We lost it somewhere, I don’t know where. But the ugly orgy of violence in City Hall, Nairobi, this week confirms that we lost it. Or, maybe, we never had it in the first place, so we didn’t even lose it? You cannot lose what you never had?
Maybe Kenya has just never had leaders and leadership? For, how do you explain the lowly spectacles that play out in our county assemblies every so often? This time it was Nairobi, the place where the country is ruled from.
Embattled Assembly Speaker Beatrice Elachi eventually had the courage to come back to City Hall, 13 months after an avaricious money hungry county assembly impeached her. Although she got court orders restoring her as the speaker, she has been shy of effecting the orders – for a year and a month.
Elachi has always been wary of forces, she says, are after her life. She has told her friends that gangsters in City Hall will take her out the very day she returns.
In the end, however, she did return. And things almost went that way. She was accosted by hoodlums who will nonetheless introduce themselves to you as, “I am honorable Somebody.” Many years ago, when we were boys in primary school, Mama Roselyn taught us that you don’t refer to yourself with honorifics. You leave that to other people. You simply say, “I am Wole.” You allow other people to marvel and say; if they will, “Ooh! Prof Wole Soyinka!”
Our bandit crop of VVIPS (read very, very ignorant persons) in the main don’t do this. In a show of self ego massage, they crow about being “honourable something.” Then they go on to mount the most odious public spectacles you ever saw in the post Stone Age era. In the evening they still walk home and meet their children with a straight face and maybe a smile. I don’t know how I could ever pull such undignified stunts and walk home to look my family in the eye. I don’t know how Mama Roselyn could accept such outrageous drama by any one of her offspring. Certainly my daughters would not take that.
When it’s not Nairobi, it is Kisumu or Kakamega – or some other county assembly. Someone is breaking into Speaker Buluma’s office in Kakamega, or attempting to throw Onyango Oloo out of his office in Kisumu.
Regardless of how aggrieved legislators may be at whatever they think they are, they must never take rowdiness to the legislature. Rowdiness and the legislature are mutually exclusive. The parliamentary system was created to facilitate amicable debates and resolution of issues. It is the antithesis of chaos. If we take chaos to Parliament, or to the County Assembly, the institution loses the reason it exists. In that case let us all go back to the jungle, where might makes right.
Yet we cannot afford to regress. We cannot afford to be ruled by crass aboriginal instincts. Democracy is about obeying the rule of law. Where the law imposes upon us living and working with people we don’t like, we must have the emotional intelligence and patient capacity to live and work with them. The speaker of Nairobi County Assembly was lawfully reinstated by the courts, following an illegal primitivity disguised as an impeachment. Some crude characters who cannot coexist with the law have for well over a year threatened to use violence to lock her out of office and the county assembly.
Legislators couldn’t possibly sink lower than that. Yet this anarchy should not be allowed to have its way. We are seeing anarchy everywhere. In Mau, Nandi and in state companies, lawful decisions – including court orders – are subordinate to raw fiat.
The courts themselves need to help us, in the short term. They need to rain heavy weather on anyone who defies them, no matter whom. In the long term, we must collectively ask ourselves, how have we ended up with these wild hoodlums for leaders? How?