HOW A FUTURE LEADER SHOULD DO HIS GROWING
Dear Mr. Politician,
I am sure you have gone through Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father – a seminal autobiography that gives insightful observations on the differences between a dream and a nightmare. While going through the book, you must have realized that getting involved in community works and passionately seeking solutions to the local’s economic, social and political predicaments can elevate you from a mere group member to a leader. I also want to believe you have read, reread and possibly edited in your mind, Nicolle Machiavelli’s The Prince. In Machiavelli’s text, you learnt some invaluable lesson, especially with regards to politics, religion and morality: that you must forget about ever seeing the Kingdom of God, if you mean to win a political battle. You must have also, I bet, had a conversation with a political scientist or a friend who exhibited sound thought in political discourses – maybe a fresh graduate who read the 48 Laws of Power. So you think you are good to go. Well, here is why I believe you are still lost in the dark and destructive illusions.
Reading widely in the field of politics is not a bad idea. In fact, it is the starting point. But make no mistake, it is not the sole thing you need to win a democratic duel. The well-scripted lessons have the charm that sends the philosophies deep inside your heart. They have the adorable face of a kitten and the sweet smile of a job interviewee. But the words remain abstract unless you corner them to fit your current environment. I believe voters are unique and societies are not homogenous. Your opponent will not be the same one President Obama wrestled. Neither will he be the one President Uhuru met in 2013 or will meet in 2017. Therefore, you must wake up to make the concepts relevant to your situation. You must do your own growing. Autobiographies are good only to the extent that you treat them as a hint on what you should either do or not do. Here is how your shoots should break unto the sun.
Lessons from the life of Jesus Christ
The prayer book offers useful political teachings that I think have been overlooked by scientists. But before we get to the substance of my observations, let me dispel any concern that a child of God may have. First, let me apologize for dragging Jesus’ name into your evil plans – we do not expect you to deliver. Do we? All you want is to colour your name, oil your pocket and perhaps tell your grandchildren how long your shadow was during your heydays; boys kept their distance while girls bore the brunt of your lechery. Second, let me clarify that Jesus did not fail in his mission. His rejection was prophesized. His crucifixion was pre-determined. The treacherous conduct of some of his disciples was foreseen. That notwithstanding, we can still draw some ideas from his ‘turbulent political life.’ Get your coffee ready, put your weight on the deck of your plastic chair (you have not jack-pocketed anything yet) and read.
There are several reasons that can explain why Jesus lost popularity with the masses, a situation that led to his trial and conviction.
1. At a tender age, Jesus started displaying a high level of IQ and in-depth mastery of laws. This worried both the incumbent and the elders to whom thoughtfulness was entrusted. The elders were baffled. When King Herod got wind of this, he gave out instructions for mass execution of male children.
Moral of the story: wait for your time. Don’t be in a hurry to embarrass your political seniors. Before throwing yourself into the political ring, you need to first pile more skins on your height, grow beards, tighten your muscles and get two kids. Meanwhile, as you wait for your time, impatiently, of course, it does no harm to, once in a while, drop some wisdom otherwise what else will set you apart? Terrorize your peers with knowledge and proverbs but ensure you don’t become the tall tree that gets all the sun. You will be cut down. Be green and fat and maintain a slightly taller height. Attack the master only when you have spotted a gap in his leadership; he has made an unpopular decision and the masses are withdrawing from him. In other words, challenge him only when you are certain people are desperate for an alternative voice. Ruto knew when to break ranks with former president Moi (2005). Orengo did not know when to attack Raila (2002).
2. God originally intended John the Baptist to be Jesus’ first disciple. Unfortunately, when suspicion and disbelief engulfed the land, John, who ought to have settled the dust, when confronted with a question as to whether the man he baptized was the Messiah they were waiting for, denied any knowledge about who Jesus was. He told them, “I can’t confirm that he is the one.”
Moral of the story: you do not need to lose that noisy village college kid or the head of chama (you may call them King Makers). Do not allow them to run away from you. Don’t step on them. Be the best of their friends. Caress their ego. Make yourself foolish before them. What killed the cat was curiosity, humility did not.
