In a study by Laughlab — an experiment in mass humour — the joke about Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson on a camping trip was found to be the world’s funniest on the laughometer scale. A Kenyan rendition goes something like this (no pun intended): A Kikuyu and Dr Onyango go on a camping trip in open country. They set up their tent and fall asleep.
Some hours later, the Kikuyu wakes up and nudges his faithful friend, “Dr Onyango, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.” Dr Onyango replies, “I see millions of stars.” “What does that tell you?” asks his friend.
Dr Onyango ponders for a minute and then answers. “Astronomically speaking, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo. Timewise, it appears to be approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, it’s evident the Lord is all-powerful and we are small and insignificant.
Meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. But, what does it tell you my friend?” The Kikuyu is silent for a moment, and then speaks out, “Dr Onyango, you idiot, kubafu, foko jebe, uji baridi! Someone has stolen our tent!”
Leadership disconnect. That is the term used to describe a situation in which a leader is out of touch with the circumstances of his or her people.
Perched up the pinnacle of life, all can appear calm and serene even when the masses below are parched and famished.
Like Dr Onyango, we can become puckish as we go into great lengths conjuring theories and philosophies when in reality, we are all exposed to the vagaries of nature, having lost our tent to night thieves.
Early in my leadership as a bishop, I received a call from a leader in one of our church branches. He was livid.
“Bishop, you can’t be sitting up your ivory tower when the ground is sinking below you!” He went on to narrate to me the serious matters that were going on at his assembly and how, in his view, I was doing nothing. Though it did not feel nice, and though he was not wholly correct in his assessment of the situation — for I was duly appraised and was contemplating the next course of action — he nonetheless jolted me to the reality that I was operating largely in disconnect. I moved with speed and was able to arrest a situation that could have scattered the congregation.
Like my good church friend, I could be wholly wrong, but it appears to me that in Kenya, many of us are operating in total disconnect.
You listen to lawyers and civil society haggle over nuances and technicalities on human rights laws for outright criminals; and you have to conclude that they have not captured the implication of the stars they see.
You analyse the rulings by some judges and magistrates on critical issues affecting the nation — terrorism, corruption, or elections — but all you can hear is astronomy, astrology, and meteorology; but no evidence of a determination to nail the tent thief.
As things stand, the nation is almost paralysed due to strikes by various government workers seeking better terms; the government wage bill and national debt have gone through the roof; and drought has been declared a national disaster.
Yet, you watch members of Parliament award themselves a hefty send-off package — after a grossly overpaid term of service — and it becomes clear that Dr Onyango is too engrossed with self to appreciate that Kenya’s economic tent is gone.
You hear that a PS opted to join a voter registration campaign rather than chair negotiations with striking doctors, and you can only weep for our beloved country.
Meanwhile, somebody please tell me why Okiya Omtatah has been in court and what value he hopes to add to the electoral process. Is it not obvious that what we need is to address the root causes of voter apathy?
Fellow Kenyans, look up at the sky and tell me what you see. I could be wrong and I apologise. But, our tent has been stolen.
Unless we jolt the men and women seated up their ivory towers, and unless we nudge Dr Onyango to abandon his philosophies, we shall all likewise perish.