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It’s time politicians realised they are not that important

Friday April 3 2020

coronavirus

A staff of local NGO Shining Hope for Communities measures a woman's body temperature in Kibra, Nairobi, on March 18, 2020, as the country battles the coronavirus. PHOTO | YASUYOSHI CHIBA | AFP 

MAGESHA NGWIRI
By MAGESHA NGWIRI
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Even in these difficult times, it is possible for citizens of this country to discern a definite positive change in the way they comport themselves in their ordinary lives.

Ours has certainly become a much cleaner nation, and a lot more sober too.

Having to wash and sanitise your hands numerous times on those occasions when you have to venture outside your gate is certainly good for your health, and it is a habit that should not be discarded even after the war with Covid-19 is won.

Being forced to stay indoors for protracted periods instead of engaging in the hustle and bustle of daily existence has taught people that having to go to the office every morning and repairing to the pub every evening to wait out the traffic jam is not a matter of life and death; you can earn a living just as well sitting in a small secluded room at home and get work done without necessarily meeting fellow human beings face to face with their toxic fumes beating you on the face.

If this means that the office as we have always known it is in danger of becoming defunct, then so be it. It happened long ago in most of the developed world without negative results.

SOCIAL PLACES

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I remember once stepping into a bank in Bonn, Germany, to change a few dollars into deutsche marks, and being surprised.

Inside was a solitary lady busy at work on her computer, and even as she courteously served me, she was surprised that I knew no other way to make a transaction of such a trifling sum.

I told her I expected a long queue of customers patiently waiting their turn as we were used to in Kenya.

The virus has certainly hastened the march of science and technology across the land, and as people get used to working at home, the result can only be a cleaner, less crowded environment, and an altered lifestyle.

Of course this development will also have many drawbacks, chief among them that it may turn many into hermits.

Human beings are social animals and they need to interact at a personal level — at entertainment joints and at work.

But if the expression “you make me sick” is to be translated literally in everyday relationships, then it is time the office went out of fashion and we got out of each other’s faces.

UNITY OF PURPOSE

However, this article is not about the pros and cons of going officeless; it is about a development that may be of greater value to Kenyans than even keeping “social distance” — the end of the constant din from politicians assailing our ears daily.

This country is in great trouble from the Covid-19 pandemic, as is the rest of the world, and we are, as a nation, talking about it all day, as we should because it is an existential threat.

Kenyans are daily being bombarded with vital messages on how to protect themselves from infection, and many are listening.

This means we have very little time to waste on politicians and their convoluted sense of priorities.

What the virus has done is to silence them effectively, and as a result, the country has never known such unity of purpose for a long time.

If this continues, we may even emerge relatively unscathed, or stronger, from the pandemic. At the same time, we will realise that politicians are not as necessary in our lives as they think they are.

NATIONAL CRISIS

Recently, I came across a Facebook post by a fellow Kenyan that had intriguing insights into our national fixation on politics.

Mr Daniel Njaga, a travel executive, did not have very nice things to say about our politicians or our brand of politics, and since, on the whole, I agree with him, I will quote him extensively.

Says he: “Politics in Kenya is toxic. It has choked the whole nation, sapping all our energies and ambition. It has killed scholarship, research and innovation. It has killed business in favour of political connections and tenders. It has killed (the) arts as everyone seeks political favours... .

“Kenyans have done without politics and politicians in the past few days. The people who dominate our national life have turned out to be the least useful. We wage vicious wars on social media, insult each other and our tribes because of people who matter least to us (and) when we have a national crisis, these politicians vanish to the background of our national life. If they are that significant, how is the country coping without them now?”

VITAL ISSUES

There is no need to add on to this, except to say that politics is a profession in which the actors are paid to talk, and there will be no stopping them. Nor should they be stopped.

However, Covid-19 has proved to them that they, too, are mortal and should devote more time articulating issues that matter to the less-privileged rather than incessantly jostling for power without a single idea of what they intend to do with it to benefit the people.

Mr Ngwiri is a consultant editor. [email protected]

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