We can’t keep voting like we do

Emurua Dikirr MP Johana Ng'eno returns to his home at Mogondo village upn being released from the Nakuru Police Station cells on September 11, 2020.

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Even in the worst of times, it is unusual, nay, unnatural, for a politician to target another politician’s mother and brother whatever grievances they may have.

The gross insults hurled at President Uhuru Kenyatta and his family by two MPs from the Rift Valley were meant to hit him where it hurts most. Clearly, the abuse was orchestrated by someone who knows him quite well.

Even in the worst of times, it is unusual, nay, unnatural, for a politician to target another politician’s mother and brother whatever grievances they may have, so it seems that this was a very crude warning delivered in a most boorish manner.

This matter is in court and so it would be imprudent to say anything more. However, the episode was enough to trigger a train of thought: will there be a time when Kenyans are satisfied with the leaders they elect, however imperfectly?

Will there be a time when they elect a man or woman who is a paragon of virtue, an economic guru, one who is capable of warding off epidemics, locust visitations, droughts, floods, ethnicity, poverty, corruption and all other evils and natural calamities by waving a magic wand?

The answer is simple; we shall wait for such a person till kingdom come. It is worrying that in the last 57 years, we do not seem to have elected any administration we could really admire.

I have no personal experience of most of the events that occurred in the 15 years Mzee Jomo Kenyatta ruled Kenya; I spent most of them in school and therefore can only rely on history.

No opposition

 But history has a knack of digging into the muck, and coming up with things that don’t smell too good, stuff that taints the legacy of rulers who had previously been icons. Mzee Kenyatta’s reign is replete with such things, and now the consensus is that he was a dictator who brooked no opposition and dealt cruelly with people he regarded as gadflies.

My own feeling is that Mzee Kenyatta’s reputation lies somewhere in between; he was a true nationalist and a great man who sacrificed a huge portion of his life fighting for this country, but he was no democrat, nor did he pretend to be.

If he harboured all the unsavoury traits of authoritarianism, so did almost all the founding fathers of newly-independent African nations. The one positive thing that can be said about his tenure is that the economy did relatively well in those first 15 years, though the seeds of mind-boggling inequality were also sown in the same period.

Then President Daniel arap Moi proceeded to misrule Kenya for the next 24 years. Despite the hagiography that followed his demise in February this year, and probably because he stayed too long in power, Moi managed to destroy this country’s economy to an unprecedented level.

 It was during his tenure that deadly communal violence became routine while corruption was entrenched among the elite. Almost all government-affiliated agencies were sucked dry by leeches in high office.

Nevertheless, in the first two decades of his rule, no one dared raise his voice, for not only did he finesse the art of crushing dissent through detention, imprisonment and exile, he also managed to convince us he was doing it for our own good. But that was until the winds of pluralism started blowing all over Africa. Today, some people venerate him, claiming his tenure was a godsend. That is quite debatable, but it is probably why they have gained such a heightened sense of entitlement that they throw infantile tantrums whenever they believe someone is trying to snatch the goodies from them.

Worst upheaval

President Mwai Kibaki fared relatively well, though his administration was marked by perhaps the worst upheaval this country has ever experienced. It was during his time that the 2007-2008 post-election violence happened, destroying in a month what had taken five years to build.

The country sunk to a level where the international community had to intervene to restore sanity. It was also during his tenure that the looting of public resources took giant strides, which, in retrospect, seem to have been baby steps compared to what is happening now.

One thing observers shouldn’t forget is that Kibaki’s reign coincided with the rise of social media whose anonymity gave cyber-cowards the means to hurl every imaginable epithet at him. It is amazing that today, he is said to be the best leader the country has ever had. Either afterthought turns ordinary men into icons, or we have set the bar too low.

 And this is where I’ll stop, because this administration is still a work in progress, though it is not clear in which direction. What is obvious is that we Kenyans will always be dissatisfied with our leadership until we devise an alternative way of choosing it.

We cannot keep electing leaders again and again because they promise us heaven on earth when we know it is all baloney. How then can we expect to get a government led by a philosopher-king? It won’t happen, however often we tinker with the Constitution.

Mr Ngwiri is a consultant editor; andrewngwiri@gmail.com