What you need to know:
- Every piece of spending should be like a move in chess; it must capture a meaty piece.
- A government that does not see far, or is not insanely ambitious, is of little value.
The highest, most terrifying and horrible juju in my tribe is a ceremony called the Curse of the Striking of the Goat. It is apocalyptic, a total wipe-out. In this curse, a suspect swears that, if he has stolen, then may he and the entirety of his lineage crumble like the roots of the ikobo banana (a plant with the botanical name Ensete ventricosum and which, probably, does not grow in your village).
This curse is not invoked over minor squables; it is reserved for serious bananas. Most clans will not allow their members to “strike the goat”. They figure: Why should we and all our descendants risk being wiped out in a juju apocalypse because some guy has got into a controversy?
Now, it is likely that it is all mumbo jumbo voodoo nonsense dreamt up by some crafty elders to keep the folk straight. But suppose it isn’t?
Surprisingly, no community today uses traditional technology to rein in wayward members, especially those in leadership who will steal community wealth and oppress the widows. This is particularly surprising, given the complete failure of the laws and the courts to enforce conformity. Goldenberg was in 1994; nobody was ever convicted for it, 27 years later.
Counties are great. They are tunnels for channelling resources to the base. They are refuges from an overbearing and increasing despotic centre. There is no tribalism at most counties; counties are family. They are our best bet in creating working political and economic units which collectively can build a strong, powerful country.
Unfortunately, not all of our counties are managed by the type of visionary leaders who can realise their potential. Some are led by fashionista, celeb-crazed, designer-encased, hormone-fuelled simpletons. Others by old, used-up battle axes from the centre who have taken robbery without violence to the base. Yet others are led by folks who are clearly not well or are unfit for a job more complex than emptying the village cattle dip: Bewildered villagers, paranoids, megalamoniacs, kleptocrats, confused buraucrats and ne’er-do-wells.
And then, of course there are the solid, decent, competent people putting in hard work and passion to build strong communities and create prosperity.
Here are 10 things I think those good people can do to protect and grow our counties, sort of proto-manifesto for the future:
One, please use the money well. Counties get a hell of a lot of money. Collect fair cess, squeeze every dime from the centre but ensure maximum value for every shilling. Every piece of spending should be like a move in chess; it must capture a meaty piece.
Do the giraffe thing
Two, make smart, long-term plans. Very little can be achieved in a few years. A government that does not see far, or is not insanely ambitious, is of little value. Dream big, do the giraffe thing.
Three, fix procurement, make it honest. If the governor and his family are so low quality that they are fighting with common garden variety ‘tenderpreneurs’ to impoverish the county, all is lost. Corrupt procurement destroyed the powerful Kenyan economy we once had; please don’t take that disease to your county.
Make honest, smart laws. The illiterate, pot-bellied, globe-trotting, benchmark-loving MCA must be replaced by respectable lawyers, competent no-nonsense headmasters, recognised religious leaders, successful professionals and other actualised citizens whose only desire is to serve. Without good laws, the counties become jungles.
Four, build a smart, effective, honest, digital-savvy and optimal labour force. Don’t recruit for politics, don’t bloat the payroll. Hire first-class people and only the number you need.
Five, income is king. Invest not in projects that make you look good but those which put money in the pockets of your voters. Poverty is our biggest problem.
Six, modernise. Make sure your county is 50 years ahead of the rest: Technology, processes, laws, everything. Future- and climate-proof everything that affects your people’s welfare. Protecting the environment is not a fad; it is a survival strategy.
Seven: Unflinching relentless focus on world-class human services. Education, health, housing, sanitation, water, air quality — plan, save, steal if you must, but consistently give your people the very best. Prosperity equals good quality of life.
Eight, defend, build and venerate the republic, its economy, sovereignty, prestige and security. It’s bigger than your county and it is our rock and shield. Without it, we are just a bunch of defenceless villagers.
Nine, build a tradition of equity, fairness and decency in government. This is the civilisational mission of every leader worth the job. Solid values that create a happy, stable society are part of the reason the Lord put you on this earth. If you have no values, you shouldn’t be in leadership.
Ten, research, conserve and transmit tribal culture. We are Africans; for us to be always African, we must preserve and hand over to future generations our identity.
Let us keep our stuff, that Curse of the Striking of the Goat, for instance, near and dear to us.