3. Against people’s expectations, Jesus’ chose disciples from unlikely quarters. He went for the toiling fishermen and corrupt tax collectors. He was also, at one point, seen ‘embracing’ a prostitute.
Lesson: One, always stay loyal to what the public wants, expects or thinks is the case. Keep your academic thoughts and liberal views to your small school head. Raphael Tuju did not know what his constituents wanted (2005). Two, surround yourself with men of blameless characters but if you can’t find some, clothe the ones you have with a bishop’s gown. Raila knows how to make his point-men look like angels when you and I know some have questionable pasts.
4. Jesus performed extraordinary miracles – walking on water, raising the dead and even ‘forgiving’ people of their sins. Jesus was God. He still is. But the people did not believe it at that time. In order to avoid being celebrated in your death, take care not to surpass people’s imagined powers and capabilities of the Messiah. A political savior should not be a genius. He must lower himself to ‘people’s level’. Voters strongly dislike pomposity. Avoid jargons and hard to comprehend phrases. Only the fifth columnist, Philip Ochieng, is allowed to use them. But once you’ve won, you are free to scare your colleagues in parliament. In Kisumu, for example, we value ‘big English.’ It is what made Ababu Namwamba the city’s darling.
5. Born and bred like a normal human being, (through Joseph and Mary), people were offended when Jesus called himself the Son of God. Rivals of Jesus informed the Jews that they were being taken for little children.
Lesson: politics is all about playing with voters’ emotions. Create no room for attack. If you went to study in America, tell the voters about that only as an introductory sentence and not to make it one of the reasons you deserve to lead them. Your opponent, who probably did not go to school, will accuse you of bragging. In fact, he may say that you despise all those who are studying locally. And what if he says that you were just cleaning the white man’s toilet? During the 2013 electioneering, Ruto told Kalenjins that it was Raila who took him to ICC and also that it was the same Raila who kicked them out of Mau Forest, their ancestral home. Sounds sufficiently emotive.
Don’t go to the village in expensive suits. They will say you are a snob. Avoid that which your opponents can use to ignite people’s emotion.
Lessons from the life of Raila Odinga
Any girl who does not admire the life of Raila Odinga between 1980 and 2007 is a disappointment to Eve’s family. Any man who denies the beauty of Raila’s political life during the mentioned period should be condemned to bachelorhood. Our girls do not want to bear children whose fathers know nothing about the history of their nation.
Raila was arrested and convicted without trial in 1982 following the aborted coup. Let’s suspend this talk for a paragraph.
When the so called kanjo arrest you for littering the city and lock you up for two hours, you will do all manner of ranting on social media. You will update your status ten times and tag all the law students you know. Perhaps you will even swear against the institution. Because you spent two hours – a whole 120 minutes – in the cold room. Unjustly? No. You deserved it. You spat on our yellow flowers. You knew your boyfriend would protect you because he has well-knitted muscles. Idiot. Delete those posts.
Raila was fighting a dictator. He was ridding the nation of a bad leader. After his release, he did not relent in the struggle. He was rearrested and detained for six more years. Compare it to your two hours, Miss. He regained his freedom in 1988, but continued the fight till multi-party democracy was birthed in 1991. He kicked Moi (sic) out in 2002, defeated a bad constitution in 2005 and surrendered to humanity following the 2007 post poll chaos, when he had the option to fight harder and shed more blood.
Mr. Politician, I am sure you’ve grown some teeth. Please, stand for something, something popular. Risk your life and reputation. Don’t just stand against a headmaster who reports to school late. What if he is transferred? Will the people still remember what you did? Fight for the emancipation of the masses. Pursue good governance. Offer alternative leadership. Confront bad policies. Challenge conventional thinking. Offer solution. Don’t just buy a pencil to a class one pupil. Fala wewe. Remember you are growing. Voters are recording your daily heights. Do it carefully. Don’t stop when you secure a job with that well-paying firm.
Lessons from Napoleon Bonaparte.
Bonaparte successfully led France to many battles. His army was well organized. His intelligence was the French gold. So loved was his leadership that the subjects christened him ‘The Pride of France.’ Italy can tell the story properly. But pride would bring the smart guy down. After conquering the neighbouring countries, he sought to expand his territory and made a mistake in the process. Instead of leaving power ‘as sweet as it came’, he attacked Britain at Waterloo. England connived with his enemies and brought down his empire.
