FRONT ROW: Bad citizens can only get bad leaders - Daily Nation

Bad citizens can only get bad leaders

Monday January 19 2015

Part of the land that Lang’ata Primary School

Part of the land that Lang’ata Primary School in Nairobi has claimed ownership against a private developer who wants to put up a shopping mall. Activists are planning demonstrations at the disputed Lang’ata Primary School playground Monday to push for its return to the school. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By LARRY MADOWO
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If you don’t like your elected leaders, have you considered that maybe you’re not that much more likable yourself?

How did that individual get elected in the first place? Your local county representative, the person you sent to the National Assembly or the governor.

You complain about them constantly and yet you keep them in power. We get the leaders we deserve.

I chanced upon a Facebook thread by ODM politician Eliud Owalo about the supposed land grabbing of Lang’ata Road Primary School’s playground.

He laid out the case about how the Weston Hotel allegedly came to own the land using a maze of perfectly legal moves. It all came tumbling down in the comments.

I was more interested in those reactions than his actual narrative, considering his obvious biases. The Luo-looking names all agreed with Owalo, almost to the last person.

The Kikuyu or Kalenjin-looking names went on the offensive, deconstructing his argument and calling him names.

It’s our turn to eat

“Your baba had his moment when he was prime minister,” one gentleman reminded him.

“It’s our turn to eat!” The irony was overwhelming. It’s Our Turn To Eat. That was also the title of Michela Wrong’s book on John Githongo and how the anti -corruption czar famously fell out of, and with, the Kibaki administration.

I never thought that same phrase would be used to justify the actions of a supposedly progressive government, even if just by an ignorant supporter.

Yet these are the people voting. They are the ones our democracy burdens with the important, life-changing work of selecting who will lead us.

The raging tribalists running amok throughout the vast wasteland of social media determine our future.

If their understanding of basic issues is so limited and their facility for interrogating facts so clearly bankrupt, how can they be trusted to elect the right people?

Mercifully, the whole country is made up of diverse demographics, with people of varying intelligence and points of view, folks of negotiable political affections as well as brave citizens who live by admirable principles.

Many leaders, little leadership

How then can all these people collectively and repeatedly vote for the same crop of dishonest, corrupt politicians every election cycle?

Why don’t some of the exceptional people in society offer themselves up for leadership and why don’t they get elected?

Kenyan voters have perfected the fine art of separating the wheat from the chaff and seeing to it that the chaff is elected.

When the senior chaff get to the office, they appoint fellow chaff to chair parastatals and to head embassies.

Nowhere else is mediocrity rewarded more than in the political process in Kenya. Come the next election, rinse and repeat ad infinitum.

My theory is simple: we’re just as bad as our leaders, if not worse.

The average Kenyan will bribe a policeman to avoid a date with a judge even for a minor infraction, will happily give a 10 per cent kickback to a procurement officer in exchange for a tender, and will have no problem seeking a shortcut to get a passport renewed faster, even though the process takes less than a week anyway.

At heart, we’re all tenderpreneurs, like the politicians we pretend to castigate. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. All hope abandon ye who enter here.

If we remain poor, corrupt and unprincipled as a society, it is because we scraped the bottom of the barrel for those who lead us.

You might argue that the best people shy away from entering the “dirty” world of politics.

That’s not entirely true because every society has idealistic people who believe they can be the change they wish to see in the world. I feel that Kenyan politics needs to come with a rider: Abandon hope all ye who enter.

As a nation, we need to reduce our expectations of our leaders. In fact, we don’t need to have expectations.

That way, we can never be disappointed. If they achieve even the littlest of progress, we will be genuinely startled because it was inconceivable.

If we were not lying, thieving, morally inept people in our own private lives, we would have the moral authority to criticise our leadership.

But we aren’t and so we shouldn’t. Take that lesso or T-shirt or whatever other little gift they offer you at election time, vote for them and then expect nothing. You can never be disappointed.

But you’re out there spreading your brand of ignorance and prejudice, cutting corners in everyday life, doing the bare minimum at work, stealing from your boss, and being a hypocrite by every religious standard yet you miraculously expect an upright leader.

Scum begets scum. Politics, like the media, is a reflection of the society. If you don’t like the image in the mirror, check yourself.

Madowo is the technology editor, NTV. Send your feedback to [email protected]

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Drop in fuel prices lifts gloomy mood that characterises January

INSTEAD OF LAMENTATION and gnashing of teeth, the past week has brought rare celebration and optimism to the long, dark month of January.

Fuel prices dropped to the lowest in four months, according to the clever people who set the formula at the Energy Regulatory Commission.

Back when they were introduced, I remember speaking to economists scandalised that the government would even consider price controls in a free-market economy.

It might have taken four years to realise some of the benefits of that control, but was it too little too late?

“Fuel prices in Kenya reduced by 19 per cent between May 2014 and January 2015,” pointed out the Twitter account @KResearcher. “Crude oil prices reduced by 57 per cent in the same period.”

For argument’s sake, would the oil marketers have voluntarily reduced prices as international crude prices dropped? Very unlikely. And I should know, having spent five years as a business reporter.

But should the regulator have forced the price even lower?

Probably.

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On hate speech, Jubilee should go after big fish, not small fry

THE INTOLERANCE OF the Jubilee government, or at least one side of it, grows ever more apparent. Over the weekend, panic about blogger Abraham Kiplang’at Mutai’s whereabouts was the most recent reminder.

Allan Wadi, 22, is serving a two-year sentence for a thoughtless but not lethal Facebook post. It has a sadistic quality, this intolerance for criticism, like something out of Game of Thrones.

It’s as if the collective commentariat online and offline are Cersei in the series, getting a warning from the digital government: “A day will come when you think yourself safe and happy, and suddenly your joy will turn to ashes.”

The government is the evil Tyrion, of course, taking revenge for some unknown sin the bloggers and activists committed. The government lulled them all into comfort, making them think it digital-friendly, then systematically cracking down on free speech.

Whistleblowers everywhere should be afraid. There is no telling what harm will come to them, or what law will be used to entrap them.

But the real dangerous speakers like MP Moses Kuria get a chance to apologise in lieu of criminal prosecution. Truly, some animals are more equal than others.