Friday, October 11, 2013

It's the little things...

Being a leader is harder than it looks, as Rachel Shebesh, the Nairobi City County Woman Representative is discovering. One must maintain a certain level of political decorum even in the face of great temptation to go all out in a bid to build up a profile that will guarantee re-election the next go-around. Her political star has risen in every election, especially since she ditched the listing ODM canoe for the sailing-in-the-high-seas TNA speedboat. She made the correct political decision to dump Raila Odinga for Uhuru Kenyatta; Odinga's party was out of fresh ideas and out of time while Uhuru Kenyatta's party was the Second Coming in Kenyan politics.

But, Mrs Shebesh's antics during the general election raised doubts about her political savvy. When she picked sides in the Battle for Othaya, she made Uhuru Kenyatta's life difficult for no political gain. When she, and several other members of TNA, insisted that Uhuru Kenyatta had no say over whether he could withdraw from the presidential contest, she was getting way ahead of herself, and her party, in matters over which she had no control. Her public partnership with the man who would become the Senator of Nairobi City County, she raised eyebrows when they need not have been raised in the first place. And she did nothing to endear volatile university students to her party, or her campaign, by accusing female university students of prostitution.

She must have been on a mission to rehabilitate her political halo when she led Nairobi City workers to the Governor's Office to demand better working conditions for them. She chose the wrong tactics in her confrontation with the Governor. While Kenyan politics is all hurly-burly, it pays to know when to loudly confront the guy on the other side, and when to negotiate soberly. She picked the wrong fight, with the wrong man, at the wrong time and ended up being embarrassed on camera. Now her relationship with the Nairobi Senator is being exploited for the salacious enjoyment of Kenyans who cannot get enough of salacious enjoyment. as a result of the tumult caused by recent events, she has been forced to resign from parliamentary committees. She may yet again make a comeback, but in the Digital Age, the digital footprints of the events of the past month will be used as cannon fodder every time she gets out of line or out of hand.

Mrs Shebesh should have taken a leaf out of Charity Ngilu's book, or Martha Karua's. Mrs Ngilu famously fought a vendetta with the Vice-President and came out smelling of roses. Martha Karua took on no less than two presidents and built it up into a credible presidential run, albeit an unsuccessful sun. Mrs Shebesh has very little to show for her vivacious personality, but shame for her husband and children. Instead of leading a fight with both political and intellectual weapons, she chose the tactics that served Ferdinand Waititu and Gideon Mbuvi aka Mike Sonko well in the trenches of the general election. She forgot that regardless of the claims to the equality of women enshrined in the Bill of Rights, Kenyans are not ready to give women a lot of space to behave just as men do in the political arena. There is much Kenyans will forgive, but not alleged salacious adventures by women politicians.

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