Why leadership in Kenya has become a lost art

We have people in leadership positions who want the benefits and aura of leadership without paying the price

In Summary

• When political leaders misbehave, we take to our keyboards, radios and television sets to lament and castigate them, and wait for the next election to send them home.

• We conveniently or inadvertently forget that we wield the power, like the free market, to correct this leadership failure.

Embakasi East MP Babu Owino at Milimani law courts on January 20, 2020
Embakasi East MP Babu Owino at Milimani law courts on January 20, 2020
Image: ENOS TECHE

It is better to be a warrior in a garden, than a gardener in a war.

One day a martial arts master and his disciple walked side by side through a beautiful garden. The disciple suddenly stopped and asked, “Master, you constantly talk about, and preach to me the ways of peace. Yet you have taught me the deadly techniques of combat and the tactics of war. How do you reconcile the two? Wouldn’t it be more tranquil and serene to be a gardener and tend the plants?”

The master gracefully squatted, chose a beautiful flower and plucked it. “My disciple,” he replied, “tending the garden is a relaxing pastime, but it does not prepare one for the inevitable battles of life. Therefore, it is better to be a warrior tending to his garden, than a gardener in a war.”

Without a doubt, last week the nation witnessed a gardener in a war. His name is Paul Ongili alias Babu Owino, the Embakasi East MP. It was reported that Babu drew his gun at an upmarket club where he was reveling, and shot Felix Orinda, popularly known as DJ Evolve, in the neck.

As a sign of penance, Babu took DJ Evolve to hospital, where he was arrested as he waited for the latter to be attended to. Subsequently, Babu was arraigned and charged with attempted murder. He pleaded not guilty and was remanded for seven days pending preparation of the bail report.

Increasingly, we are witnessing instances where those in political leadership appear to be deluded that their positions immunise them against obeying the law. Resultantly, they brazenly ignore orders issued by our courts, shoot unarmed citizens, aggress women who dare to confront their epithets, drive on the wrong side of the road, and browbeat us into accepting self-interest driven governance proposals.

Irrefutably, it is easy to be calm in a serene setting. But to be calm and serene when under attack or provocation is a different kettle of fish altogether. And while this is understandable, it cannot, and should never be condoned because leaders are called to a higher moral standard.

Once in office, leaders are expected to discard their Hobbesian nature, where life is short, nasty and brutish, and instead adorn virtues of moral leadership. This is where, like the warrior in the garden, despite their power donated by the electorate, they are still able to temper their egos, exercise high emotional intelligence, and act with nobility and rectitude.

Begs the question, do we honestly have authentic leaders or simply winners of an election?

To answer this question, let us do a quick thought experiment. Name a political leader in a position of power who you genuinely admire, trust, respect and look up to as a role model. Can you?

 
 

 

HISTORICAL FAILURE OF LEADERSHIP

Undoubtedly, we are in a great dereliction. We have a historic failure of leadership, precisely when we need it most. We are surrounded by people who have become experts at gaming the system to woo the electorate, win the elections, secure state appointments, bag tenders and acquire titles.

I submit that true leadership in our country has become a lost art. We have people in leadership positions who want the benefits and aura of leadership without paying the price; who demand special treatment and respect, without earning it, who place a premium on self-interest rather than service, and who impoverish us rather than enrich us.

In economic-speak, this is called market failure. It is an economic situation defined by an inefficient distribution of goods and services in the free market. Market failure occurs when there is a state of disequilibrium due to market distortion such as product defects, monopoly power, price-fixing, minimum wage requirements and some government regulations.

To address market failure, the market corrects itself through various means. One example is through product recall. An example is Toyota and Honda, the Japanese car manufacturers, who have this week recalled more than six million vehicles due to two airbag glitches that may not inflate in a collision, thus presenting a danger to motorists. This recall was triggered by a defect linked to a report of one fatal crash. To remain competitive and sustain their lead, presence and profits in the market, smart enterprises get ahead of the curve to recall defective products before the consumers reject them. Failure to self-govern leads to their death in the free market.

As is characteristic of us, when those in our political leadership misbehave, we immediately take to our keyboards, radios and television sets to lament and castigate them, and wait for the next election to send them home. We conveniently or inadvertently forget that we wield the power, like the free market, to correct this leadership failure.

We have the power of recall. Our Constitution provides that we, the electorate, can recall elected leaders two years after polls, and not later than one year preceding the next general election. This is the process: have signatures of 30 per cent of all the registered electors in addition to 15 per cent in every ward; 30 days within which the IEBC verifies the signatures; 15 days within which the electoral agency must issue a notice of recall to the relevant speaker; 90 days to conduct a recall election which shall be valid if 50 per cent of the registered voters vote to recall.

Voters are asked to decide through a simple question if they want the leader in question to remain as their representative. If a majority votes, no, then the individual loses their seat, and IEBC conducts a by-election.

That window is still open. What are we doing about it?

The moral of the warrior in a garden is a person who has reconditioned the conditioned violence within. He is a person that wields courageous compassion, benevolent bravery, fearless empathy and dauntless altruism, all in the face of a hyper-violent world.

Hence, my unsolicited advice to Babu Owino is Matthew 5: 5: Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. Being meek does not mean being weak.

It means that those who have swords and know how to use them, but keep them sheathed, will inherit the earth. But see your life now. Because you opted to be a winner instead of a leader, rather than inherit the earth, you may just inherit a 6 by 8 feet windowless concrete room.

Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting - Sun Tzu