It is a beautiful world we live in, although we rarely enjoy the beauty. We are too preoccupied with unending angry thoughts to cherish the beauty. You look at the high and mighty. You see portraits of unbridled anger. The world is not bending to their will. The only thing they can do, therefore, is to throw up angry tantrums. Perhaps they are unfamiliar with the words of the American Max Ehrmann who famously said, “And whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”
A beautiful world it is indeed. Yet, don’t we mess it up with daily installments of individual and collective greed? If you have seen the latest reports by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) the world could lose 67 percent of its wildlife, just over the next three years. Just consider that – over the next 36 months, we could lose two-thirds of global wildlife. And all this is because of degradation and unsustainable use of natural resources. Does human activity tend to gravitate toward greed and destruction? Do we even know that this spells doom to all life? Do you care?
Eventually the human being is driven by strong appetite for self-gratification. You want to feed your thirst, hunger and lust. Unchecked by decent social conduct and self-control, it all boils down to bestiality. Self-restraint is what humanizes you. The wise man, Mahatma Gandhi, has often been cited as reminding us about the conflict between our greed and resources. Nature has endowed us with enough resources to satisfy everyone’s needs. But we do not have ample resources to feed everyone’s greed.
Could this be why political leaders – especially – talk as if they will burst a vein? And quite often they burst a vein. And you know the consequences. They have lost sight of the purpose of leadership and reflection on why governments are constituted among men and women. We read in the American Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
This testimony places life, liberty and pursuit of happiness at the heart of the American dream. It goes on, “To secure these rights, governments are constituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organising its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness.”
If governments are constituted among men and women to secure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, do we seem to think in Kenya that this boils down to the scandalous whims of the ruling class? Because of the need to feed the greed of this class, government is constituted to loot? If you have this week followed the mind-boggling narratives of the billions of plundered shillings, then you must understand that there seems to be only one agenda in our government – looting the public coffers. The philosophy, architecture, appointment and functioning all seem to seek only one goal – to steal.
Traditionally, thieves exist everywhere – even in government. Among civilised populations, however, stealing is not the reason governments exist. Theft is the exception to the established order. Thieves will, therefore, be handled with decisive finality. They are not just instantly weeded out of office. They are tried and jailed. In Kenya they are defended with angry words from all seats of power.
You have seen the shocking revelations about the National Youth Service theft. When the story first broke out, it was denied everywhere in Government. The Leaders of the Majority in both the National Assembly and the Senate denied it. The Deputy President was in his element saying it was all about giving the Government a bad name, to bring it down. Even State House denied it.
When the truth could not be stopped, the Leader of the Majority in the National Assembly called a one-man press conference. He disowned a recently fallen Cabinet Secretary. He now described her in appalling idiom. She belonged to Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, he said. Never mind that he had previously defended her most noisily. The Majority Leader in the Senate went silent. You hardly hear him on any matter anymore. His deputy followed suit. Maybe they learnt something useful?
Today we are hearing of another scandal, the theft of more billions from the Ministry of Health. As usual there are denials that suggest it is the right of those in Government to steal. Their best defence comes from their tribesmen, who are weapons of verbal and political assault. The day that the tribe wakes up is the day that this theft will end. For now we must continue to contend with angry tribal leaders throwing up tantrums because someone has stumbled into their disgraceful activities.
One important thing is not being said in the Ministry of Health saga, however. Health is a devolved function. The National Government, therefore, had no business getting into this dubious procurement in the very first place. Even if the need were so strongly felt, the done thing would be to pass on the funds to the Counties as conditional grants, under Article 202 (2) of the Constitution. Why was this not done? Who stood to benefit from this procurement? What happened to the original urgency that informed the procurement? Why are the goods lying in a depot six months later? Why did a Shs. 350,000 container cost ten million? This greed will destroy us.