Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, said a British statesman of the past. He spoke for all time in these seven words.
Power without Preparation
But there is no greater corrupter than power attained without preparation. Most people go into politics with the very best intentions. In fact, the majority of leaders are amazingly superb souls: better humans than most would anticipate, upon first hearing the bleak histories of their failings and weaknesses. Yet, in all circumstances, the corruption and odium that reflects their tenures and blights their age is embodied in the exertions and over-zealous actions of their supporters.
It should not come as a surprise that most traditions insist on moulding and mentoring future power-wielders. Monarchies and organisations, homes and businesses are known to identify future leaders and to train them for the wise performance of their expected social authorities and responsibilities.
Understudies and apprentices learn over time and become so good that at the onset of their appointed time, everything flows seamlessly. This important preparation is almost a lifelong calling. For example, if Queen Elizabeth II - of the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland - if she were to leave her majestic and powerful offices for any given reason, few expect to feel a blip of the scales of state, because her heir apparent, Prince Charles, is so thoroughly prepared to be King that his talents are awasting...
When I say few, I especially refer to her subjects, both loyal and disloyal, as well as the rest of the global public. And that is my foremost intention. The world would remain stable as is, if Charles became King today, because we are long mentally prepared for the circumstance.
Power in new hands
To return to Kenya, it is fated that there will be a new president, yet none of the 'probable presidents' has prepared his or her people for power. There is absolute need to prepare for power, for the president to be, but especially for the communities that the prime leaders will come from.
In our situation, one can say that Gema communities and the Kalenjin have had the experience of producing a president, i.e. the power of ruling a nation, hence require little remedial training. What they require is the assurance and acceptance in the national common upon relinquishing that power.
Perils of Losing Power: Our history
The experiences of the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin peoples upon 'losing' power have been of pain and rejection. The first Kikuyu president died in office, without having prepared his community for the end. Then President Moi and his Kalenjin elite fought hard to ruin their economic power.
Sackings from public office, witch-hunts, public humiliations and stereotyping pushed the grieving Kikuyu into a hard shell of suspicion and angst. They were a community of 'children bereft', who longed for the days of privilege. That is why they fought so hard to dislodge Moi from power - using all means, local as well as foreign-instigated. And when they regained power, they acted as ruthlessly as is permissible by their collective conscience.
When the Kalenjin gained power unexpectedly following the demise of Mzee Kenyatta, on the other hand, they made it a tribal celebration. Upon Kenya was foisted the most incompetent and egregious regime of kleptomania and illiterate arrogance. A rapacious breed of people whose badge of honour was a warlike mentality and huge doses of low self-esteem filled the public sphere, causing the nation untold harm.
Their primal conservatism saved this nation a lot of pain, though. One shudders to think what would have happened had such thin-skinnedness boiled in the cauldron of wicked adventurism. Kenya would be a failed republic!
Then Moi left power, and the Kalenjin faced the wrath of the returning Kikuyu - sackings all around, replacements in all major positions of public privilege and horrendous chasticement. The Old Warrior clans clammed up into a shell of anger unknown. Just a piece of it was shown when they thought they had "got" the Kikuyu at their weakest, in 2008.
These two cases help me to sufficiently illustrate why it is important to prepare for power - both to exercise and to bequeath it. Such preparation, now, is especially important for the people of Luo Nyanza and Western, who are at their closest possible leap to power.
One other vital reason is the traditional rivalry that has been created, both by the Kikuyu and Kalenjin, against the Luo. How will the Luo people relate to the common Kikuyu, when the former obtain the reins of state?
Even though our new Constitution has restructured our government and sufficiently emasculated the Presidency, so that the President is not the omnipotent Collosus that he has been in this land, the institution of the Presidency (including the powerful position of Deputy President) is still an overwhelming estate. It is such as to earn any county or community with which it is temporarily associated extreme pride and unfathomable prestige.
Which is why we should not be casual and simplistic, using cheap excuses and unverified legalisms to take for granted the benevolence of any of our next ruling communities. I will not buy the childish optimism of the 'one Kenya, one people' idealists. That is merely our hope; our intended destination, folks. It is certainly not our current position on the journey.
If the Luo/Luhya people are not actively prepared to be gracious and magnanimous in victory, then we face a tough fourth republic as a nation. It is especially important to direct the Lake Basin peoples to start thinking of themselves as leaders of a nation - both of themselves and of their former rulers. They should be helped to set aside extreme haughtiness and pomposity, highfalutin braggadocio and feelings of vengeance against their losing opponents. They should also divorce themselves of unreasonable expectations.
Producing the next President
This is the time to lead the Luo and Luhya, who are likeliest to produce our next President and Deputy President, to start thinking of themselves no longer as passengers in a bus or just clients at a restaurant, but as the drivers of the bus, or the staffers of the restaurant, whose main concern should be the safety, peace and satisfaction of their esteemed clients. The Luo and Luhya people must be made to understand the value of tolerance, community and charity.
It is our chance to seek a co-operative, collegiate society that accomodates those with who, for too long, we may not have seen eye to eye. It is time for the peoples of the Lake Pole to become 'bigger' souls, citizens who will more closely embrace their brethren from the Mountain Pole. Like a powerful magnet, let both polarities attain an indissoluble, mutually attractive and uniting force of national cohesion.
Opportunity to Serve the Nation - It's Work, not Play
They should be leaders in service and hospitality, in times of joy and of difficulty, and should above everything else, know that leading a nation is a responsibility, not an endless barbeque party. Over every other groupings, they will be watched and harshly judged for the defining errors of their own era in power. For history to be kind to all of us, the Luo and the Luhya should totally seek the pragmatic balance that only well-mentored rulers ever attain.
They must be prepared to share with others and accept those who may not look at issues from the same angle, or speak like them. They must be taught to be accomodative of criticism in their direction from those who ruled before them, and should be made to learn that they will one day leave the stage of power.
It is not good for a people to attend the banquet of state power with unwashed hands and untrimmed nails.
I am concerned that the polarising politics of the election year might not leave enough time to address these vital matters of community manners. Yet, it seems written in the stars that the Luo and Luhya will be leading Kenya, at least for the next decade.
What we witnessed in 2007 showed a people unprepared for the sacred duty of governing a nation of 43 different societies. Eventhough the Kalenjin muddled through for 24 years, the strict expectation that we have learned from their mistakes, and our own avid clamour for a better Kenya require that these two communities behave better and conduct their affairs in a much more dignified manner than their predecessors on the festival stage.
Better than our Predecessors!
This way, they will reclaim Kenya, not just for themselves, but for all the 41 remaining groups, whose turn might come too late to straighten a steadily bending tree. The mistakes of the Kenyatta, Moi and Kibaki administrations should not be used against their people, but rather to set the minimal standards of good that the next leaders should attain.
There is a certain inevitability about it. this time around. Unlike in 2007, when President Mwai Kibaki still retained hope of returning for a second term, and his supporters and all the business interests reliant on his umbrage could afford some form of lackadaisical complacency, 2012 bears certainty of change. We will be electing a new President of Kenya, whatever the result. And, therefore, everyone is bated in their breathing. We do not appear to have any noticeable group of disinterested citizens. Some are feeling sure to win, others fear the uncertain weight of loss.
For this last group, their leaders too should prepare them to hand over power and accept the dynamics of time and fate. It is not their rights they are giving up, just the privilege of leading our shared, beloved nation to the able and steady hands of their loving compatriots. They should be assured of prosperity and peace in the next chapter of this verse.
I thank you, and do sincerely hope you too are preparing to lead exemplarily in this next dispensation.