Friday, March 04, 2016

A slippery slope indeed

When I was still trying to figure out how to get over bad news Like A Man, I remember a pretty funny story about our post-1990 post-Saba Saba politicians. Two of them had raised their voices at each other while in the National Assembly's debating chamber. As soon as the Speaker banged his gavel and released his inmates on recess, these two worthies decided to take their political disagreement to Parliament's lawn, where, if I am not mistaken, one of them bit the other "on the back" as one of the dailies breathlessly reported the event. This was the proverbial beginning of the slippery slope.

In 2007, at the height of that bitter election, two contenders from the volatile Mt Elgon came to blows, leaving the loser of that brawl in tears of rage. The winner of the brawl went on to win the election. Just last week, in the middle of a bitter internecine contest for the senatorial seat left vacant by Charles Keter as he finally sits his ass down in the Energy waziri's chair, a senior politician claimed another senior politician was uncircumcised, and two members of the same party, if not the same alliance, came to blows while awaiting a flight in the VIP lounge at Wilson Airport.

It used to be that for you to even consider yourself a leader of men, you had to have total command of your emotions, only letting lose when it suited you and benefitted you. Daniel Moi is a pastmaster of the poker face, but when he used to demonstrate a hint of anger, the whole country trembled. This new breed of political leaders do not understand the value of a cool head in hot circumstances, and many of them are ruled by their passions, like wild dogs or big cats or some similar volatile beast of the wild. They have become an embarassment.

No matter how much schooling one has undergone, it matters not when one is an elected representative. A well-travelled, knowledgeable and apparently erudite governor with a resume that had taken him to the highest levels of the private sector couldn't restrain himself in the face of provocative acts by a gauche hairdo with the wit of a tub of lard. He lost my respect the day he lost control and physically assaulted her then lied about it. Now that you have members of the parliamentary leadership exchanging blows in public with their challengers, I don't think we can rely too much on common sense and logic prevailing in this Parliament.

It explains the President's frustrations in the war on graft. Kanu's reign of graft inculcated a sense of invincibility among the eaters and their enablers. While Baba Moi kept a cool head at all times, he encouraged the basest instincts of his most ardent and loyal foot-soldiers. Mwai Kibaki didn't have Mr Moi's deft hand, and neither does Uhuru Kenyatta. Mr Kibaki used his Sphinx-like silence to terrify his acolytes into obedience, though that strategy barely worked if at all. Uhuru Kenyatta has attempted to deploy his anger and rage to corral his underlings; it has only brought him grief.

The passions loosed upon Parliament will not be tamed; there is no incentive to tame them. We have become a nation of the entertained. Nigerian movies will no longer do, not even as they raise their game in special effects and script-writing. We are no longer held in thrall by their complicated love-triangles-with-uchawi-in-the-mix stories. Political verbal and physical combat is what commands our attention, and the more vulgar the verbiage and more slapstick the physical combat, the more entertained we are. 

The United States has the lunatic fringe of the GOP like Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson to keep them entertained while their retirement savings accounts are wiped out by sweetheart deals between big banks and the White House. Kenyans have their parliamentary leadership, a large dose of African software, a billion missing dollars and a fourth estate so somnambulant it is a wonder it hasn't sleepwalked its way into a fatal accident. When they say that we are on our own, these people are not fucking around about it.

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