I am madly furious this morning.
By Silas Nyanchwani
Yesterday, a newly elected MP on Jubilee ticket, Ndindi Nyoro, age: 32, wrote the following in the Saturday Nation.
“We should…enhance the powers of the Presidency. Choosing our security bosses, Supreme Court judges, top officials of commissions and other such influential persons should be the prerogative of the President. Furthermore, no legacy of any country is based on such officers. The buck stops with the President and he should get all the instruments to discharge his responsibilities.”
The world was a better place when your typical sycophant was an uneducated old man, despising the educated and singing praises to president Moi when he is launching a cattle dip, or a school to be named after him. Now a typical sycophant is a degree holder, sometimes even a doctorate.
I have no problem with sycophants, it is the lowest form of rent-seeking in politics. I am not in any business of taking bread from someone’s mouth. But when they cross the line, it is my business to stop them.
Any idiot who defends authoritarianism must be stopped. I know how much has been sacrificed for us to enjoy the freedom that some cretins are cheering as freedoms are being eroded. Just yesterday, David Ndii showed us a list of Kenyans who were wrongfully incarcerated, tortured, abused, at the Nyayo chambers during the Nyayo era. When you look at their names, they are mostly Kikuyu. Just 25 years ago, a Kikuyu would not have a dissenting opinion, without being clobbered. People like Kenneth Matiba paid the highest price for their dissent (most of the charges were trumped up). Matiba lost his health and wealth, only recently he was compensated Sh 504 million for the torture.
The problem with people like Ndindi Nyoro and his ilk, is that they don’t read their History and Literature. I would advise he starts with Wahome Mutahi’s “Three Days on the Cross”. And this is the problem of not having museums, statues, movies, books, that can always remind us of the treacherous path authoritarianism can take us. Ten years we had the worst Post Election Violence, but we don’t even have a memorial, other than the Boniface Mwangi pictures. That is why someone like Nyoro who came of age when Moi had been banished from power can pine for authoritarianism.
He may be an economist in high demand on our TV and newspapers, but his ignorance is on world affairs is worryingly disturbing. You can’t vouch for authoritarianism when you can see the carnage it has wreaked in countries.
A quick refresher. In Uganda, Yoweri Museveni came to power in 1986, and he promised that he will leave as soon as the country recovered from the many years of misrule. By 20 years in power, he was tampering with the constitution to remove term limits. By the 30th year, he is removing the age limit, and anyone who is opposing him is violently arrested and thrown into jail, like the arrest of the Kampala mayor last week. He will have his way. In Uganda, the opposition is so badly weakened that mounting a serious challenge for Museveni is not possible as long as Museveni lives.
In Tanzania, Magufuli has become too petty that even a musician can’t sing a critical song, neither can a cartoon caricature him. Christopher Hitchens, a man I deeply admired said that “One of the beginnings of human emancipation is the ability to laugh at authority,”. Even in Kenya, whereas we are very free, it has become impossible to criticize the president or Jubilee without risking your life. One thing that the last five years of Jubilee did is to take us back to the KANU years, where tribal kings would grovel around the president for tokenism. Editors like Galava were sacked for writing and stating the obvious that the president needed to be tough. Cartoonist Gado faced the same fate. And that is just a foretaste.
Down South in Zambia, their recently elected president is gone rogue, and Zambia, once the beacon of hope and democracy in the world is staring and an authoritarian abyss, just recently a leader of opposition was arrested. He recently told his countrymen that they should excuse him to be a dictator in order to deal and quell dissent.
We know of those countries where presidents have the power to choose their puppets to power. Jose Eduardo dos Santos has ruled Angola for 38 years. Theodore Obiang’ Nguema of Equitorial Guinea is clocking 40 years in power. Paul Biya of Cameroon is doing about 35 years in power. Mugabe is 94 years old, but still insists in being the president and the opposition and the country’s leadership is too weak to tell the old man the truth. Museveni is doing 31. And most of these countries, despite their wealth, they are poor.
In the 1980s and 1990s, academics escaped the country, in massive brain drain, because they could not stand President Moi and his authoritarian regime. They went to the United States, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia (what Trump calls Nambia) and the UK. And the countries they went, benefited greatly from their expertise. Good brains always escaped authoritarian regimes all over the world and it is their mother countries that were poorer for it. Countries like America and Britain have immensely benefited by tapping into the best brains from various parts of the country.
Nowadays, most academics would rather lick ass. They stand for nothing other than self-enrichment. That is why you have some of the sharpest lawyers, denigrating the Judiciary, where they may end up working.
We did an election, it was badly bungled. When the Judiciary was investigating IEBC, they were cockblocked. The evidence was overwhelming but Jubilee lawyers like international observers wanted us to assume that it is the voting that counts, the counting and transmission of results does not count. In the face of overwhelming evidence, the court annulled the results, throwing Jubilee into a schizophrenic frenzy, and at this rate, we may as well throw the baby with the birth water.
Part of being an adult is knowing that things don’t go your way always. And this Supreme Court Ruling didn’t go their way, and they should stop mourning already, it is water under the bridge. If we use the ruling to vilify the Judiciary and find excuses to “fix it” and the President as sworn, we will live to regret. And bad laws have a way of coming back to haunt those who made them. Power is transient. Institutions are not. There is such a thing as the Ratchet Effect; an instance of the restrained ability of human processes to be reversed once a specific thing has happened, analogous with the mechanical ratchet that holds the spring tight as a clock is wound up.
My people have a saying, geute, gekobamboka,
gekobambokere, (sort of inflate something, fill it up and when it bursts, it will burst on you). It is always difficult translating the potency packed in a saying. But Jubilee may think they will fix the Judiciary, but things can get worse, or their fixing may end up hurting them more than it will hurt the people they intend to hurt. There will come a time, when they are not in power, somebody else, may be Ruto has taken over, and they go voting but their numbers don’t count. And they will have nowhere to run to. Now when they are in power, they have the illusion of invincibility, if only they could know what happened when Jomo Kenyatta died and the plans of their elite came tumbling down.
We don’t know about the future, the only safeguard we can have is independent institutions, that check each other.
So, people like Ndindi, may pine for the bad old days when presidents were all powerful, but the ship sailed long time ago. We are not going back. He better get used to the fact that Kenya is a progressive country, and the only thing we need to do is shed the president more of his power and transfer them to other institutions.
If you know Ndindi in person, tell him that he is too young to think like a dinosaur.
Kenya is richer because we are freer. Authoritarian regimes are poorer, and he will not have made a fortune, at such a young age, if were under Moi, or an all-powerful president. This is common sense.
One last thing for Ndindi Nyoro, and I will quote from David Brooks, New York Times column of September 19,
“I’d like to offer you two models of human development.
The first is what you might call The Four Kinds of Happiness. The lowest kind of happiness is material pleasure, having nice food and clothing and a nice house. Then there is achievement, the pleasure we get from earned and recognized success. Third, there is generativity, the pleasure we get from giving back to others. Finally, the highest kind of happiness is moral joy, the glowing satisfaction we get when we have surrendered ourselves to some noble cause or unconditional love.”
Ndindi seem stuck at material wealth, he is at a stage where he can transcend material crassness, and stand up for something nobler. Good rules, good constitution is far better than short term gains of pleasing his masters.
There is now worse academic than one who prostitutes his credentials for money,