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Let us rethink democracy as it is not serving us well

Friday August 25 2017

People queue outside a polling station in Moi Avenue Primary School, Nairobi, to cast their votes during the August 8, 2017 General Election. PHOTO | JOAN PERERUAN | NATION MEDIA GROUP

People queue outside a polling station in Moi Avenue Primary School, Nairobi, to cast their votes during the August 8, 2017 General Election. PHOTO | JOAN PERERUAN | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By NDINDI NYORO

"Give me liberty or give me death” are words that were spoken by American statesman and attorney Patrick Henry in the second Virginia Convention.

It was in 1775, just a year to American independence from the British.

He had earlier spoken candidly and eloquently against the British colonisers and in exaltation of freedom. However, as he rightly put it in the same speech, “But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony.”

I have of late come to a point of entertaining thoughts that promote the opposite of freedoms and democracy.

Possibly, freedom has been redefined to mean different things from those Henry was prepared to pay the ultimate price.

DEMOCRACY

For a start, it is my opinion that democracy is bad. Maybe in the Kenyan setup or Africa as a whole. I actually do not think it is good for the world.

There could be an element of changing dynamics as societies evolve and go into cycles that most invariably go into circles.

The more things change, the more they remain the same. Back to the basics, we are just emerging from an election — the only tangible practice that defines democracy.

We have held many other polls before. It is time we audited this culture. Are we engaging in some kind of foolish consistency and fear to explore alternatives or are we still entertaining democracy because we have tangible benefits from it?

When did elections make our lives better? It is time we looked for alternatives and try them. History can come to our rescue with its abundance of choices.

I miss Libya under Muammar Gaddafi. Serenity, abundance and development defined it. It has now descended into ruins amid democracy and expanded freedoms.

QUALITY OF LIFE

If the gains of democracy were to be measured by the quality of life, then it has failed Libyans and most who practise it. The same can be said about many other cases that history presents.

Some countries we admire by the great steps they have taken realised this much earlier and discarded the myth. They took the majestic route that galvanised their fabric and emerged better.

One overused and overquoted economic giant is Singapore, with a per capita GDP of around $52,000 (Sh5.2 million).

The country is much way ahead in almost all parameters compared to our country that lags at $1,300 (Sh130,000).

The UAE is another great country, whose city Dubai is more popular than its capital Abu Dhabi. I have been to this country and learning about their journey was eye-opening.

With the right management of their natural resource, oil, the country has seen total transformation within a shorter period than the age of our country.

WASTEFUL FREEDOMS

What is common about these two countries and many more is that wasteful freedoms christened as democracy are not too common. But the question is who would rather die of hunger at the expense of a vote?

Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore and Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan of the UAE understood that history was not to judge them on who had what freedoms; history was to judge them in terms of real deliverables.

Fortunately, the two great leaders did well and delivered their countries from more painful chains of poverty into wealth, abundance and more choices.

Only those who have not experienced the alternatives would yearn for them. In fact, wealth offers more freedoms than democracy.

What our country needs is a benevolent dictator with a clear mission of making Kenya great. He should appoint judges, order hanging of the corrupt and oversee a clean-up of our systems.

He must be given a free hand to make things right on our behalf. Institutions have proved to be moribund.

EXPENSIVE

That is why an expensive exercise of democracy like the one we just had is a leakage of resources. Even losers can, with disdain, decide not to accept results.

History has also taught us that in most cases, societies go through some cycles in the journey of refinement and stability.

Virtue breeds quiet, quiet breeds indolence, indolence breeds disorder, disorder breeds ruin. Similarly, out of ruin, order is born; from order, virtue is born; and out of this, glory and good fortune arise.

Kenya has gone through quiet, and we are almost done with indolence and the sun is rising on disorder.

We can, as a nation, decide to jump ruin by birthing a new way of handling our future. The fact that opposition leaders can misuse freedoms and make pronouncements that are likely to cause ruin and chaos is proof that we are disorderly.

When you have too little to lose, it is prudent you look out. Democracy is expensive and clearly not working. It is time we explored the alternatives. And the right alternative is benevolent dictatorship.

We only need to come up with a mechanism to identify the individual and Kenya will rise to majestic heights.

Ndindi Nyoro is the Kiharu MP-elect and an economist.