HUBRIS SYNDROME

Hustler Nation's win in Msambweni: Is this canary in the coal mine?

It appears to be a moment to test the popularity of the Hustler Nation in taking on the dynasties

In Summary

• Was Msambweni communicating to the dynasty politicos that the music beats have changed and that there was a new DJ behind the deck? As goes Mwambweni, so goes  BBI?

• Was this the true manifestation of ‘kwa ground vitu ni different?’

Nyali MP Mohammed Ali, Independent candidate Feisal Bader (winner) and Khatib Mwashetani address the media at Gazi in Msambweni.
WINNER: Nyali MP Mohammed Ali, Independent candidate Feisal Bader (winner) and Khatib Mwashetani address the media at Gazi in Msambweni.
Image: SHABAN OMAR

The father of oxygen therapy: This was the name given to John Scott Haldane, who was a Scottish physician and physiologist famous for his intrepid self-experimentation that led to many important inventions. They included the black veil respirator, the decompression chamber that helps make deep-sea divers safer and the oxygen tent.

During this time, there were many mine disasters caused by the underground toxic gases that killed most mines. After John examined the bodies of the dead miners, he noticed their skin was coloured cherry-pink from carboxyhaemoglobin. This is a compound formed in the blood after reacting with gas that effectively displaces oxygen, and so the victim dies of asphyxia.

To save the miners, whose livelihoods and that of their villages were supported by the mining industry, John proposed to use sentinel species. These are animals that are more sensitive than humans to the colourless, odourless carbon monoxide and other poisonous gasses.

He suggested the use of canaries, which, unlike other birds, are good early detectors of carbon monoxide because their anatomy allows them to get a dose of oxygen when they inhale, and another when they exhale by holding air in extra sacs. By doing so, they get a double dose of air and any poisons the air might contain.

When the miners took the canaries down to the mines with them, they observed them and if the birds became ill or died, this gave a warning to immediately evacuate. This became the metaphor for a warning sign – when the canary keels over, it is time to evacuate the mine before you become the next victim.

The expression canary in the coal mine has since been used to mean an early indicator of potential danger or failure.

This week, several by-elections were held around the country, with the one in Msambweni, Kwale county, attracting the most attention. So heated was this race that it attracted the political tribal kingpins, who also double as party leaders, to earnestly campaign for their respective aspirants.

None other than President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose party had declared that it would not field a candidate, was involved. The veiled message was an extension of the handshake, an arrangement in which Jubilee and ODM would not compete for the same position. The boardroom decision had already been made public.

This decision, however, did not sit very well with Jubilee deputy party leader Deputy President William Ruto. His several attempts to field a Jubilee candidate, even poaching one from ODM, were unsuccessful.

The party leadership patronisingly blocked all his efforts. But not being one to give up easily, he backed an aspirant who vied as an independent candidate.

After all was said and done, including campaign rallies that flagrantly disregarded all Covid-19 prevention measures, unpalatable epithets hurled by opposing politicos, violence, voter intimidation and arrest of some politicians, Feisal Bader, the independent candidate, carried the day.

Feisal garnered 15,251 votes, beating ODM’s Omar Boga, who got 10,444 votes.

And there were no mail-in ballot dumps that propelled his win by such a wide a margin, especially for a by-election that usually attracts very low voter turnout.

Earlier on, ODM leader Raila Odinga in one of his campaign rallies had admitted that the outcome of the Msambweni by-election was the litmus test for the success or failure of the BBI.

Raila said a win for his candidate, Omar Boga Gii, would be a win for constitutional reform efforts. He added this was the sign that would attest if the BBI proponents would win or lose the law change narrative. In a nutshell, he conceded that as goes Msambweni, so goes the fate of BBI, nationally.

Begs the question, was this a Freudian slip? And on Ruto’s part, was this his canary in the coal mine moment to test the popularity of the Hustler Nation in taking on the dynasties and their propped-up candidates?

In days gone past, political aspirants would have given an arm and a leg for photo optics with President Kenyatta because this guaranteed them an easy win. The ODM team secured one such optics  for their Msambweni candidate, which was broadcast widely. But this did not sway the masses. He still lost.

Have the tides changed? Was Msambweni communicating to the dynasty politicos that the music beats have changed and that there was a new DJ behind the deck? Was this the true manifestation of ‘kwa ground vitu ni different?’

I submit that what ‘the ground’ is reacting to is what is called the Hubris Syndrome. Charisma, charm, decisiveness, ability to inspire, willingness to take risks, grandiose aspirations and bold self-confidence are all qualities we associate with successful leadership.

However, there is an equal opposite and dark side to this profile for so-called successful leaders. It is called the Hubris Syndrome. This is an acquired personality disorder in which successful political leaders after. Impulsivity, recklessness and frequent inattentional to detail, predominate. They also exhibit a messianic zeal and often conflating themselves with the nation.

This disorder causes these political leaders, particularly those who have had limited constraints on their behaviour, to close themselves off from critics, leading them to have contempt for the views of others, and to overestimate their odds of success.

When a leader succumbs to the Hubris Syndrome, his experience at the top distorts his personality, his reality and decision making. And the greater the illusion of absolute power, the greater the risks of these cognitive distortions.

Having been in power, or around power for most of their lives, could this be the state that the politico dynasties and their minions are in, albeit totally unaware? You be the judge.

Finally, my unsolicited advice is to Ruto. Flattery is like chewing gum. It is meant to be enjoyed for a short while, not swallowed. Likewise, enjoy your hustler nation by-election wins this week.

For all the negative bile you have received in the past two years, you certainly deserve to bask in the glory. But do so only for a little while. Successful election to public office is no mean feat. And subsequent election victories increase the likelihood of the onset of the Hubris Syndrome, which creeps in unannounced.

So rather than become wrapped up in the self-glorification presented by these by-elections success and power, learn from the Beatles. After a very successful tour of America, they went back to England and immediately recorded their next album. And one other every six months.

Like the Beatles, consolidate your victory. Don’t bask in it and invite the Hubris Syndrome. Its consequences are devastating.

Even great men bow before the Sun; it melts hubris into humility - Dejan Stojanovic