Instead of venting on Githeri Man, worry about values of Kenyan youth

Friday December 15 2017

By MUTHONI THANG'WA
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Kenyans should just give Martin Kamotho a break. The guy was just eating some githeri while trying to exercise his civic duty of voting on August 8, a photographer caught him in the ‘act’ and posted his picture on social media and then the ride began.

To the chagrin of some Kenyans, he got a presidential award on Jamhuri Day. My immediate reaction was that we were taking a joke too far as a nation. After all, awards were supposed to go only to people who have rendered distinguished service to this country and to society in general.

Then I read the disdain with which Kenyans on social media regard the working person and a different idea sprouted in my mind. What kind of future awaits this country if a working Kenyan who becomes the most famous voter in a year – through no making of his own – when our country historically held two general elections can be the focus of all their deleterious and unmannerly energy? Does any Kenyan really have a right to refer to Mr Kamotho in the terms of drunkard, unhygienic, shabby – or worse that he was honoured because he is Kikuyu and he was eating githeri?

KENYAN FIRST

I have since realised that there is hope, because it would seem these opinions are from the aging population in Kenya. The youth, those of the age between 18 and 35, who apparently make up 80 per cent of the Kenya population, do not identify with their tribal affiliation according to a survey by the Aga Khan University.

A majority think of themselves first as Kenyan, then youth. It was only five percent who identified with their tribe. Which is a good thing for this nation.

This is also a very well-educated population, with 78 per cent having attained post-primary education. Universal free primary education is bearing fruit. This will also mean that the population will expect more from government and life in general in future generations.

But there the good news ends. Fifty per cent of the youth believe that it is alright to make money through any means, just avoid being a guest of the State. Another 47 per cent admire those who have made money even if they cannot logically explain their wealth.

Which basically means they admire the KCB tunnel diggers before they were apprehended. Thirty per cent belief corruption is profitable – and there goes the future. How will Kenya fight corruption if her youth think it is a blameless game? What percentage of the rest of the population share this opinion?

REALITY AND EXPECTATIONS

A good number of the youth, especially those living in rural areas, would also vote for someone who bribed them. What kind of encouragement is that for one to practise one’s democratic right? This will continue to undermine our democratic processes by ensuring that the most corrupt get priority of access to public office.

This also supports the argument for strong independent institutions that would prevent the likes from running for public office in the first place. We all know what direction this conversation is taking, yes?

Sixty-five per cent of youth would like the government to address the issue of unemployment, since 50 per cent of the youth are unemployed. A majority of these youngsters do not think it is important to pay taxes. Showing a good disconnect between reality and expectations.

Where do the youth think the money that the government spends is generated from if not taxes? And since they are comfortable with riches from corruption, what will fund corruption if we expect tax collection to reduce even further in the future? The equation may yet balance itself!

FAMILY FIRST

According to the report, a majority of the youth value family first, followed by hard work. Does this mean we are headed to a time when Kenya will have family-oriented people who work hard at corruption?

The most trusted institution is the family followed by religious organisations. It would seem that those seed planting, “disease healing” outfits on every other street corner are here to stay. They have followers now and clearly in the future as well. So do those prosperity enterprises, led by socialites.

The study concludes, among other things of interest, that it is possible to have a socially cohesive society given that it is only the population over thirty-five that first identifies with their ethnicity.

A Kenyan-first identity would be a great achievement of the current generation should this opinion calcify when they are older. Age does strange things to people – as the saying goes, some turn to wine, others to vinegar.

So instead of venting on one voter, Kenyans should be more concerned about the values that we are instilling in the youth. The responsibility lies squarely on the population given that a majority seem to believe in the entity of family. Kenya will have grim to reap if we advance in the direction of a well-educated population, without ethic and unbothered by corruption.

Twitter: @muthonithangwa