Monday, November 5, 2012

Age-old wisdom on Leadership

There are no bad chiefs, just bad people; and bad people make bad chiefs!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Of public spaces and national psyche

There are few places that have their fingers on the pulse of a people as do public transport, newspaper vending points and shopping centres (pubs & salons). Riding in a bus this week, the driver was telling a passenger that he did not come to Nairobi to look for work, but cash... and by whatever means necessary. In his considered opinion, urbanisation is not about work, (there’s enough work in shags, from where he originates). [Heavy!] This mercantile outlook nailed the thinking of many Kenyans. It explains: why a man robs a country blind and is allocated a VIP seat at a national event; why another over-indulged man, after a life of unimaginable affluence afforded by ‘dubiously-acquired’ billions, dies under mysterious circumstances and is accorded a hero’s send-off; still, why another accumulates crazy cash, courtesy of peddling drugs and other illicits, and why our meek response to such colossal misconduct is voting them into elective political office (the tyranny that is democracy is just plain crazy!); why others still, with criminal charges hanging over their heads, remain serious contenders in the race for the highest office in the land. Our choice of leaders speaks more about us, and our values (or lack of the same) than of our leaders. The tragedy is that when majority of the citizens buy into this Machiavellian thinking, moral degeneration seems all-pervasive and a sort of helplessness begins to afflict the moral-minority. My response? A renewed resolve to stand,DAILY. So, help me God!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Of gullible flock and rOGuE shepherds

If there's any thread of truth in the stories relayed on the FM stations, then deception left the closet a while back and is now roaming the streets, bare! A distressed caller’s narration of the goings-on in her life left me hot-and-cold. Apparently, her pastor has been sleeping with her for a whole year in a carnal effort to banish the curse put on her by her grandmother. On the one hand, I have to wonder about the lady. How did she, in the name of Deliverance, fall for a lie so blatant? Is there a biblical precedence (sexorcism?)? OR is she merely expressing our love for 'Quick-fixes'? Her experience warns me that deception is the destiny that awaits us when, in the face of daunting life challenges, we delegate responsibility for our lives and let others think for us. On the other hand, I'm concerned about this pastor's brand of self-serving leadership. When his lies were exposed on National radio, he unapologetically plunged into ‘spiritual rambling',... the kind that gives ‘men of the cloth' a bad name. Should we disrobe (not literally, of course) shepherds cut from cloth so morally thread-bare? Might a spiritual ombudsman rescue us from this love-less service to God and humanity? Oh, how my heart cries out to the Good Shepherd!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Of Open-plan offices and Opaque-value systems

As I stood in line to be served by a City Council officer today, a Kenyan of Asian origin, accompanied by an ‘indigenous’ Kenyan were there too, exploring the possibility of evicting guys who’ve encroached on the former's land. The discussion was moving along just fine until its concluding moments. The officer on duty confidently concluded that the matter could be resolved within hours. However, there was a little ‘dietary matter’ that needed to be handled. He unashamedly, and in my full hearing, served this declaration: "Council officers don’t eat pumpkins, they eat meat". The land owner, in a very matter-of-factly tone of voice, only asked for the numbers. Did I look like I was hard of hearing or slow of understanding that I could not figure out the ensnaring web of corruption that was unfolding right before my eyes? Have we become so shameless and corruption so common-place that it does not matter who hears or knows? Have we eaten all our shame, and have not a shred of shame left? Who will rescue us from this self-devouring menace? Corruption has gone carnivorous (and possibly rabid)! It's acquired a taste for meat and blood. Will anyone survive unscathed by this cannibalistic onslaught we have unleashed upon our greedy selves?

Friday, June 8, 2012

From the mouths of babes

I was 'inspecting' my nephew Joshua’s milk teeth when he calmly asked:“Aunty Dudee, who buy you teeth?” “God gave us our teeth,” I replied. Without skipping a beat, he said: “But He didn’t give us brush” This nugget is in the same league as wahenga wisdom: “Life is like githeri, ...'ts how you karanga/cook it.” It challenged me on many fronts: Creativity, Responsibility, Stewardship...!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

It’s not the education, stupid!

