By Shitemi Khamadi
Thomas Paine, the English-American political activist stated that “what we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.” These words reverberate when reflecting on the Kenyan politics of the day.
This past week has evidenced news on magnitude of greed from the politicians. Senators want higher remunerations and details of allowances from sittings and mileage of Members of Parliament have been reported with some expected defense from some legislators. These elected representatives were given the mandate to undertake their various duties by the voters in the March 2013 General Elections.
They are therefore supposed to be acting in the public’s confidence and trust. It starts with campaigns when aspirants seek for votes. There are those who will present their manifestos at the individual and party levels. They would be eloquent and exhibit the ideal leadership tenets needed to address certain problems. There are also others who in addition, oil their campaigns with money and other goodies.
The song Fuata Sheria (follow the law) by Sarabi Band and Juliani has a line which says “…t-shirt, 50 bob, leso, siku ya campaign ilikuwa free! ni five year long investment, utalipa akiingia parliament…” (the t-shirt sh50, wrap, during the campaigns were free! It is a five year long investment that you will pay when they gets to parliament). The song is critical of both the leaders who use power and influence for selfish gains and the public who are equally replete with using unlawful means to get by.
This brings into focus the place of values in a society. The constitution does well to enumerate them in Article 10. Religious institutions do their part in imparting the good word during days of worship and in reading the scriptures. But as Dalai Lama aptly points out, it is about the individual and what he or she feels is most critical.
As a people, what is that which can rally the country united devoid of prejudices! Regardless of the answer, does what the public values vis-à-vis what parliamentarian value change once they are sworn into office?
The responsibilities of leadership as enshrined in Article 73 of the constitution, expect leaders to demonstrate respect for the people, bring honor to the nation and dignity to the office and promote public confidence; core tenets that would inspire public trust. These qualities consolidate the expectations on national values in Article 10 specifically integrity, equity, equality, human dignity, inclusiveness and social justice.
These ideals should inform leadership right from when one intends to run for office. It is an expectation that further inspires the spirit of chapter six of the constitution. A careful inspection of Parliamentarians activity within and outside the House reveals, none of these provisions inform them. The August House to them is a market place to amass wealth and endear selfish interests.
There is this governance practice of respecting the office that one holds. The individual could be callous and inept but the office needs to be firm in what its mandate is. To what extent does the quality of the person influence the office they hold? It does a great deal, regardless of level of education but driven by passion and commitment to service delivery.
Do Kenyans expect too much from leaders after the ballot? Are they justified to call the legislators greedy yet they played a core role in accepting goodies in exchange for votes? Are the leaders being accused of something society has accepted hence the gun should be pointed elsewhere? The dynamic has to be changed. Change is a process and it starts with a conscience voter making the right and informed decision at the ballot. Thoughts?