Thursday, March 03, 2016

I am loyal, but not a yes-man

For the record, I neither love nor loath my government; I am loyal to it, though, and I serve it, in my own querulous way because, after all, I am a civil servant Sorry, I am a public officer. Second, I do not believe that my colleagues in Government are quick-fingered, five-fingered-discount-loving pilferers out to amass wealth in creatively unlawful ways. Many are honest, hardworking and dedicated, who go over and above their duty t serve the public. 
Third, there are a few men and women who do not share my rose-tinted-glasses view of my government and have lost absolute faith that it is capable of improving the lives of Kenyans. There is little I can do about their pessimism. Finally, I believe that the leadership of Government was legitimately elected. We may argue over judicial integrity in election petitions, but unless proof is adduced to demonstrate that the electoral and judicial process was corrupted from the start, I will act as if I am serving the legitimate Government of Kenya as I will serve the next one and the one after that.

Despite all this, my loyalty does not mean that I am the perennial yes-man, sucking up to the powers that be and ignoring the toads among us. My Government will be ill-served if I do not speak out when bad people do bad things in the name of Government. I am not an amanuensis; I have a duty to point out that a particular scheme is bad if it is indeed bad. To that end, I will speak my mind in the hopes that I will contribute to the improvement of the lives of the people I serve.

There are those among us who forget that loyalty and sycophancy are two different things. Loyalty, to some extent, implies a measure of trust by the loyal servant to the leader. Sycophancy, on the other hand, is blind and unquestioning loyalty. The former requires judgment, while the latter eschews it completely. Even in our constitutional scheme, blind loyalty is frowned upon and, especially public officers, we are called to challenge unlawful orders. The spirit of the Nuremberg Trials infuses modern constitutionalism: it is no longer a defence that "I was just following orders." Sycophants don't get that.

I have had occasion to match wits with sycophants. The modern version of a sycophant is frequently very intelligent, capable of rationalising even the basest instincts of his master's voice, incapable of applying his brilliance to reason or logic. Challenging his outrageous assertions is a test of ones intelligence and forbearance, because for every rational and reasoned proposal, the sycophant will find a black-letter-law justification for why the proposal is disloyal or treasonous. My loyalty has been challenged many times, and I have been accused, believe you me, of trying to sabotage the Government simply because my interpretation of the Constitution and the law, for which I have been very well trained, does not square with the wild imaginations of some men and women close to the seats of power.

For these reasons, when I see that a scheme is wrong, or bad, or unlawful, I will speak out. It is in our interests that our leadership attain the highest degree of integrity and honesty in order to command our deepest loyalty, both as Kenyans and as public servants. If any one among them threatens this goal, they must be exposed and hounded from public life. Pessimism is not a solution; whingeing about how bad things are without offering solutions is not sustainable. We must support every effort to help our leaders be better than they are, so that we, in turn, can be better than we are.

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