Let’s teach these ‘waheshimiwa’ a lesson

As long as we get people to lead us whose only fixation is to consume the existing resources, but are not innovative enough to expand the national cake, then our problem will not end

Kenyans stand accused of exalting politicians and politics beyond their intrinsic worth.

The very politicians have hijacked and derailed the nobly conceived Kenyan project, and replaced it with selfish, ethnically motivated dishonest posturing. The politics of ethnic bigotry, jingoism and hatred appear to be defining every sphere of our life, including social networks, relationships, perceptions about ourselves and ‘others’, and even economics.

We have given politicians a clean slate, to define for us who we are, and what trajectory we must take in literally everything that matters in human life. They decide which laws should have full force, and the ones that must be made ineffectual through legislative emasculation.

Politicians decide who sits in the cabinet, who becomes a Principal Secretary, which position in the public service should enjoy tenure of office, and those that should not. These men and women enjoy unfettered discretion in almost all decisions that affect the wellbeing of citizens.

As a result, they think that their births were the most important events that ever happened in our land, and this fact, they believe, gives them a sense of entitlement to lord it over the rest of us.

Ideally, the value of a human being does not rest on the fact that he or she is a professor, an engineer, doctor, lawyer, priest, pastor, teacher, trader, cobbler, policeman, tout, politician, or manager, but how well they discharge their official responsibilities.

They derive respectability from the value that they bring to the job. Hence the Swahili term ‘Mheshimiwa’, which loosely translates to ‘respected’ in English. I do not know at what point this term was surrendered to politicians.

But, as they say, a society gets the kind of leaders that they deserve. Our politicians see our ethnic diversity not as a source of synergistic benefits, but as natural fissures that affirm how different we are.

There is a South African saying that “politicians are like bananas: they all stick together, and none is straight.” So, if you think you are doing your society good by fighting your neighbour in the name of your preferred politician, you had better think again.

It is sad that the role of educating society has been abdicated to politicians who routinely control, overtly or covertly, what journalists say or write for mass consumption. Hence, most of the analyses that come through in the major national dailies can hardly pass literacy mark.

And a lot of times, it’s because either they have been influenced or threatened by politicians, or the editors themselves have taken a political position.

This is why Kenyans are slowly but surely building anger and hatred against enemies of their preferred politicians without as much as trying to find out the cause of this enmity.

National cohesion thus becomes a mirage. Remember, that for as long as we get people to lead us whose only fixation is to consume the existing resources, but are not innovative enough to expand the national cake, then our problem will not end any time soon. And we shall surely continue to manifest hostilities and other primitive tendencies normally associated with lower animals.

Meanwhile, other countries continue to systematically angle themselves to claim their rightful positions at the table of civilised, progressive nations of the world.

Kenyans must join hands across ethnic and political divides, and teach these ill-mannered politicians a lesson of their life time.

Prof Okoth Ongore is a lecturer, researcher, author and social commentator