“It has been said that prostitution is the oldest profession and politics ranks second. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first.” Ronald Reagan
Politics is variously defined.
It has been defined as The science of government; that part of ethics which has to do with the regulation and government of a nation or state, the preservation of its safety, peace, and prosperity, the defense of its existence and rights against foreign control or conquest, the augmentation of strength and resources, and the protection of its in their rights, with the preservation and improvement of their morals.
It has also been simply put as the means through which people make collective decisions. The generalized concept of what politics is here therefore denotes power relation. It suggests that whenever we have an element of control, or a need to make collective decisions, then there arises interplay of politics. This means, that politics is virtually everywhere, from the humble seeking of opinion as to what we shall have for supper to the sacred lawns of Vatican. That at any instance, when we have to make a decision that influences beyond self, then this art or science of politics is at play. Power relations resulted in creation of states.
Historians could trace the evolution of state to the intrinsic instincts of interdependence in man. Well, this notion has more clarity in Africa. The African oneness of humanity. The abstract concept of I am for you are, that indigenous philosophy that one is only human if they are with other people. The concept of state may and sovereignty may have been foreign to our civilization, but Africa cradles the sub structure of state. The concept of foregoing individual rights for collective good was mothered in our uniqueness. But when this philosophy was pronounced and veiled in concepts of country and state and resold to us, we failed to recognize our own creation and sought to see it through the lens of those who resold it to us.
We interpreted the state, not as subjecting our individual desires to the crowning collective right, but rather as an organization of the leader and the led. When we betrayed that which we birthed, we birthed the betrayal that today haunts us. The relationship between the leader and the led in Africa has been a contest of endless intricacies; a fight between concepts that we know by heart and realities that haunt our daily being. This is worsened by our inclination to revere authority. I bet I ought to try and explain the culture of near complacency that has characterized our fabric save for the recent revolts.
Authority in Africa had a legitimacy of tradition and purpose. A father would be respected, but for the traditional knowledge that under his authority we avoided conflicts. Our monarchs had godly endorsements, we did not believe necessarily in them, but in what they represented. I would safely assume that this was translated into the present times. We were handed the vote, but we retained our belief, that a leader would act in our best interest. Sometimes, even that, a certain family was blessed with leadership.
I fail to get any justification when I recall my grandfather’s enthusiasm as he voted Uhuru Kenyatta in 2002. He took a strange pride in Jomo Kenyatta. And he voted his son taking comfort in knowledge of the Kenyatta’s heroism. “He reminds me of his father,” grandpa proudly said as he cast his ballot. A loyalty born of heart. This does not mean that he never questioned when “things became had”, he did. Again in his heart. This loyalty to our leaders was a factor that time erroneously revealed to the ruling elite in the post independence Africa. The mix of our traditional values and incepted perceptions provided the struggling elite with weapons of repression. Struggling in the sense that most sought, “the white man’s knowledge”, not as a basis of furthering their chances of effective interactions with their new folksmens, but as a means of qualifying their own being.
The little time I have been afforded in the world, allows me to imagine the confusion of qualifying the fundamental you, with pick-ups from an alien civilization. The infighting, of a hold onto our founding tenets and our founded tenets created a monster in the leader. Bowing to instincts of convenience, the leadership allowed the chance of comfort to exceed the relevance of collective good. A redefinition of wealth saw the elite seclude the masses to realize their own comfort; And that was the start of the annihilation of our democracy.
Today the culture of convenience is deeply entrenched in the heart of our politics. Convenience, that which man seeks but he must equally avoid it if the society has to grow. Why would I say convenience ought to be guarded against? The process of collective decision making is but a fight of ideas, a blend of diversity, where our individual wishes must bow down to the collective right. As such, humanity engages in a series of fights, proposals and counterproposals. When diversity blends with harmony, we strike a compromise that becomes the ultimate right. A bigger ball made of pellets of diverse views.
Just as a battle, the process of striking collective compromise is led by those who have the advantage of knowledge or foresight. But the tragedy of Kenya is that those who lead our contests have the expanse of their foresight as big as their taste buds. After colonialists lumped 42 shreds together and left us with the humble task of making a fabric, we took undue solace in the fact of our freedom without realizing that we were caging ourselves even further. We pretended that we could weave a social fabric without letting go of our shells.
When storms struck our ideas, we lacked courage to forge ahead, and instead, chose to succumb to convenience. We became believers in the tools of convenience. When conflict knocked on our foundation, we sough comfort in the fleshes of our differences. And as time goes on, 49 years later, we have entrenched that into our tattered fabric, that if we were to remove it, we would remain without a fabric, our belief. Our politics is pegged on our tribal leanings.
I am unable to imagine when we shall emancipate ourselves from these chains. I am not an agent of cynicism. Only a son of the soil who feels its heat and has courage to say the soil is hot. They say the wearer feels the pinch, but he rarely says of it, let me say of it. We have tribal chieftaincy as the propulsion to national recognition. We bargain for the national cake, not on the strengths of our needs but on the basis of our tribal numerical might. And as devolution sets forth, I pray that we do not devolve our ethnicity. I pray that our ethnic chauvinism will not even be further re-entrenched in our hearts.
But I dare scream of the bleak prospects that tomorrow may hold. When the storms of today strike us with unrelenting venom, when our ethnic instincts are invoked by politicians, sometimes we take solace that tomorrow may offer an alternative. It is this hope of our ideal tomorrow that motivates our strength. But that motivation could be a guise of emptiness, for when motivations are based on illusions, then societies would be on a brink of tattering into hopelessness.
The saddest thing about life is that ghosts of history reemerge with nauseating frequency in our today. And our today continually shapes our tomorrow. A culture of succumbing to convenience erases our obligations to posterity. We annihilate the prospects of tomorrow with non-care. And that, that is the fear I hold; that our belief in succumbing to the easiest soft spots is being magnified in the hearts of the young. And just like wine matures with age, the young are perfecting the art even more.
You think the effect of tribalism will wane tomorrow, wait until you participate in University politics. Yes those highest training shrines of this nation, where people step down for their kinsmen, to avoid “splitting the vote”. Where hooliganism is an expression of might. Where intimidation is a tool to title. Where money exchanges hands to burry aspirations. where leadership is creations of administration’s convenience. Where the leadership learns the art of betraying pressing interests. Where when one speaks they are branded dissidents, and handed seclusion as a mechanism to erase them. where if you believe, it could cost you your dreams. where the leaders finally end up BEING TRAINED TO WALK IN THE REALMS OF ROYALTY– A walk that is essentially, be calm and be comfortable.
These, are the people who will join tomorrow’s politics. And they, authors of convenience will imprison our wills to convenience. And again, we will maim each other’s dreams and sadly even lives. Unless, the moment takes courage. Unless we betray the tradition, we disregard our fears and dare to view politics differently. Unless the young, can be courageous. To defy the sweetness of convenience. To follow the thorny length stretch to our aspired future. But we are not entirely dead. For I choose to be difference I want to see. The difference of living the aspired dream. To sacrifice without regarding the pinches. To rebuke if my conscience is convinced. To persist if I meet agents of conservatism. To rebuild a culture that painfully strives for That Right. Even if the right hurts the mighty. For if I were to be in posterity, I would love to be handed such, by the present.