#FRONTROW: Our universities have been reduced to tribal fiefdoms - Daily Nation

#FRONTROW: Our universities have been reduced to tribal fiefdoms

Tuesday September 27 2016

Governor Jackson Mandago when he led protests against the appointment of Prof Laban Ayiro as acting Moi University Vice-Chancellor. He had accused NCIC of bias for failing to summon Mr Raila Odinga. PHOTO| FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Governor Jackson Mandago when he led protests against the appointment of Prof Laban Ayiro as acting Moi University Vice-Chancellor. He had accused NCIC of bias for failing to summon Mr Raila Odinga. PHOTO| FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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It is unfortunate that some people consider Prof Laban Ayiro unfit to be vice chancellor — acting or otherwise — of Moi University in Eldoret. To them, the former chemistry teacher’s wide experience in academia is irrelevant. The man is a Luhya, so obviously unsuitable to lead a university in Kalenjin country. As far as Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago and his Elgeyo Marakwet colleague, Alex Tolgos, are concerned, no “outsiders” should be running “their” university.

Mandago, Tolgos, as well as the MPs and MCAs opposed to Prof Ayiro are “brave” leaders who don’t mind public ridicule for having unpopular opinions. They consider his appointment an injustice and are the outliers courageous enough to speak up before

it is too late. All great progress has come because of daring souls like them, pioneers who withstood strong opposition to heroically move the world forward.

Future generations will owe them a debt of gratitude for having the fortitude to stand up when a grave mistake had been made.

A professional has no business heading an institution of higher learning that prides itself as a “foundation of knowledge” when a village elder with the right last name can do that. Apparently, appointments should not be made strictly on merit.  Politicians might

as well be encouraged to regularly storm campuses, protest disruptively and install whoever they anoint as appropriate for the village headman, sorry, vice chancellor.

“We’re not fools,” said Governor Mandago without a trace of irony. “You wait for the deputy president to leave the country to make funny appointments so that it looks like the DP has no support in his backyard.”

Of course, everything is about politics and optics and any reasonable argument that doesn’t fit the narrative should not be entertained.


Nothing is more important than making sure that the whole country sees that Rift Valley has no issues and the deputy president has support in his backyard. Even when considering who should lead a university with nine campuses across the country, you must pander to the lowest common denominator of tribe.

A man who has previously been in charge of quality assurance and standards, who has taught at the University of Texas A&M and published more than 30 times must still be from the right tribe or he is automatically disqualified. Remember that you are not interested in being national leaders, your only interest is in becoming a tribal kingpin.

If it were up to Mandago and Tolgos, they would want perfectly homogenous communities in their counties. Those who live, work or study there must all have been born right down the road and must not have left to see the world and open their minds. No

“outsiders” should be allowed to muddy the waters and bring in dangerous ideas like education, equal opportunity, open-mindedness and excellence. To them, Moi University is a Kalenjin university.

All the thousands of students who are not from the area should be sent away immediately. Those who have graduated from it over the years should return their degrees and go for others where people have surnames similar to theirs.

If their tribe has become hard to determine because of intermarriages and globalisation, too bad, they are not welcome at the one true university. Tribalism isn’t really a problem if you’re fighting for one of your own. If the university is in your county, you

have every right to demand that whoever sits at the top is someone you approve of, and with whom you share a  mother tongue. It’s in the Constitution, look it up! How dare the education Cabinet secretary have the audacity to appoint someone from a

different part of the country just because they are qualified? What has competence ever achieved for a major college, say Kenyatta University, apart from impressive development and expansion?


What Kenya needs is more deliberate tribalism, not less. What Kenya needs is people who will stand in their truth, however unpopular, and set the whole country straight on public appointments. What Kenya needs is leaders who will shamelessly lobby,

protest and campaign for a fellow tribesman to ascend to the top of a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic organisation. The country is choking with too much political correctness, such that people can no longer say what they’re really thinking or they will risk being

branded tribalists and bigots. There are no known benefits of mixing people from different tribes and backgrounds anyway, and the law is simply a suggestion. It is a perfectly reasonable request that the head of Moi University should be a local because of its

location. Perhaps Luos can also take over Maseno University and the Maasai can lay claim to the University of Nairobi; it’s a free for all!


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What next after IEBC bosses quit?

The Government is negotiating with commissioners of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission  their send-off package. The exit of the team is a major win for Cord after a long battle to get rid of them.

“We don’t want these people in office by October 1, they should be given termination letters because they are still government employees and are still being paid,” the coalition’s leader, Raila Odinga, said.

Some guesstimates say that as much as Sh200 million could be used to compensate the commissioners for leaving before their term expires. Many politicos argue that it is a small price to pay for confidence in the electoral body. If the August date for the next General Election remains, it means the team will have been in office for just 10 months before their moon landing.

Given the complexity and scale of that six-in-one election, I wonder whether the politicians clamouring for change at the IEBC have given this some thought. That will be a steep learning curve for the new commissioners, even if most of the staff are retained from the last election. How they handle the technological and logistical challenges that come with this exercise should be interesting to watch.


Trey Songz is ‘woke’

The most important quotes from Trey Songz’ public statements while in Nairobi will get the least attention. After I taught the American RnB star some light Swahili and joked that he was ready for Kenyan citizenship, he joked that he might take it because America was crazy right now.

“While I’m very proud to be American, I’m not proud of how America treats my people,” he told me, referring to the shootings of unarmed Black men by police.

“Racism is something that never left America, it’s only been masked. Slavery never left America, it has only been put into a systematic proportion.” He earned praise for publicly supporting San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has been protesting against the US national anthem by kneeling when everyone else is standing. The singer pointed out that many of the policemen who killed African Americans got away with it, and some became even richer. Trey is “woke”.