Itend to feel our forefathers had a hyperactive imagination, sense of self-awareness and an acutely wicked sense of humour. One perceptive sage of yore had this interesting tale about a hyena and a man. In times gone by where our landscape was replete with verdant and pristine land, it was quite easy for man and woman to walk tall, nose in the air enjoying the fresh breeze. I bet this could be one of the contributory factors to longevity and wellness among many other benefits lost to us presently. So the man was taking a walk at the edge of the forest, indeed some sort of colossus strutting across the landscape in a leisurely saunter after a long hard day. Before the ‘civilization’ that the white man supposedly brought upon us, we used to live mostly side by side and in a delicately-balanced symbiotic relationship with our bestial companions, wildlife. Soon he was joined by a hyena. As one of those eternally cunning and avaricious animals, Mr. Hyena bid his time and moved in stealth so as not to attract any unwarranted attention. The hyena’s main intention to exercise persistence was not noble in the least. Just that in his mind’s heart, he truly hoped that as the man’s forearm pivoted back and forth, it would fortuitously detach and fall off. The hyena would instinctively jump into action, pick up the arm and canter into the thicket and chew that arm into smithereens. Unbeknownst to the hyena he was dealing with a master of concealed intentions. That plan was not entirely fool-proof as the hyena would soon discover. Without any notice, the man pirouetted and with an awkward stick unleashed a fierce onslaught of what the Americans call ‘whooping the ass’ of the hyena. Mesmerized the hyena wheeled–off for dear life howling and baying in his characteristic mournfully mirthless laughter. But I digress or did I really?
One of the greatest ills that bedevil the nation of Kenya is corruption. Guess y’all knew that by now. Recently; veteran historian and politician who only ascended to political power in the Kibaki era, Mr. Joe Khamisi released an interesting book on this topic. In his book he without fear of contrition and unmitigated conviction named and shamed the men and women that not only started but have eternally kept running the conveyor belt that is graft in Kenya. These now exist as the high and mighty in our society with the propensity to ride roughshod upon anyone without any sort of concern about the consequences. As the contents of the book are no doubt injurious to their sensibilities they would fight tooth and nail and actually claw your eyes out; if not for any other reason, to ensure the putrid genesis of their family fortune is interred with the bones of their progenitors to the fullness of time. So explosive are the contents of the book that no bookshop in Kenya can dare risk their reputation and by extension survival marketing the text captured in this mighty tome. Thanks to modern technology that has made it possible to have e-readers and books in the Portable Digital Format, the equivalent of the encyclopedia on Corruption in Kenya is availed to many who would hitherto never have had the chance to read about the rot in our ‘heritage of splendor.’ Word around town is that a new scandal will soon come to light of how some of us got the book, “Kenya: Looters and Grabbers – 54 Years of Corruption & Plunder by the Elite” at prices so low if it were trousers it would basically be belted around our knees!
URL to the book: (https://kenyatalk.s3.amazonaws.com/2018/05/233048_158582a7703acb3c8c21b970f23aaee4.pdf)
Disclaimer: As a proponent of Intellectual Property Rights I would like to urge all who received this book as PDF or e-reader to spare a thought to the mind that toiled night and day to produce this masterpiece. In that regard try to ascertain a Payment Platform through which it can be made possible to ensure this onerous harbinger of truth and honourable whistle-blower is afforded the enjoyment of the fruits of his sweat.
I will not attempt in any way to summarize or infringe on the copyright of the works of this eminent personality. I will only seek to give a chronology of our malfeasance and try to propose a solution to it. Corruption is not exactly a newly-minted phenomenon in Kenya but the worst of it only began manifesting when the missionaries, explorers and colonialists began their forays into Kenya. The African traditional way of life was such that emphasis was laid on the love and mutual respect for the neighbor, barter trade, innocuous crop farming for subsistence purposes and pastoralism just for the sake of prestige and keeping men occupied. Then came the explorer and merchant community after the scramble and partition for Africa who decided to build the railway from Mombasa at the coast to Western Uganda. And just like that, with the proverbial ‘iron-snake’ also was introduced the ills of greed and need for primitive wealth accumulation into the natives’ psyche.
Enough with the background. We have two kinds of corruption. Petty corruption and Grand corruption. An example of Petty corruption is bribery to get that government job you now enjoy. Grand corruption is the hacking of the IFMIS system or simply factoring in an ