Okiya Omtatah Okoiti: All Kenyans are to blame for poor political leadership

ALMOST EVERYONE I MEET these days has something to complain about our self-admiring coterie of politicians.

There is almost universal consensus that our unlovely bunch of politicians, irrespective of the dizzying plume they hide behind, continue living at our expense in a sealed world – while all around them the unattended massive problems we elected them and pay them loads to solve continue getting worse.

Most Kenyans have also realised and are angry that though our politicians can plot viciously against each other, they are all self-seekers who use us as stepping-stones to power, but care nothing about Kenya’s strategic interests.

But what baffles most is that whereas in democracies around the world citizens as informed as we are take to the street to demand certain minimums of their leadership, we are too meek and resigned, pretending that the pain we feel about poor political leadership will either dissipate of its own accord or will lie hidden in our collective soul forever.

WE WILL HAVE OURSELVES TO blame if the post-election violence that engulfed the country and exposed the myths that inform the mantra of change and good governance, chanted ceaselessly by opportunists who periodically hijack the reform agenda to ascend to high office, is not a wake-up call that jolts us into action to demand proper leadership.

Right now, we are watching helplessly, doing absolutely nothing, to stop this bunch of characters bleeding our coffers dry.

At best, we are calling press conferences to denounce, or whispering to each other our disapprovals of, their self-serving plans to burden us with a 34-44 member Cabinet, when ideally a 10-15 member one is all we need.

But we have absolutely no plans to counter them should they name a 122-member Cabinet. Why can’t we demand that President Mwai Kibaki and Mr Raila Odinga, who just the other day were extending a beggar’s bowl to the international community, do not burden us with a bloated Cabinet, especially at this time when our economy is in decline and we hardly have the massive funds required to reconstruct the country.

Why are we watching helplessly as our overpaid MPs go on recess ostensibly because they have no House business to transact, yet there is no coherent plan to resettle the 500,000 plus IDPs living in inhuman conditions around the country.

This is also happening when prices of basics have gone through the roof; when farm inputs are skyrocketing this planting season, and our food security is threatened.

It is precisely because we have become spectators in our own lives that the likes of National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende, the erstwhile face of what some of us hoped against hope was new both to and in our politics, have the audacity to defend the obscenely huge sums they legally loot from our taxes.

But we should not allow Mr Marende’s self-serving ilk to equate legalism with legitimacy. The fact that their abnormal pay perks are pegged on the Cockar Report does not change the fact that Kenya, one of the poorest countries on earth, is too poor to afford the hefty MP salaries that are among the highest paid anywhere in the world.

Further, the Cockar Report itself is no gospel truth since it is premised on a major doctrinal distortion: it regards politics as a career, rather than a duty.

WHEREAS THE PRACTICE IN parliamentary systems such as ours is for it to be almost impossible to make a living out of politics alone, and is the reason MPs don’t work 40-hour weeks like other public servants so they can pursue other sources of livelihood, the Cockar Report holds the contrary view – that our MPs should live extremely luxurious lives out of politics alone while retaining their extremely generous work schedule.

Ideally, people should not go into politics to make money but to represent interests, and they should keep strong personal links with those interests.

That’s why their best qualities should be public service and incorruptibility; their worst being amateurism and snobbery as is the case with our MPs.

But unless the masses act, we will be burdened with rulers who epitomise the barbaric primitiveness of trough feeders.

Mr Okoiti is a playwright and human rights activist .

Bookmark the permalink.