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Sober up; the locusts we should fight are those eating our nation

Thursday January 23 2020

leadership

President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses leaders from various sectors during the launch of the "State of the Judiciary and Administration of Justice Annual Report" 2018/2019 at the Supreme Court on January 23, 2020. The president must facilitate appropriate leadership. PHOTO | PSCU 

MUTUMA MATHIU
By MUTUMA MATHIU
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Forgive me but I’m going to tell a long story to make a small point.

There is no risk in doing the right thing, I’ve been saying of late. But sometimes I wonder whether I’m not just shooting off my mouth.

What I mean is that if you do the right thing, there may be temporary consequences but, in the fullness of time, you are vindicated.

My paternal grandfather was an odd man, to put it mildly. He was so old that his stories transported me to such ancient world that no other person that I knew had ever seen.

Everything he did was the opposite of what thinking members of the society would do. He was monogamous when it was respectable to be polygamous.

He was satisfied with one son when sons were wealth. He used to cook when it was illegal by tribal law for a man to step inside a kitchen.

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He was a rude, antisocial loner when the community respected good manners. He bled his cattle and feasted on the blood like a vampire, and he drank his milk raw.

WAY OF LIFE

He was so huge, a shoe his size couldn’t be found. And, growing up, he is the only person I ever met who hadn’t the foggiest idea what Christianity was all about.

My maternal grandfather was the opposite: small, light-skinned, a big farmer, pillar of the Catholic church, a widely respected man who was in great demand to resolve disputes and unite warring people.

I worshipped the ground on which my paternal grandfather walked; I hardly knew the respectable Christian guy.

Let me get to the point of doing the right thing.

A story is told that one day, my grandfather — who in typical fashion was snaking circumcision and was a huge, over-age boy — was sleeping in the hut of his father’s youngest wife.

My people were semi-pastoral; they had permanent villages where they cultivated gardens and lived a settled life.

But they also had herds of cattle with which the men roamed our lands from modern-day Laikipia and into Samburu and Isiolo counties.

A man could keep his youngest wife in his kraal, where his herd was.

CAST ASIDE

She slept with her favourite, fattest goats and sheep — and the boys serving apprenticeship on the herd, learning to care for animals and survive in the bush.

So one day, the story goes, they (my grandfather, my great grandmother and probably the goats) were woken up by a growling lion on the roof of the hut.

It was clawing off the thatch, trying to get in and eat the fat goats inside, and possibly an over-age boy and well-taken-care-of wife.

Without thinking, my grandfather sprang up, grabbed a spear, shot out of the hut and drove the weapon, full length, into the beast, killing it on the spot.

When the news spread, there was uproar throughout the land. The tribe’s braves cast aside their clothes and brought out the war paint.

How could a mere boy kill a lion? That was a man’s job. If a lion attacked a boy, he should call for help or submit to the animal’s appetite.

POOR LEADERS

It took the slaughter of many bulls and the giving away of many goats to mollify the warriors and save the boy’s life.

When the blood lust had subsided and much feasting and drinking restored the pride of outraged men, and while my grandfather, being a boy, was a caste lower than a mongrel, unworthy of notice or respect and quite incapable of any feats of bravery, it was very grudgingly acknowledged that he may have saved a worthless lame goat.

Even in circumstances when doing the right thing is dangerous and will bring no glory or respect, at the end of the day, to do anything else is even more dangerous.

The madness that has settled on our country must come to an end soon. The locusts we have to fear are not those swarming across the border from Yemen, Djibouti and Somalia; it is the swarms of greedy people who have eaten the country to the brink of bankruptcy.

Sometimes, Kenyans run their country and its institutions as if it is not ours but instead belongs to our worst enemies.

We decide and take decisions for the sake of our stomachs even when we have already eaten our fill, and without a second thought for our own welfare or that of the next person.

RESPONSIBILITY

Like those warriors, I think there are things we must strongly believe are our responsibility, each and everyone of us, and, therefore, not delegable.

One of those things is securing the survival of our country by ensuring that money intended for crucial public services goes to those services and that everybody does their duty, no matter how humble.

At the very least, we must have a shared, fanatical, national stance that any person who has ever been associated with the theft of public resources is never elected to any position, from the smallest to the biggest, and that we shall resist as strongly as we can the appointment of any such person to positions of responsibility.

Putting thieves in charge of your money is, even for us, dumb beyond comprehension. And if we don’t sober up quickly, we shall all be eaten by these locusts.

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