he problem with a vivid imagination is that it can sometimes run away with you and take you to a crazy place. This is actually what happened to me the other day when I was playing one of my favourite games, “What if...”
What if Kenya at independence had followed the scenario that has played out in SA since 1994. How different would history have been?
Imagine that Jomo Kenyatta had prevailed on Tom Mboya to step away from politics after Jamhuri and pursue his fortune in business. Meanwhile, the old man had stayed in power only until 1969, then been succeeded by his VP Oginga Odinga. Then imagine Jaramogi’s enemies ganging up against him as he began his second term somewhere around 1976 and replacing him with his deputy Paul Ngei.
Meanwhile, imagine Kadu had never crossed the floor and Ronald Ngala remained leader of the opposition to be succeeded in later years by deputy leader Daniel arap Moi, who had to fight Masinde Muliro for the top job.
Meanwhile, Sungura Mjanja, Mboya is plotting his political comeback using the great wealth he has amassed since Independence as a springboard. In 1983, he is elected Kanu VP under President Ngei and succeeds him as party president in 1986 ahead of the 1988 general election, where it is assumed he will be elected as the nation’s President at last.
This “what if” scenario was prompted by real events in South Africa, where once upon a time, there lived a militant trade unionist, beloved of the people and apple of the legendary freedom icon’s eye.
The trade unionist saw himself as the heir apparent and wanted to be appointed successor to the Iconic one, but when that didn’t happen, he went into a long sulk, even boycotting his hero’s inauguration.
While he was sulking, he decided to take advantage of all the serious business offers and lucrative directorships that were falling into his lap by virtue of being one of the country’s most recognised leaders. In little to no time, the former trade unionist had joined the ranks of the WaBenzi and was regularly topping the nation’s annual rich list.
Once he felt he was rich enough to have a soft cushion landing, if his ambitions for the top political office — which he had suppressed but not extinguished — were to fail again, he relaunched his political career.
This time, his strategy was to come in as the saviour after the less than stellar performances of those who had pipped him to the post the first time around.
While some condemned his run for office as cynical, others thought he was the second coming, because he was a multimillionaire coming to rescue the country from corruption and poor governance.
Perhaps for a reality check, my South African friends should look at the real Kenya story since 2013. In that country, too, the voters thought the mere election of a multimillionaire politician to the presidency would magically end corruption and bring national prosperity. Kenyans will say, things are not working out the way they dreamt they would.