A Cabinet Secretary in Kenya during a press conference told journalists, “Go to hell” and the backlash was from irate to “Aren’t we in hell already” to “Who talks like that publicly? To the press?”
Then the following day, the honourable member, in his flamboyant bow tie, apologised for being emotional and claimed he did not mean what he said.
He had also said the only person he was accountable to was the president because he was nominated by the president.
The other day, I was thinking about leadership (because I tend to be strange like that) and wondering, are our young people also blindly loyal to those they feel beholden to?
Look at our political history: We have politicians now who are the offspring of the republic’s founding fathers. And we have this strange loyalty among the old guard.
No matter the political party the offspring hops to, we see its following grow with each election year. There are examples of such politicians currently who are not even that vocal, such as Musalia Mudavadi and Gideon Moi.
In one statement, you will hear critics say that they will never be able to lead the country because they have no spine politically, but the old guard has a fond memory of their fathers and pushes them to go for the highest seat in the land: Hoping and praying that some of that leadership was passed on through their genes.
If we went not too far back, to 2003, and declared that Uhuru Kenyatta would one day be president despite his trouncing by Mwai Kibaki, people would tell you the same thing, he is just not presidential material. But still the loyal old guard made it possible. Look at who is president now!
Names matter a great deal in Kenyan politics. So whom do young people look to for leadership?
I can tell you for a fact, young people have no loyalty. The most general definition of loyalty (thanks to Google) is a strong feeling of support or allegiance. Loyalty has to be real, one has to really believe in something to support it fully.
How can young people be loyal when we grew up in a world where being fake sells?
We fake our social media accounts, we fake our images by making them look even better (our phones now have the beauty mode), we fake how we look with all sorts of products, we fake what we say and what we mean.
We are built on fakery. This is an individualistic way of viewing the world that has become natural; simply put, people are greedy.
People search for the highest bidder to buy their loyalty. The reason elections today are so expensive is that loyalty is for sale, people are paying out large amounts of money to buy support.
But that method cannot last. As soon as there is someone else paying more, or you run out of funds, the youth will leave you high and dry – no regrets, no apologies.
In that lack of loyalty there is a window of opportunity. Youth can be moulded by leaders who have a vision of a better future and the force of personality to make them share it.
Loyalty on the other hand makes you blind, and that in a way is what has brought us here to this pass. So blind that a Cabinet Secretary can say “Go to hell” fearlessly, because he is only worried about the president rather than the people.
Nerima Wako-Ojiwa is executive director of Siasa Place. @NerimaW