NGUGI: We are living in a madhouse where we piss at our heritage from great heights

Saturday September 21 2019

Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro and Nominated MP Maina Kamanda at Gitui catholic church on September 9.

Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro and Nominated MP Maina Kamanda at Gitui catholic church on September 9. The two leaders clashed over who could MC the event leading to fracas. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

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Countries which become developed have similar characteristics. They have a leadership that is committed to the achievement of national goals. The leadership also mobilises everyone to commit to a national vision.

There are set milestones for government departments. Individuals in charge of the departments face sanction for delays, inefficiency and failure.

Parliament checks to see that there are enough resources, the right personnel in competence and aptitude, and the most facilitative systems possible to ensure that the milestones are reached.

In every sector, public and private, excellence is promoted and rewarded, mediocrity discouraged and sanctioned.

Gradually, a national culture takes hold which puts a high premium on values such as hard work, personal integrity, sense of duty, self-sacrifice, etc. Such a country has a keen sense of national purpose. People march confidently into the future. Everywhere, they can see evidence that better days lie ahead.
In Kenya, there seems to be no sense of national purpose. The leadership at the top is wracked by an underhand power struggle. Departments lack coordinated vigour.

Personnel and systems that are supposed to facilitate progress instead hold it back. People in charge of departments work hard to corrupt systems and their underlings in order to facilitate grand theft.


Junior officers become millionaires. Senior officers become billionaires. Parliament, the custodian of national purpose, is a theatre of insults, incoherent verbosity, posturing and tribal demagoguery.

When not so engaged, MPs scheme how their companies can clinch this or that government tender, or how to increase their salaries. Meanwhile, they take bribes in toilets to vote a certain way.

Elsewhere, primary school children are gassed unconscious in order to grab their school field. Aid money is stolen.

Famine kills villagers and herdsmen. The headlines next day show pictures of relief trucks being flagged off, their sides emblazoned with the pictures of the politicians flagging them off.

Death through starvation is not an occasion for national shame. Hey, it is is a God-given opportunity for self-promotion. Poverty increases, slums mushroom and expand.

Crime soars, and death becomes a constant companion. Meanwhile, teenagers hold drunken sex orgies, and priests defile children while others fleece their congregations.

It gets worse. A senator warns those opposed to the deputy president that they will be profiled and dealt with, presumably when the DP comes to power. Then an MP declares proudly on national TV that he is a sycophant. Mind you, a sycophant is a servile self-seeking flatterer, only useful to his stomach.

Then after a fight in a church with another MP (who else?) he claims that he is being persecuted, and likens himself to one of the country’s heroes of what came to be known as The Second Liberation.

For a self-confessed sycophant to liken himself to someone who almost paid with his life to free Kenyans from despotism is to commit historical sacrilege. It is to piss, as the late V.S Naipaul might say, on our national heritage from a great height.

A scorched-earth kind of politics is taking hold of everyone like a contagious mental illness. The citizenry is divided into tribes, competing against one another, not with other countries.

On radio and TV stations, representatives of ethnic groups are shamelessly staking exclusive claim to power and resources. In elections, political parties no longer care to present candidates of integrity or competence. Anyone will do, even celebrities who have absolutely no idea about the relationship between the office they seek and national development.

One such dimwit, threatened foreigners doing business in Kenya, ignorant of the danger to which he was exposing tens of thousands of Kenyans working abroad.

It matters not who becomes an MP or local leader, as long as our party or tribesman wins. The counties, conceived of as units to bring resources to the grassroots, have morphed into tribal fiefdoms.

Meanwhile, Kanu-era land grabbers in the Mau Forest continue to put at risk lives and livelihoods of millions in Kenya and beyond. But government only chases out god-forsaken peasants lured into the forest to shield the grabbers. Things are falling apart.

How long will the centre hold? Citizens who can escape go to be killed in South Africa or to drown in the Mediterranean. Better to die on your feet trying to escape, they seem to say, than die on your knees at home.

The political class might not realise it, but the sense that the country is hurtling down a dark road to a dark hole is very real.

Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator