If we took a poll on the worst news headlines on the planet, I’m sure Kenya would feature near the top of that list. Especially in these times where we wake up to daily news of heinous crimes being committed against one another. If it’s not loss of lives being reported, it’s guys being arrested for economic crimes. We seem to have become a nation that worships money above all else, including life itself.
I played golf a few years ago with a High Court judge. I used one of the most popular Kenyan ice breakers to start the conversation. Corruption. We talked about many angles of it together with the other two players who were in our team. Then he said something that I have not forgotten up to this day. Many Kenyans are angry about the few guys at the top eating all our money. But why are we really angry? Am I angry because others are eating, or because I don’t have a chance to eat myself? That question made my mind spin. If I had a chance to be in a position of influence, would I resist the temptation to put my hand in the cookie jar? Would I see it as my turn to eat, or serve my country?
Let me confess that I’m glad I have been nowhere near a gava position when going through lean times financially. That might just have been my saving grace because maybe I’m not that strong. I am learning from my public service job that people are inherently good. I sit in long meetings with people who have left their personal responsibilities and are committed to a cause on a full voluntary basis. They even spend their own cash to travel and get things done, yet there is no financial benefit to them other than serving to grow the sport.
Maybe some of the guys appearing in courtrooms now charged with looting public resources were probably serving pro bono at some point in the past. Maybe even the free services they offered for noble causes is what got them into the offices of power that have now landed them in hot soup (with chilli even). Unfortunately, some of these guys are civilian casualties in the war on graft but a good number are guilty as charged. It almost seems like genuinely good yet powerful people should be added to the list of animals on the brink of extinction because they are not easy to find.
Since our leaders do not fall from the moon, these guys and ladies are just like you and I. Most of us have a similar upbringing and got exposed to similar opportunities here in +254. So when we appoint them, they are a reflection of all of us as they come from our midst. I think the power in those positions gets to their heads and they do things that they regret later. From what I’m seeing, it’s definitely easier to handle failure than success.
Kenyans are angry at the crimes (economic and otherwise) being committed because we get to carry the burdens from inflated power bills to now the VAT levied on fuel. But are the guys doing this bad Kenyans or do they just have bad manners? I know this is one of those morality conversations that can go on till my laptop battery runs out of juice.
Most of the folks I have met while serving have been wonderful human beings. At least from the interactions I have had with them. I will confess that it is tempting to use positions of leadership to pull deals and benefit oneself. The fear I have is soiling my reputation which at the end of it all is what will matter. A good name is better than riches, the Bible says.
This may sound like one of those unattainable goals considering all the self-preservation we see around us, but maybe it’s worth a try getting to that place where we believe people are generally good until proven otherwise. I know folks, it sounds very theoretical because the natural reaction is to shield ourselves from being taken advantage of. But if we aim at doing good to those we meet, I think chances are higher that more good will come our way. And when angry, it will be for the right reasons.