keeping promises in establishing and perfecting credibility.

To borrow an expression off the streets, rewarding loyalty is important; keeping promises is importanter.

Mr Ng’eno is a lawyer and former State House speechwriter.

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