Every once in a while, our leaders do something so random and out of the ordinary, and seemingly noble, as to persuade Kenyans that they are not as selfish as “media loves to brand them”. But, soon enough, exhausted by their charades, they reveal who they truly are.
Take the instance of Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter who, after his election, branded himself as “a man of the people”, one unafraid of taking on figures as powerful as the President and his deputy. A few short months later, Keter was caught on camera insulting police officers and Kenya Revenue Authority officials for failing to recognise his authority and release a truck that did not meet transport requirements. The MP, along with a nominated colleague, have been sued for breaching the constitutional provision on integrity and leadership.
Last month, the Kiambu County government announced it was reviewing the levies the county imposes on residents and business persons to “ease the cost of life” – it was the same government that had in 2013 imposed the punitive rates to prop up the county budget. A few weeks after that “philanthropic” announcement, media reported that the county government planned to spend Sh290 million on luxury cars for its executives and senior officials, drawing sharp public criticism, and raising questions on its commitment to service delivery.
In Kisumu, the county assembly reportedly set aside Sh3 million in the 2014/2015 financial years to be used to train MCAs how to use iPads; this for gadgets that offer users an easy guide on how to utilise their various applications. Following that revelation, it was later revealed that a certain personality had even offered to instruct the MCAs for free, a gesture that was accordingly ignored.
Meanwhile, in Nyamira County, the finance executive budgeted for and set aside Sh725, 000 for the purchase and maintenance of “boats and ferries” and allocated just Sh36, 000 for roads maintenance, in a county that has got no lake or large rivers. For what possible reason the estimates were approved, and how they would benefit the people, escapes anyone’s comprehension.
In the North Rift, where tribal clashed have caused the deaths of hundreds since January, none of the county governments has initiated a kitty to address the humanitarian challenges that have occurred as a result. In some parts of Turkana and Pokot Counties, residents cannot even venture out to perform the most basic of activities, like fetch water. Promises from regional and national governments to save the situation have come to nought.
The list doesn’t end here, and is certainly not confined to the regional governments. Time and again, there has been public outcry against decisions and actions by the national government that are seen to favour few at the expense of the masses. Who can forget, for instance, the Public Benefit Organisations Act, 2014, drafted and hurriedly passed just because senior government officials did not feel comfortable with organisations deemed “unfriendly” to the State, never mind the wide ranging services those agencies offer to the masses? Happily, a task force charged with collecting public views for incorporation has submitted its report, which will hopefully be implemented.
Leadership is more about offering service than it is getting people to do what you want them to do; this requires sacrifice – the willingness to give up one’s interest for the good of others. It is a responsibility. But this is not how this concept is understood here, and that is the beginning of our tragedy.
The truth is that, with a few exceptions, we have public figures who do not understand the meaning of leadership, and who have lost touch with reality and the people they claim to lead; their priorities are theirs alone.^