As we go to the polls, let’s be wary of political narcissists

ODM primaries

Voters scamper for safety as a police officer shoots in the air after a group of youths caused chaos during the ODM primaries in Nyakach constituency on April 19, 2022. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The violence witnessed during this year’s party primaries is a function of this wrong consciousness.
  • A political seat should not be viewed as a gateway to riches but as a genuine desire to help the poor.

Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At the time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas or Jesus the Messiah? They shouted back, Give us Barabbas! What shall I do, then, with Jesus, the Saviour? They all answered, “Crucify him!”

This is a famed passage captured in the four gospels of the bible. It is one of the paradoxes in human history that fills our hearts with fear when read today, especially after the just concluded party primaries. This passage records that while Jesus, the messiah, was well known for feeding the poor and healing the sick, Barabbas was a familiar prisoner jailed for murder and causing chaos. Yet when people were allowed to choose, they picked the murderer and angrily committed their saviour to a shameful death.

Whereas it is not documented what Barabbas did after his surprise release, we know from the Pavlovian dogs that fingers used to explore other people’s pockets itch at the mention of pockets. This man probably continued murdering and mugging citizens near Jerusalem.

But gauging from the just concluded party primaries, it is clear that often we thrive in chaos; we love the aggressors. We, the people. Clinging on empty rhetorical slogans that even the architects of the same slogans don’t understand, we preach aggression and ethnic hate. With unbridled temerity, we suspend reason; ideals such as truth and morality are broken. Then, with renewed energy, we release Barabbas and send him to the national assembly or the county assembly to represent us. We, the people.

But my good people, let us not lie to one another; Barabbas will nibble our taxes away and gobble all our jobs and run down our health systems and education. Because we suspended critical thinking and reason when we vote in Barabbas, he or she would wish we remain that way forever. Barabbas cannot accept defeat, cannot stomach questions and critical minds. 

As a reminder, I must tell you what happened to the people of Abazon in Chinua Achebe’s novel Anthills of the Savannah, who voted no to a referendum that aimed to make the Big Chief a ruler for life. But because the people of Abazon voted no to this undemocratic and ridiculous suggestion, the Big Chief ordered all the water boreholes which were being dug in the area to be closed so that “you will know what it means to offend the sun. You will suffer so much that in your next reincarnation, you will need no one to tell you to say yes whether the matter is clear to you or not.”

We have witnessed this story of Abazonians reproduced even here in Kenya. Leaders such as these have a well-orchestrated story of “superiority.” Once in power, they belittle everyone else, steal as if there is no tomorrow, and get angry at not receiving special treatment for whatever they desire. They are highly sensitive to receiving criticism and often hide their profound insecurity. These leaders are always the victims, even when they control the conditions that affect everyone else. And where they do not claim to be victims, they rationalise their behaviour as “human nature.”

Why does such behaviour flourish in our society today, you may ask? In part, it persists because it is seductive. Secondly, we, the people, nurse, support and even worship these fake messiahs (by the way, the first name for Barabbas was Jesus). Many people, even those dominated, want Barabbas-like leaders because that would give some meaning to their suffering by making their domination seem okay. They cannot, in other words, face its truth. This kind of leadership forces negative and false self-images onto others, reproducing wrong kinds of consciousness into our society.

The violence, threats of violence witnessed during this year’s party primaries is a function of this wrong consciousness. The rise of Barabbas-like characters should not be seen as an isolated crisis; it is indicative of a broader crisis within humanity today. We need to listen keenly to the moral police amongst us, those critical members of our society, those people we hate for telling us the truth and escape the self-inflicted pain that is slowly threatening our very existence. The writing is on the wall, my good people. We need a complete redefinition of who a leader should be; we need to tell each other the truth. This jaundiced admiration by the voters for the Mercedes-Benz driving, private-jet-flying oppressors should stop.

A political seat should not be viewed as a gateway to riches but as a genuine desire to help the poor improve our health system and education. But, unfortunately, nowadays, even peasants who become politicians quickly cut links with the poor and dispossessed of ‘this our land’ with the bruised heart that throbs painfully at the core of the nation’s being.

Dr Mutie teaches Literary Studies at Kenyatta University, Main Campus