Friday, June 17, 2022

Banish them from the affairs of state

Ordinarily, the narcissism of a politician is enough to predict the degree of his ambitions: he wants to be the president. Kenya is anything but ordinary. That wag, Michael Joseph, and his dig about Kenyans' peculiar calling habits was more right that he will ever know. Kenyan politicians are not always motivated by the possibility of becoming president; it appears that the vast majority of them are motivated by the desire to simply occupy elected office and to use that office to wangle lucrative government tenders for which they shall be paid billions of shillings while delivering nothing more substantive than hot air.

Some time during the dark days of Kenya's Covid-19 nightmare, Nairobi City's senator was accosted by policemen in violation not only of the national curfew that was in force at the time but the strict social gathering rules that had been enacted to prevent the spread of the virus. Social media was awash with videos of the youthful politician invoking, variously, his status as a state officer and his connections to the highest offices in the nation. His loud, belligerent and uncouth claims were accompanied by threats and epithets against the policemen who were only doing their duty.

The wheel has turned full circle. Our once-blue-eyed boy finds himself out of favour with all those personages whose names he invoked with impunity. His gubernatorial candidature has come under heightened scrutiny and his claimed academic credentials have been undermined at every turn. It increasingly looks like his gubernatorial ambitions may come a cropper, and he has laid the blame for his straitened political circumstances at the feet of named and un-named high government officials.

What I find interesting is that for all his vaunted intelligence and cleverness, it never occurred to him that he may want to elevate his ambitions beyond the senate (a political backwater of shady deals and even shadier politicians), for which he would need to get all his credential ducks in a row. It appears that he laboured under the delusion that there are permanent political friends, and that as one of the boon friends of his current bĂȘte noire, he would always have a sympathetic ear whenever the forces of law and order threatened his cozy political sinecure. 

That our hapless candidate had to engineer a one-day bureaucratic maneuver in order to get his Ugandan university credentials past the IEBC officials should have warned him - and his boosters - that the smooth political road he had been traveling on had developed several deep potholes and it was time to shift gears. (Knowing what we know about the efficiency of Kenyan and Ugandan public institutions, it is nothing short of amazing that he got the Kenyan Commission of University Education and Ugandan National Commission of Higher Education to certify his university degree, and have the same reviewed and accepted by the IEBC and then, wonder of wonders, for him to be issued with a certificate of registration to stand in the election for Nairobi City governor.)

Our beleaguered politician is proof that foresight is not the defining feature of our political classes. He is merely the latest unprepared failure to trouble the national conscience, following hot on the heels of the recklessness of the former Vice President who has blown hot and cold about his place in one of the leading political coalitions fighting this year's general election. Both have shown that short-termism is what drives these people: their immediate needs blind them to the long-term benefits of defining their stances, choosing their horses, and planning accordingly. If both of them, and those like them, were to be banished for all eternity to the humdrum of "consulting", never to darken again the doors of the government, it would be too soon.

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