Mulle Musau: Degree not key to mayor's role

There's a raging debate on the qualification or more specifically the academic credentials of a candidate for mayor.

The proposal by the Minister for Local Government that a mayor should hold a university degree has elicited a lot of passions and opinions from a cross section of leaders and professionals.

Many people of no mean repute have argued over centuries on whether a leader is born or made. To me, this really does not matter. What matters most is the application and acknowledgement of the leadership.

To lead is to assume some position in action that is regarded by the others as essential enough for them to follow. In other words, your actions and deeds must be acknowledged by a certain population as leading to the extent of convincing or inspiring them to a similar or dissimilar action.

The important thing here is that their point of reference is action initiated by a certain individual or leader who then is acknowledged to have a vanguard position regarding the issue(s) he/she initiated. We tend to confuse leadership with management. While leadership is defined by originality and character, management is totally designed.

One can talk of innovative management styles and policies, but nonetheless these are still to be found within the "box" of possibilities available or at the discretion of the manager. Where one introduces new ideas not within the management toolbox then we can assume some aspect of leadership is at play.

In civic bodies, the mayor is the political leader while the town clerk is at the executive helm.

Management, being about resources, requires expertise and ethics and one should be able to interpret the objectives of the organisation.

Management requires professional and academic qualifications. Leadership on the other hand requires ideas, charisma, initiative and wisdom.

Jomo Kenyatta was a well educated man but it was his charisma, aggressiveness and character, including oratory skills, that most inspired a young nation to find its feet after independence.

Tom Mboya was not as well educated but he went on to become one of the leading young lights of the country. Before them there were the prophets and great leaders — Mugo wa Kibiro, Syokimau, Koitalel arap Samoei, Mekatilili wa Menza and others.

We also have great managers — John Gakuo, Julius Kipngetich, Michael Joseph just to mention a few.

John Michuki strikes me as a good manager even though he is an elected leader. Wangari Maathai is more of a manager than a leader. We can cite the fact that despite all the work and international accolades she has received for her effort, we still have Mau Forest and other conservation issues in this country.

Perhaps a more telling statistic is the number of top-notch scholars and academicians occupying leadership positions in the country. While some have achieved tremendous positive results, most have dismally failed. Right now the major scandal in the country is on the misappropriation of money meant for free primary education.

The irony of this is that this is a ministry led by three venerable professors!

President Kibaki's administration is the most well read and educated of the lot since independence, yet it has been marred by scandals of mismanagement, corruption and other leadership misdeeds.

From the foregoing, leadership must be perceptible or viewable by the people who would then assume the position of being led. They must make a determination on the ability of the character in question to the extent of getting persuaded and heeding the initiative. This then brings in the question of democracy.

People must choose for themselves the individuals from who they can perceivably obtain the greatest persuasion in terms of the direction their lives will take. This cannot be then standardised by a prequalification of expertise and education.

In conclusion, the debate on the minimal qualifications of a mayor, a political position, must be entirely subjected to the democratic processes that establish that office. It must be taken to the .real power wielders in a democratic dispensation — the people.

If they want university graduates to occupy such offices then they shall voice it through the ballot after examining the candidates.

Otherwise when a bill such as the one under discussion is tabled and sent to a Parliament that is subject to public vetting as well, one can say there has been a grievous usurpation of the people's rights and a travesty of democratic justice has occurred.

Mulle Musau comments on topical issues.

Bookmark the permalink.