OPINION:Why politics of principle in Kenya is hard to achieve
The enigmatic Turkish mullah Nasreddin Hodja went to the market and a bunch of enthusiasts surrounded him. They began to imitate his every move. He would make a few steps and the followers would do just the same.
He would stop and wave in the air, the followers did just the same. He would shake hands with imaginary people, jump in the air, touch his feet, shake his head, make sounds, and the market folk did the exact same thing. One of Mullah Nasreddin’s friends, a merchant, took him aside and asked him why all those people were imitating him like that. He responded, “I am a Sufi Sheikh, these are my murids (spiritual followers) and I am helping them reach enlightenment.”
Puzzled, the merchant enquired how exactly they would achieve enlightenment. The Mullah responded, “That is the easy part! Every morning I count them. The ones who have left have reached enlightenment!”
MIMING WITH THE MULLAH
In Kenyan politics, every politician has his acknowledged set of murids. They will follow them wherever they go and do whatever they do, even the stupid things. Ruto has his murids spread all over the Rift Valley and right across the country.
They will see no evil or hear no evil about him. He could abuse his office, commit any Chapter Six crime in broad daylight, yet he will remain their man. And dare you touch him.
NASA leader Raila Odinga has his murids in Nyanza and also in many places right across the country. If Baba did not want to vote, then is murids did not want to vote. Even Jubilee leader Uhuru Kenyatta has his own set of murids, and when not insulting Raila’s murids on social media, they are doing it in their political talk. Very few of these murids will ever attain enlightenment in their lifetime.
ATTAINING THE ENLIGHTENMENT
Kenyan politicians wake up each morning to count their murids, and, unlike Mullah Nasreddin, they must ensure none of them ever achieves enlightenment and leaves the pack. The politicians come up with a new act every now and then, to keep the murids happily following. The murids are almost always members of the Mullah’s tribe. One of the proven ways of keeping their murids united, is to give them a common (tribal or political) enemy. You have the murids unanimously following in the hatred.
If perchance one or two murids achieves enlightenment, then they receive a painful set of barbs not just from the mullah but also from the murids.
Some though have defied the odds and have achieved enlightenment.
Jubilee secretary general Raphael Tuju has to be one of those who have attained enlightenment, having stood against Railapolitik, both under the National Rainbow Coalition and also under Jubilee. He paid a deep price for it but that, I guess, is the cost of enlightenment. Another would be NASA strategist David Ndii who has defied his tribal (Kikuyu) political thinking and is firm in NASA murid. You could throw in Nairobi woman rep Muthoni Passaris and a (very small) handful of politicians.
HATING THE ENLIGHTENED
We love to hate those who have attained true enlightenment. Those from our ethnic groups, who support another political grouping is a deeply hated person. Perhaps it is because they remind us of our own feebleness and, so, we must hate them. This has been described as the ‘herd-mentality’ in which we crowd with those of our kind and we vigorously defend one another in our neck of the woods. When Prof Patrick Lumumba represented the IEBC during the August 8 presidential petition, he was disparaged by his own kith and kin for not taking the Baba mime. And such is politics.
There was a time when we had the courage of publishing the thinking of a politician towards an enlightened individual who has escaped their clutches. Some audio or video clips of one politician hurling brickbats against a former colleague or associate can be very interesting, especially when they eventually return to the same fold they had left. And we, the people, join our respective mullahs in hating those they hate and even physically harassing the liberated murids. I watched with despair the disparaging of Water CS Eugene Wamalwa at a Vihiga fete on December 26.
The crowds turned hostile against him, hurling expletives and even stoning his car. The reason was that here was one liberated murid, who is spoiling the mime.
LOSING THE ENLIGHTMENT
It is a difficult thing to work up to your enlightenment. You must have tonnes of courage to swim against the current. It almost goes without saying that there are those who have lost their erstwhile enlightment and returned to mime their tribal mullahs. Miguna Miguna had attained enlightenment in 2012, when he fell out with Raila Odinga. He gave us his raw thoughts over the failures of his Mullah in a tell-all book, only to come back and continue the choreographic mime under him this year. James Orengo had attained enlightenment in 2002, when he ran for President only to return to Railapolitik in 2007, when it was clear he could not do without miming alongside him. Others who lost their enlightenment include Kisumu Governor Prof Anyang Nyong’o, who once defied the Odinga political machine only to return to it. Another would have to be Kisumu Speaker Onyango Oloo, who was the TNA Secretary General in 2013, only to return to the fold he once disparaged.
On the Jubilee side, former Bomet Governor Isaac Rutto had achieved enlightenment from the UhuRuto mime and had turned his back on the Jubilee juggernaut. He threw his brickbats at his former coalition members but when he fell at the polls, he crawled back to Jubilee and is setting himself to (quietly) mime with UhuRuto yet again. You could throw in nominated Jubilee nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura and a dozen of other Jubilee politicians.
At the end of the day, all politics is personal. It is about what is in it for me as an individual. This is why we scramble for the politician’s money whether we like them or not. We will take their money and vote the person endorsed by the mullah. This phenomenon was first observed by American sociologist Ernest W Burgess in 1925. Although he was primarily interested in urban expansion, his theory may still be applied to political theory. He stated that towns expand outward evenly from an original core and each outer zone grows by gradual habitation into another zone. His theory, which came to be known as the Concentric-Ring Theory, holds that the value of land will decrease with the distance from the centre.
If you look at any town, you will find the value of the land at the CBD much higher than that of the outside. We as humans think pretty much the same way, the highest value is your own interest which is in the first ring. The interests of the secondary ring and each subsequent ring diminish. After taking care of our own individual interest, we begin to mind that of our spouse, children, extended family, clan, tribe, region, nation, race, continent etc. Usually, our tribal mullahs get us at the fourth concentric ring and this is where we are most vulnerable. As humans, we find safety in numbers and our safety then begins with the family, then clan and gains greater traction in tribe. This explains why nearly all the political parties are headed by tribal mullahs. Nearly all of their members reflect the tribal affiliation of the big man in the party. To understand this, you look at the majority elected in certain parties and you will know that we are still in the primordial stages in democratic development. The situation is further complicated by clan-based thinking.
KENYA AND CLAN-BASED THINKING
I would have to give it to NASA principals Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka for defying opinion and awarding their blood relatives crucial political positions. I kept thinking about how Norman Magaya must have felt utterly betrayed when his name did not go far in the EALA nominations. Whether you like him or not, Magaya had practically underwritten the NASA political agenda – before, during and after the two elections. He dug the trenches and got his hands dirty in the war against Jubilee. Kennedy Musyoka, on the other hand, quietly watched from the sidelines, unable or unwilling to get dirty. The Brookhouse educated young man went to school in the international curriculum, while his father, as Education minister, fried our brains with the now-defunct 8-4-4 system. Kalonzo was the Education minister under Moi in the period between 1998 and 2001, and his then 11-year old son was doing the IB at that exclusive school in the Karen neighbourhood. Magaya, on the other hand, was taking the grind with 8-4-4 as were countless other millions.
Jubilee would also not be spared of the clan-based thinking when Beth Mugo, Uhuru Kenyatta’s ageing cousin, was nominated to the Senate in the previous term and her name also featured in the EALA nominations. Perhaps the politicians are afraid that their murids might one day get enlightenment. They want murids who will never be enlightened, because they are family.