In one of Kenya’s middle-class neighbourhoods, there’s a hair salon frequented by locals. On this particular day, there were three people: The employer, one employee, and one client. The employer was busy tending the client’s hair. The employee, however, was on the phone. Every time the employer looked in his direction, he would pretend to be doing something. This pretence irritated the boss; but the boss restrained herself from getting angry, choosing instead to concentrate on the client. Clearly, the employee was not interested in growth. Just the paycheque. Whereas this event did occur, the narration is not about the challenges of salon management. The salon represents Kenya, the employer stands for the citizens, and the employee, our leaders.
Our leadership does not inspire confidence. It just does a fine job of killing citizens’ spirits and morale. While the citizens are busy toiling hard, our leaders are busy enjoying life — at taxpayer's expense. Instead of helping the country progress, they grab what we generate and use it to propel themselves from “paupers to billionaires”. Their escapades, as reported by the media, make a sad tale. Still, Kenyans continue to be a tolerant people. It ought not to be like that.
Citizens are supposed to be an angry lot. They should be demanding value for their exorbitant taxes. Yet, at every opportunity, they fail to do so. We are happy to celebrate and protect these leaders especially when they are from “our tribe”. We are awed by their wealth and dazzled by their shine, endearing ourselves to them if only to be like them. Sadly, our sight has been blinded by their shiny outfits. Not once do we see them as enemies of progress; people who have no idea how to steer this country forward.
The Cabinet Secretaries resumed duty next week after a 17-day leave amid rumours of a Cabinet reshuffle. A reshuffle would be a welcome move especially this new year. However, it should not be one that tries to whitewash the leaders’ incompetence and failure to demonstrate their ability to deliver.
Rather, it should about be separating the wheat from the chaff; doers from the talkers. We have seen CSs move to dockets and leave them worse than they found them, leaders move from one party to another with no results in tow. Will we trim the leaves, pluck the diseased flowers and expect a healthy tree? Are not the roots more important than the leaves and flowers?
This country’s leadership is in dire need of patriotic citizens. Our Constitution is clear that sovereignty is vested in the people. Change is in the hands of the citizens. We are the power and we will only find solutions when we start looking in the right places – the roots. That is the hearts of our leaders. Only then will we be able to aptly know what kind of leaders we have. The difference between Kenya and the above salon is that once the boss notices the employee doesn’t deliver, she will fire him. We all know that’s the wisest thing to do. The question then becomes, are we going to be decisive employers and hire transformative leaders, people who have the interest of the country at heart? The time is ripe to ask difficult questions. Where is our righteous anger? Where is our will to do what is right? What do our leaders stand for? Do they have values?
What is their degree of patriotism? What is their strategy for this country? Our leaders need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. More than that, we must like the answers that we will receive.
Of course the answer to these questions will be a resounding ‘yes’. It will be so confident, capable of overriding the truth. It is then that we must remember: It’s very difficult to sustain confidence when you don’t have an underlying strong character. This character is what we must look out for. When we note any inconsistencies, we should be comfortable raining on their parade. But how will we know what to look out for? How will our leaders take us seriously? You may ask. We must commit to do the onerous work of deeply understanding and desiring transformative leadership. For when we know what we want, we are able to get rid of what we don’t. And the time to change is now.
Ms Wanjohi is the founder of Mazingira Safi Initiative. [email protected]