Here is to new beginnings, and then some

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By Phoebe Nadupoi

I like new beginnings. That is what the New Year means to me; an opportunity to begin all over again! If the previous year was bad, there is an opportunity to turn things around. If it was good, there is a chance to make better.  As we step into the New Year, it is important to reflect on the events that shaped 2015, to understand what we should bolster in 2016 and what must we bury in the sea of forgetfulness. Here is my recollection of what defined 2015. As good practice dictates, I will begin with the bad.

Nothing – absolutely nothing – sapped our energies and drained our resources more than corruption. It is the one theme that resonated throughout the year. Talk of land grabbing, bribery to sabotage the course of justice (as was the case of Pastor Ng’ang’a), the National Youth Service scandal to revelations of wanton wastage of tax payers’ money among others. Right from the beginning of the year, corruption had escalated to unimaginable heights prompting the Head of State on March 26, 2015 to make it his sole agenda in his address to the nation. The President pulled a first, naming cabinet secretaries and other senior government officials allegedly implicated in corruption and compelling them to step aside. He further directed the Attorney-General to form an inter-agency task force to come up with strategies to combat graft. This injected hope in an otherwise desperate situation.

It was, however, short-lived as we quickly reverted to our old ways.

The situation in our country reminds me of Chinua Achebe’s No Longer At Ease. A young man, Obi Okonkwo, from Umuofia village is convicted of corruption, specifically accepting a bribe. He is England-educated and the only representative of Umuofia in the public service.

A crisis meeting is quickly convened to fundraise for the fine when he loses the case lest he be jailed. The oldest man while addressing the gathering says, “Many towns have four or five or even ten of their sons in European posts in this city. Umuofia has only one. And now our enemies say that even that one is too many for us…” Sound familiar?

It is interesting to note that Obi is not vilified for his sin by the elders. In fact, the only issue they fault him for is that he was caught. One elder, for instance, blames lack of experience. He says: “Obi tried to do what everyone does without finding out how it is done.” It strikes me how Umuofia aptly captures the situation in our country.

There are crucial lessons to be learnt here. First, we cannot slay the dragon of corruption if whenever, our tribesman is implicated, we marshal all our resources – money or otherwise – to protect them because he or she is “ours”. Second, we must agree to see corruption for what it is – an evil we must confront. For as long as we think it is not a big deal because everybody is engaging in it, then we are doomed. As I have written here before, citizens are an important catalyst for good governance, but greater responsibility rests with duty bearers.

Aside from the depressing talk, I must say Kenya scored big with the visits of US President Barrack Obama and the Pope, which it capped with the hosting of the WTO conference in December. These events portend great hope for our beloved nation and confirm its significance in the continent and, indeed, in the world. Have we reaped maximum benefits from these, and how do we leverage on these events to cultivate winning strategies for 2016 and beyond?

I made an observation about the visits of President Obama and Pope Francis. Kenyans had a long list of things they wanted Obama to speak to: there was of course corruption, and there was split opinion on the more sensitive issues of gay marriages among others. Similarly, Kenyans wanted the Pope to, besides prayer, address himself to issues that bother Kenyans, and again corruption featured prominently. In my view, we pretty much know what ails us!

Looking ahead, I have lots of expectations, the challenges that characterised 2015 notwithstanding. I look forward to a year where the newly appointed cabinet and principal secretaries and their counterparts who were already in office will take up their roles with zeal and turn-around service delivery; that despite the despair in the fight against graft, the new EACC commissioners will surprise Kenyans, and make engaging in any form of graft most undesirable; that the AG-led taskforce augment efforts to fight corruption by implementing its recommendations; that the media will thrive and enjoy their constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms; and that politicians will act honourably, and that we will not hear much hate speech.

On my part, I intend to play my role in building the nation, better than I did last year. Happy 2016!

Writer is a communications practitioner; E-mail: pnadupoi@gmail.com

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