Published in the Saturday Standard on 27 June, 2020
It is difficult to cry over the fall through the air of Aden Duale, until this week Leader of the Majority in the National Assembly. Yet, the thing tolls with the ring of sinister bells. The tumbling of the Jubilee legislative strongman rings with the sound of loss of innocence and the traction of a sinister specter.
It is the perfect philosophical antinomy; of two contradictions living soundly and well in the same cask. Immanuel Kant, the father of critical philosophy, would smile at the blemishes of pure reason in the affairs of human beings. For the country is steadily becoming one huge bag of contradictions.
Aden Duale is the one man who has found it so easy to mix our mothers in invective he spews against us. “Pesa si ya mama yako,” he once told us, when some questioned the looting in high places, at the expense of devolution. “Public funds do not belong to your mother.” The abuse was economical in many ways. It is not difficult for us to imagine the missing links in the insult.
When power has touched you in the wrong places, people hung their heads in shame and disbelief when you open your mouth. And Duale made no bones about the fact that he was powerful – or at least that he thought he was powerful. “My office is more powerful than that of the former prime minister. I am very powerful,” he crowed freely before TV cameras.
The power saw some of the worst legislation bulldozed through the National Assembly. Ugly stalemates between the Senate and the Assembly played out. Some on division of funds, between the National Government and the counties. Others, on policy and regulatory legislation for devolved functions, were concluded in the Assembly without going to the Senate.
At the apogee of power, he knew how to cripple your spirit. He could easily say things like, “Who is Muluka? Is he a Member of Parliament? Which is his constituency? Let him shut up out there.” But the pick of the basket was going into the sacred space of motherhood, and canvassing for laws that even the courts found unconstitutional.
If to push for an unjust system is to live by the sword, Aden Duale has lived by the sword. And it has been told to us that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. This week Kenya paused for 22 minutes, as a great man who bloviated, crowed and awed was cut down to size. They removed him from office without a whimper. Not even his legendary powers could save him.
Yet it is difficult to celebrate the tumble of the giant. It is difficult to even laugh at the thought that he had no power as such. He was always only his master’s voice. His stumble rings with a sense of ingratitude, if not injustice. Give it to him. This piper was a master of the tune. Whenever it was called, he played with precision. He could even lead Parliament to vary electoral laws in the middle of a repeat presidential election, as a special purpose vehicle.
In the end, it is demonstrated that he has only played a utilitarian role. It is shown that political operatives can be consumer products. They have specific utility value and timelines. They have their ‘sell by’ dates and directions for use. When they outlive either, they are not even good for the compost site. They become environmental hazards.
The thing to cry about is not the fall of the colossus. It is the fall of innocence in the political space. This loss of innocence does not just give us slippery tongues about sacred things like motherhood. It places us in that space where the end justifies the means. And what is the end, if we may ask?
It has become difficult to define the ends of Kenyan politics. Is it what the politician wants, what the master wants, or what the electorate wants? What ends does the Member of Parliament minister for? The Minority whip, Junet Mohamed has given us some heavy food for thought. He had a pithy message for Duale and for the new Majority Leader, Amos Kimunya. “When you see us following Baba (Raila Odinga, ODM Party Leader) like cows, we are fearing consequences like the ones you are facing now. If you go against the wishes of the people who own (political) parties . . . I will be more loyal than I was now.”
Status in politics is often occupying that space where innocence and conscience are permanently suffocated. Surrender of self esteem is of the essence. You literally cough and swallow your phlegm before the world. You delight in the up-and-down movement of your Adam’s apple, as the murky stuff rolls down your throat. You follow people like a cow and eat grass, like Nebuchadnezzar, on all fours.
Such is the worth of the title of honour. To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, “The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our existential appetites have outrun the call of duty and self-esteem.” Hence, even when it is time to go, we must wait to be ludicrously shoved out. Even then, we still go with one eye looking back, like Lot’s wife. Cry, the loss of innocence. We are prayerful that they could call us back.