Thursday, May 10, 2012



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
May 9, 2012

It has been one hell of a week; a week of high stakes and drama. All manner of hecklers and publicity seekers have been on the prowl craving for attention. They have used all manner of antics and theatrics to get noticed. Some of them with dubious character and background have certainly found an avenue to claim prime time spots on our local media, not because they had anything constructive to tell us but rather they managed to malign and vilify their opponents in the loudest voice they could master.

Take the case of the Mudavadi – Raila brick bats that started at the weekend; what was that all about? How come people who until a few weeks ago were the best of buddies could be so vicious all of a sudden? Much as the worst of the invectives did not come from the principal protagonists, their spokesmen and strategists played into one another’s hands and came out with eggs on their faces in equal measure. In the end they equally portrayed their principals in bad light.

Can we see better manners, more civilized and constructive exchanges in the near future among all presidential aspirants and their handlers? I guess so but I cannot promise you anything. This is Kenya where the politics of ideas and ideologies are in short supply. Our short-cut to fame and vote harvesting has never been on the platform of ideas or party manifestos because we have only one manifesto for all our forty plus political parties. They all want to fight corruption, build schools, roads, bridges, hospitals, houses, create jobs, upgrade slums and care for children and widows and of course grow the economy!

In this kind of scenario, it is easier to go for the jugular and mudsling your opponent as much as you can until the public cannot recognize the original human being.

However, there is a danger in exposing the skeletons in our neighbor’s closet. Chances are the law of velocity will most likely apply. And as they say, for every action, there is likely to be an equal and opposite reaction.
This principle in political terms is supported by the adage that says that those who live in glass houses should be weary of throwing stones at people who pass because a barrage of stones is likely to shatter their walls.

Kenya in the last 20 years has seen a litany of mega scandals most which have yet to be resolved. If you look at the Golden Berg, Anglo Leasing, Triton, Maize, Water, De La Rue, Grand Regency, Japan Embassy, Mau Forest, the recent National Housing Corporation, KPA appointments, Mavoko Cemetery, Free Primary Education Fund, KAA land scandal, the perennial NSSF litany of scandals, not to mention the NHIF saga; you can be sure that 98% of political leadership and top civil servants have been caught in crossfire or entangled in the web one way or another.

It is therefore more sensible to concentrate on what one’s presidency will do to the people of Kenya once elected rather than competing to vilify one another. This should be the modus operandi; the doctrine of restraint that should guide presidential candidates, their spokesmen and think tanks.

A good strategist should strive to floor his opponents on a platform of ideas, logical presentation and charisma while at the same time working hard to woo his opponent’s relatives, friends and family members. However, if you abuse and embarrass your opponent, chances are; you will alienate his relatives, friends and even clan and tribe. In such a situation you have lost substantial votes and reaped resentment.

The NHIF drama was even more disgusting this week to say the least. It had all the makings of high stakes political intrigue, backstabbing, bribery and brinkmanship. It also for the umpteenth time displayed to us the uglier side of a dysfunctional government where law, order, procedure and decency have been thrown through the window.

For how else can you explain the behavior of a chairman of a government corporation walking into the boardroom and single handedly announces to board members that he has sacked the CEO of the organization in disregard of the laid down procedure and protocols?

When you see a chairman of a public corporation and his deputy fighting over chairs and TV cameras in front of journalists, you have proof that both of them are not fit to be leaders.

When you see a junior minister calling a press conference to malign his boss in the boss’s absence, you know that all is lost. It is the lowest one can fall.
When you see a head of the civil service unprocedurally sacking the entire board and CEO of a government corporation, you know the law of the jungle has set in.

Any decent and functioning government all over the world must have the laid down procedures of hiring and firing civil servants and more importantly of investigating economic crimes, theft by servant and graft. It cannot be everybody’s job.

More so public servants should never be fired through the press. They deserve to have it in writing why you are firing them. Bosses are not gods to do as they wish with their employees. The people we love to sack have families and friends who care for them no matter how much we hate them or relish unleashing excessive powers on them.

Let us manage our politics and affairs of our nation like civilized and responsible men and women of this country.