As I think about Raphael Wanjala rotting away in Tihar prison in India, I wonder if I should blame myself and other Kenyans for the low standards that we seem to have set for our leaders, or if I should blame leaders like Raphael Wanjala for disappointing those who look up to them as leaders and as fathers or mothers.
Recently, a spokesperson for “Honorable” Wanjala’s family said that the former minister had been a victim of a plan by his business partners to portray him in a negative way. I sympathise with the family. Not because scrupulous businesspersons conspired to get “mheshimiwa” incarcerated, but because whether or not they realise it, “mheshimiwa” has portrayed them and himself in a negative way. “Mheshimiwa” portrayed himself and his family in a negative way long before his business partners did him in. Moreover, the fact that he chose the said businesspersons does not help his character at all.
What does it say about us as Kenyans when we choose people to lead us, who seemingly have no sense of decency or morality; who spare no thought for the consequences of their actions. Our “waheshimiwas” show no respect for the public office that we have given them.
What standards have we set for our leaders? What do we look for and what criteria have been met by candidates when we go into the polling booths on Election Day and choose leaders? Is it enough that they have promised to build roads, which coincidentally pass right outside their own gates? Is it enough that they have the “right pedigree”?
If we claim the right to call Obama one of us, is it then not possible to find leaders like him amongst here in Kenya? Or is he one of a kind (which would then explain “Obama Day”)? Is it not possible that we could find another Obama right here? Or has Kenya with her values, or lack of them, killed the possibility of having a Kenyan-bred Obama?
Do we have Kenyan leaders who generate hope, pride, courage and confidence to succeed among the minions? Do we have leaders we can trust or have we resigned ourselves to the everyday political jargon, which usually amounts to nothing?
Are we not yet tired of constant disillusionment? Do we not have enough respect for ourselves to want a leadership that benefits us? Do we not care enough for our children to have a leadership that will benefit them?
If we must claim Obama, let us claim the ability to choose worthwhile and accountable leaders, the ability to have pride in our heritage and respect for our families, the ability to accommodate positive change. Let us claim our right to have leaders who work for us and with us. Let us fill the leadership vacuum we now have with national leaders and leave tribalism and discrimination in the forgotten past. Let us talk about how proud we are to be Kenyan, and mean it. Let us be brave enough to claim Kenya as our own.