Wednesday, 22 November 2017

DO THE RIGHT THING! AN OP-ED


PUTTING PEOPLE’S NEEDS FIRST

By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted November 22, 2017)

Now that the Supreme Court has confirmed the election of the Uhuru-Ruto ticket and the country is experiencing a state of calm for the first time in many months, there are a few things that have to change about the way the incumbents run this country. Or at least how the two Big Men operate.

First among them must be their curb on frivolous spending. In the Business Daily of November 22, we read front page news that ‘Uhuru, Ruto top State Sh5.7bn leisure spenders.’ This report is shameful, especially when poverty rocks the land and the bulk of the Opposition consists of jobless men and women who’d probably not be on the street burning tires and playing hide and seek with police if they had employment to keep them occupied and salaried. An empty stomach is an intense incentive to demand a major change in the political scene.

Those hungry mouths are filled with even more ire and outrage when they see how the newly-elected are living leisurely and luxurious lifestyles while they scramble to satisfy basic needs for food, clothing, shelter and even basic sanitation such as running water and public (not flying) toilets.

One must ask whether either the President or his Deputy ever spend time with people in the slums, other than when they do drive-throughs during pre-election days. This I doubt. But this is one reason why the Opposition has such a huge following among slum-dwellers. They know the impoverished are disgruntled and prepared to demand ‘Change at all costs!’ Savvy politicians like James Orengo know that, as the Nobel-prize winning poet-lyricist Bob Dylan used to sing, “When you ain’t got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose.” And so our hungry and angry slum-dwellers are ripe for revolutionary action. They are easily mobilized as the Opposition has so effectively proved in these past few months when the Big Men have largely been silent and less than eloquent in defense of their positions.

What’s worse, when we read that President Uhuru and his Deputy have recently received salary hikes, and then also find they use tax-payer-fueled funds to entertain themselves and their friends more extensively than even our profligate Congressmen who get some of the fattest salaries (compared to other MPs and Senators) in the world, we have to ask, have we really elected individuals who put the interests of their people first?

This is all we want to see in Kenya, Africa and everywhere in the world. We are crying to see authentic statesmen and women who run for office wanting to put the basic concerns of their people first. After that, they may have visions of how to be leading peacemakers out to reconcile feuding clans and countries. They might even want to wean their people off of fossil fuels and steer them towards using renewable, environmentally-friendly energy-sources.

But politicians do not have time to be planning to fulfill such people-friendly priorities if they are busy spending other people’s hard-earned taxes on frivolous events such as cocktail parties and nyama-choma dinners (requiring the slaughter of countless cows, goats and sheep all of whose waste sends out heaps of methane gas to pollute the air).

All the helicopter and private jet travel are also meaningless if they save time for the elites while leaving the rest of us looking on from our hovels and homeless shelters.

Yet we’d still love to applaud you as leaders we can look up to. You make that difficult, however.

Thus, it should be obvious to the newly re-seated politicians that the uproar and unrest that Kenyans have experienced in the last few months requires that they self-reflect and change their ways to become better representatives of all the Kenyan people, not just in theory, not just in bombastic or rhetorical terms, but in deeds that we can see and appreciate for their doing the right thing and putting the people’s needs first.

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