On hearing that a case had been filed in Court challenging the Elections Act 2011 Clause that demands a Degree as a pre-requisite for politicians vying for elective office, I sniggered. Later, however, I went on an empirical expedition.  Is Uneducated = / ≠ Stupid? (methinksnot!).  Education and Stupidity are not necessarily mutually exclusive. It is therefore possible to have large doses of these elements co-existing merrily in one individual (I daresay!). Agreed, leaders must possess mental experience and intellectual mettle to rationally and analytically solve problems and make things happen in this country. However, and thankfully, these skills are not the exclusive reserve of the university-educated folk. I know this how? I know graduates, freshly and not-so-freshly baked from our local universities, who are exceptional in their thinking and logic. I have also interacted with graduates, whose reasoning and logic stand on their heads, painfully struggling to sustain a thread of thought to its logical conclusion. This reality begs for radical adjustments to the education system, if we are to improve the quality of graduates churned out every year. I have also met a few ‘un-Universitied’ Kenyans, who hold their own, brilliantly. My semi-illiterate maternal grand-father, for example, had the kind of business acumen, decisiveness and uncommon analytical ability that many a business graduate would marvel at. Life experience had strengthened the sinews of his understanding over the years, to good effect. I ask: Will this nation sacrifice great leadership at the altar of university education? To shut out an individual from vying for an elective office on the grounds of educational dwarfism, is not only infringing the rights of the individual, but, kicking democracy in the teeth. This one elitist Act locks out millions of Kenyans who have neither had the stipulated schooling; nor engaged the services of the ‘researchers-for-hire’ to do their CATs, Term Papers and Thesis at a fee; or worse still, paid the counterfeit-masters on River-Road a courtesy call to enable them buy-and-comply with the exclusionary Certificate requirement. In essence, what we require are not leaders strutting around with their university degrees, but patriotic men and women of noble character and with logically sound minds. We are starved of clear-thinking leaders whose hearts and thoughts are touched by the plight of young people wasting away their youth, idling, for lack of gainful engagement. Where are the leaders who will not turn a deaf ear to the cries of fellow Kenyans still languishing in IDP camps? Show me a Kenyan who will not turn a blind eye or stretch their arms to share loot stolen from struggling Kenyans and I will show you a politician who will not need to buy my vote. Dire economic times notwithstanding! Truth be told, if and when a Kenyan of this calibre chooses to vie for elective office, come the next General Election, I shall throw the full weight of my vote behind them. I refuse to dismiss them on the frivolous grounds of ‘paper-lessness’. Shoot! Given: Education is great, and by no means an intellectual luxury. But, integrity, strength of character and clarity of thought are way greater. Sigh! In the face of the current crop of educated politicians ruining, oops, running our affairs from the August House, this comment is so obvious that it should be unnecessary to make.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


The following is a transcription of a telephone conversation I had the misfortune of having this afternoon with a prospective landlord (hereinunder, PL):

ME: My name is Susan... is the advertised house still vacant?

PL: Yes it is. Eh, my name is Brigadier Mutisya of the Armed Forces.

Assurances are exchanged: He informs me that he is the property owner (truth be told, I have no desire to deal with crafty agents, and neither does he). I quickly lay his fears to rest, and with the preliminaries sorted, our convo continues merrily. The gentleman proceeds to unleash a mega self-intro, on my air-time mind you, and I listen patiently. Then he interrupts his monologue to ask the all-important, deal-determining question.

PL: Susan, what is your name?

There is nothing random about that loaded surname question. It goes beyond identity. It's almost always the camouflaged 'ethnicity' issue. (Ok! I have blinders too... such a blanket assumption (lo!). I hope he can prove me wrong). So, on this occasion, I 'go blonde'.

ME: Susan

PL: As I said, my name is Mutisya, and as you can tell I'm a Kamba (really? oops sorry, I hadn't stopped to connect the tribal dots). What's your name? (he repeats )

Typical! I know his type! But, why jeopardise my chances? Besides, I figure, a certain level of disclosure is necessary when entering into these Tenancy Agreements. So, I blurt out my surname (That singular response brings the convo to a screeching halt).

PL: Kikuyu Sitaki!

Tribalism is the 'enfant-terrible' of Africa's diversity (BTW, some Indian landlords, unlike Mutisya's nude overtness, take the trouble to cloak their biases. Their version of the story goes something like this: "Sorry, vi vont wegeterians only!" (that standard script, complete with the head-movement and a blank oriental-look marks the end of that 'non-Indians not-need-not-bother' conversation).

Questions: If a public servant like Mutisya can be that blinded by the dizzying reality of our ethnic animosity, who will take on the harrowing task of transforming our 'sick-and-sour' selves? Who will build ethnic-bridges? I have to wonder about the thoughts and sentiments being pedalled among the illiterati in far-flung counties on this issue. This being an election year, I pray for divine wisdom, cohesiveness and national reconciliation (I dare not get started on the TJRC).

This is a battle we (Brigadier and the rest of us Kenyans) must fight. And win!

Later, I had a good mind to call this soldier fellow and respectfully show him the error of his ways. But, before throwing myself to the High Priestly duties of exorcising the demons of tribalism that plague his soul, I was filled with compassion for this burdened man - demonizing a whole tribe must be a heavy load to bear! I wondered about his ability to think or see clearly through his blurred, myopic 'tribal lenses' - what poor vision.

P.S: My heart goes out to the poor troops in his battalion... especially those whose mother-tongues are foreign to the good Brigadier:(.

P.S II: It would be pretentious to say that any of us is blameless. So, before I hurl another huge boulder at the Brig., I'll take a nice, long and hard look at myself... and, as MJ put it, 'make the change!'. Ouch!