This NASA moment bears both the bright character of an epiphany and the dull outlook of yet another false promise – a political de ja vu. What will it be, in the long run? The principals of Ford Kenya, ODM, Wiper and ANC parties have signed a unity pact. Concurrently, they have given Kenya a political promissory note. They are upbeat with super tidings of a super nation in super days ahead. The super alliance is, accordingly, a super promise of a super nation – a veritable epiphany.
The seven-bundled NASA moment should be cause for the nation to hold its breath with pregnant expectancy. Yet this week’s super promise of a super deal between a possible NASA government and the people comes against a frustrating grain of history. Kenya has had numerous false dawns. Should we expect a morning of fulfillment under Raila Odinga, Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula? Is a super deal possible?
At the dawn of independence in 1963, Kenya had its first whiff of super hope. Fifty-three years later, we still suffer from crippling poverty, suffocating ignorance and basic disease. What went wrong? In 1963, forty years of colonial rule were coming to an end, and with them an overall 68-year period of official British presence. The age of exclusion was ending. Kenyans would determine their own destiny in an inclusive God blessed land, where justice would be our only shield and defender.
The super promise of 1963 talked of the glory of Kenya and the fruit of our labour. This would fill up every heart with thanksgiving. It was an epic moment. Our founders spoke in the mantra of uhuru na kazi. Our credo was freedom and labour. President Mwai Kibaki would later rephrase this as “a working nation.” Historical narratives and photographic records of the age paint a nation overflowing with love and goodwill, across the peoples and their leaders.
Tragically, things began falling apart within months. We got into the house. And the rain started beating us. Within 24 months, we had changed the independence constitution enough times to pave way for corruption and presidential autocracy. We had moved swiftly from a majoritarian parliamentary system of government led by a Prime Minister to an imperial presidency.
The first President, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, was not even elected – not even once throughout his 15-year reign. He first became President through political sleight of hand. Tom Mboya did the trick. They simply changed the constitution. Kenyatta became President via the first amendment. They killed devolution, abolished regional assemblies, killed the Senate and moved on to paralyze the Opposition.
At Mzee’s death in 1978, they had killed the independence party, Kanu. They jailed anyone who dared to say Kanu was dead. In between, corruption, political assassinations, negative ethnicity and arbitrary detention amidst segmental autocracy had become the norm. In the words of JM Kariuki – who was killed by government functionaries – we were “a nation of ten millionaires and ten million beggars.” It was an open secret that the demise of the Kenyatta government was keenly awaited.
Enter President Moi in 1978, and the country glowed with hope and expectancy. This was despite the new President pledging to walk in the footsteps of his predecessor. We thought, some of us, that this promise was only a figure of speech. And indeed, give it to President Moi, the first four years of the Nyayo Era were promising.
The macro economic growth was breathtaking – Nyayo Tea Zones, Nyayo Wards, Nyayo Buses, Nyayo Milk, a brand new international airport in Nairobi, two new national stadiums; roads re-carpeted from Mombasa to Malaba and Busia. There were jobs, jobs and more jobs. Towns like Meru, Embu, Kisii . . . had tarmac for the first time. We planted trees . . . Education grew by leaps and bounds . . . War against corruption . . . Then disaster struck.
Maybe it was the excessive praises we bathed the President in, all the time? Nyayo just refused to accommodate alternative voices. It was all back to the worst of the Kenyatta script. Only the cast was revised. From de facto one-party dictatorship we now legislated one-party absolutism. Never mind that the party was really dead. It came back from its grave as a horrendous monster from the dead.
Kenyans longed for a new dawn, yet again. And they would get several false ones. The single party days went away in November 1991. Still, Kenya did not become a super state. Then we thought all would be possible without Moi. Moi left in 2002, but we did not become a super country. President Kibaki did not give us a super deal, or make us a super people. No. Kibaki gave national cohesion a blow that has left it staggering to date. It was the same old raw deal.
Whatever its flaws, however, the Nusu Mkate regime came closest to giving Kenyans a real deal. A new constitution and infrastructural efforts are there for all to see. Yet, an exclusionary political economy watered down the gains. Besides, Kibaki gave us UhuRuto. An age heralded as digitally transformational has turned into one long night of darkness and horrible dreams. The UhuRuto state is a felonious hydra – an insensitive ethnic-based gremlin that abets theft by public servants. It is quite comfortable working with the suspects.
NASA has a tall order. The leaders must convince us that they herald an epiphany that we can believe in. The Super Alliance must quickly get over monotonous flag bearer issues. They must begin painting super pictures of a super country that we can believe in. Apart from obvious things about past raw deals, they must give us convincing visions of a super deal.
How do Kenyans become one super people again? What will they do to make the citizens feel like a super nation with super dreams? How will our super dreams become super achievements? Here in Emanyulia we have always been super people, nursing super hopes. We want nothing short of a super promise for a super deal. Over to you at NASA, we are waiting and watching.