The story may not sound educative enough unless you hear Babu Owino’s. Babu is currently the chairman of SONU, acronym of Student Organisation of Nairobi University. Babu has fought and won many good battles against both the administration and the government. For example, when the government unnecessarily took too long to release students’ loan (HELB), Babu would risk his name to see to it that money was disbursed to student’s accounts. During the lecturers’ strikes, Babu led a demonstration that would force the government to solve the problem. He was loved. In fact, a vacuum was created when he left. This was in 2011.
Babu was reelected in 2014. He made history, the first ever to sit on the throne twice. In his second tenure, Babu fought against fee increment. Us from the poor families rejoiced. You from the rich family thought us trouble courters. We will forgive your maker.
Babu, for whatever reason known to him, decided to run for the same post again in 2015. He won, hotly contested, though. But his name is fading as I write. He is losing the support he once had. His is staggering. Sober men are avoiding him. Why? He did not leave power ‘with the sweetness it came with.’ Gimoro iweyo gi mitne, we say in Luo. Babu now has a mountain to climb. He has to redeem his image. Perhaps he will have to go back to his pre-campus life. I wish him well.
Mr. politician, in case you are heading a youth group, a society or an institution of higher learning, please, sir, we gino gi mitne, otherwise you will find yourself at the base of the people’s mountain. The only thing you need to leave is a legacy, not a dirty seat. Don’t be drunk with the ‘small’ power you have. Your target is the big seat. And by the way, avoid the media and the bloggers as much as you can. They can bring you down any minute. Your head is still too small for the television screen.
You are not grown until you learn to handle stress, pressure, pain and childish opponents. The truth is, there are challenges on this road. Bumps are thick and mountainous. Potholes are floating on the road. Voters are juvenile. Sometimes they refuse to reason. You may be asked why your wife rarely comes home. Your opponent may want to know why your grandfather was a shaman. That school girl you used to introduce to your friends may maliciously claim you got her pregnant.
Grow with your emotion. Test it with difficulties. Ensure it stone-hardens. Don’t be that born-again girl who has come to sit next you in a conference that is taking too long to commence. The girl is dressed in a mini skirt with an eye-opening slit. Her skin is pale and smooth, bereft of scars. You turn to look at her and she greets you with a leaf-shaped mouth. You are smitten. You cannot talk football with her. You are not stupid to engage her in current political matters. You are too poor to discuss business ideas with her. So you tease her about her beauty, just to pass time. And what does the bugger do? Moves to another seat, shouting abuses at you in bad English. Immoral. Dirty. Evil.
I have attended a funeral (no single Luo reaches my age before attending one) where two opposing candidates met. The first to speak hurled insults at his opponent. He got cheers and mild jeers from the crowd. When the second one stood to speak, he consoled the bereaved family and said, ‘I am not going to respond to abuses because of two reasons. One, this is a funeral and not a political gathering and two, I don’t know how to abuse people.’ He won the voters though he had also politicked in past burial ceremonies.
Teach yourself how to handle losses, immature competitors and above all, know what to respond to, when and how. Raila was made out as a chronic complainer when he asked about the ‘nusu kapeti, hata choo hakuna.’ Of course, you and I know his complaints were genuine. But we are only two people.
In George Orwell’s book, Animal Farm, is a pig named Squealer. She is talented in public speaking – simple, articulate and cogent. Because of this rare gift, she is appointed the ‘government spokeswoman’. She cleverly and persuasively sugarcoats unpopular decisions made by the leader in such a slick manner that all the complaining animals recede to silence and total obedience to the authority. When cornered, Squealer quotes laws and attributes her thoughts to the watching God.
Articulacy begets persuasiveness which in turn breeds votes. It humbles the most stubborn mind and condenses boiling anger. It’s the reason commercial pastors reap from the worshippers. It explains why a foolish man triumphs in elections. Sir, please, work on your language. Do more practice on public speaking. Read books. Watch movies.
Did I forget to mention integrity? It is the only weapon you have against the rest of the world. Never visit Sabina Joy again.
Making good use of the alphabet