OCHIENG: My admonition to Raila, Ruto: Be polite to us all - Daily Nation

My admonition to Raila, Ruto: Be polite to us all

Sunday July 29 2018

President Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila Odinga

From left: President Uhuru Kenyatta, Opposition leader Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto during the 16th Annual Kenya National Prayer Breakfast at the Safari Park Hotel on May 31, 2018. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Why is it that the politicians are the ones who make it a point of systematically hurling the rudest words at one another every day that the sun rises above Mombasa?

In our country, some of the highest political officials are among the most embarrassing culprits. Raila Odinga and William Ruto, in particular, make it a point of hurling the rudest words at each other.

Almost every day that the sun rises above Mombasa, the Vice-President and the former Prime Minister — who is now the official Opposition Leader — throw the most impolite and most unpolished, words at each other.

Why do Kenyans encourage Mr Ruto and Mr Odinga to exchange some of the most anti-political words that one can imagine?

The answer must, of course, be because the two do think that their respective ethnic masses do agree with everything that they utter or do.


That, however, is the point exactly. For the task of a genuine national leader is not to dance to the subjective tune of the tribal mass even when the dance is leading the very same mass towards the abyss.

No, the task of the genuine leader is to lead the mass away from Gehenna into salvation. I use the term “anti-political” because, for me, the word politics always, even literally, implies politeness. In the political process, Kenya’s politicians raise at least one important question in the minds of our thinking public:

How, on earth, is it possible for a society’s highest officials to adopt the most unsocial and even anti-social wares as their chief goods in the political market?

Moreover, observance of all the formalities of politeness in greeting is among the demands of polity in governance that Vice-President William Ruto and Opposition leader Raila Odinga just must learn from President Uhuru Kenyatta if Mr Ruto and Mr Odinga wish to maintain respect from all of this country’s thinking members.


Mr Odinga and Mr Ruto just must learn to compete with each other politically in a manner that is acceptable not only to thinking members of the Kenyan nation but also to civilised humanity the whole world over. Otherwise — as the Kenyan society gets better and better educated socio-politically — the twain will start losing respect rapidly even among their own ethnic supporters.

For, to be quite sure, tribalism — the ethnic force that drives the majority of Kenyans in the field of political competition — will one day peter out.

A day will come in which a set of ideal guidelines — namely, an ideology — will matter to the majority of Kenyans much more than does the socially backward tribal affiliation now does.

When I was a lad, the hope of many educated Kenyans was that the political class was what was best placed to lead us out of the backwardness and primitiveness of the mind that we call tribalism, especially in politics and, even more especially, in the allocation of jobs.


Yet let us not take it for granted that the culprits are fully aware of the problem and fully know how to solve it.

That is why I appeal to all Kenyans to educate themselves adequately in this manner and to chip in generously with help especially to Mr Ruto and Mr Odinga to observe all the protocols and precepts of mutual politeness, mutual respect and social justice all round and thus to become better and more effective leaders of this country.

Personally, I have no preference among the candidates. When the time comes, I will respect him or her who succeeds Mr Kenyatta as long as she or he proceeds in the manner laid out by our national guidelines.

I ask especially because, as I have pointed out a number of times in my language column on Saturday, the noun politics is at root related to the adjective polite.