Viewed against Ndingi, political analysts have failed

Saturday April 04 2020

Retired Catholic Archbishop Ndingi Mwana 'a Nzeki. He died on March 31, 2020 aged 89. FILE PHOTO | NMG


If there is one good thing the coronavirus has done in Kenya, it is to keep politicians and so-called analysts off the air waves.

In their quest for power, politicians employ tribal demagoguery. He or she distorts facts and quotes historical events selectively in order to weave a narrative of persecution of himself and his community. They prey on the fears of the community and appeal to their prejudices and worst instincts.

The idea is to cast oneself as the defender of the community. The goal is to become their de facto tribal chieftain. They will then be able to carry the votes of the community to battle with other chieftains.

This kind of politics makes little reference to the Constitution and its objectives. It makes no reference to systems of thought, modes of governance or economic models. It is at once nihilistic and Machiavellian.

Its end goal is power in order to gain exclusive rights to the national feeding trough for the politician, his or cronies and a few members of his ethnic community.

Michaela Wrong’s book It’s Our Turn to Eat narrates the mechanics and philosophy of this kind of politics.
A political analyst, on the other hand, should subvert this tribal political paradigm, not rationalise it.


The political analyst should show the link between underdevelopment and ‘it’s –our-turn-to-eat’ politics. He/she should put our socio-political and economic situation in perspective by comparing it to successful countries, not repeat the false comparisons with failed states.

An analyst should measure national success or failure against the goals we set ourselves in Vision 2030 and the 2010 Constitution, not by comparing where we were in 1963 to where we are now.

The analyst should gauge the suitability of candidates for elective office on qualities such as sacrifice, integrity and commitment to issues of justice.

Analysts should disabuse us of the notion that being a politician equals suitability for public office. Political analysts should define a different national vision, not debate the one articulated by politicians.

That most of these analysts are professors at our universities has serious implications which this write up will not get into now. Suffice it to say they have failed their vocation and nation.

This failure becomes spectacular when viewed against the work of the late Catholic Archbishop Raphael Ndingi Mwana a’Nzeki who died last week. The archbishop refused to debate within the Kanu paradigm. Instead, he advocated a paradigm shift.

He did not rationalise the leadership’s theory of “small tribes versus big tribes”. Instead, he offered a national vision based on justice and equality. Unlike the character of Candide in Voltaire’s satirical novel, he did not see the Kanu world as “the best of all possible worlds”.

Instead, he called for a different political system. Unlike our professors who do not base their analysis on systems of thought, the bishop based his arguments on theological texts and democratic ideas. As a result, Ndingi helped bring an end to dictatorship.

Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator.