A story is told of an ancient Chinese emperor who needed to choose a successor but did not have a child.
Thousands of children from across the kingdom were gathered at the palace, where he announced that his successor would be picked from among them. Each child was given a seed and told to go back to their village, plant it in a pot and tend it for a year. They would return and the emperor would evaluate their efforts.
After a year, the children returned with impressive plants in their pots — apart from one boy, who, despite having religiously tended to his seed, came with an empty pot. After inspecting the work of the children, the emperor singled out the empty pot and the boy.
He then said: “A year ago, I gave each one of you a seed. I told you to go and plant the seed and return with your plant. The seeds that I gave you were boiled until they were no longer viable and wouldn’t grow but I see before me thousands of plants and one barren pot.
“Integrity and courage are more important values for leadership than proud displays.”
And so, the boy who returned with an empty pot was chosen.
The drafters of the 2010 Constitution found it prudent to expressly include a chapter on leadership and integrity with the aim of laying a legal basis for the entrenchment of the virtues. They went on to establish an article on national values and principles of governance.
An exhaustive evaluation reveals that these two provisions of the Constitution are related, intertwined and almost inseparable.
They offer a well-thought out guide on how the nation ought to approach leadership and governance issues in a bid to have a cohesive country that is led by certain principles.
However, eight years after the promulgation of the Constitution, we are still plagued by the same issues which these constitutional provisions sought to fix. Our social, political and economic fabric remains fragile if we do not, individually and collectively, deliberately endeavour to enhance the ideals which both Article 10 and Chapter 6 of the Constitution espouse.
Unless, and until, Kenyan professionals lead the movement to enhance the ideals of integrity, good governance and ethics, the country’s vision of enhancing food security, according the citizenry affordable housing, providing universal healthcare and enhancing manufacturing — as espoused under the President’s ‘Big Four’ agenda — will not be attained. For behind every corrupt dealing there is a professional.
There is, therefore, a need for all Kenyan professionals to look inwards and assess the role they can play to enhance the enforcement of integrity and ethics at the workplace.
This will not only see a significant reduction in impropriety at the workplace but also lead to a significant enhancement of efficiency through reduction of corruption and other practices that seek to undermine the integrity of processes and structures in our institutions.
For this reason, the National Professional Convention, which is organised by the Association of Professional Societies in East Africa next month in Nairobi and seeks to distil the role of professionals in leadership and integrity, is timely.
The outcome of the conference is to have professionals taking up a more active, proactive and engaging role in enhancing and enforcing the tenets of Chapter 6 in a bid to significantly reduce corruption at the workplace and, indeed, the country at large.
The deliberations will culminate in a declaration and a position paper, which will be presented to Parliament and the Presidency for review, further deliberation and adoption. The ultimate outcome of the convention should be the adoption by all professionals, in both the private and public sectors, of a resolution to enhance the leadership and integrity principles set out in the Constitution.
It is by taking such deliberate steps that professionals will significantly contribute to the fight against corruption in this country.
Ms Wanyoike is the chairperson of the Council at the Association of Professional Societies in East Africa (APSEA). [email protected]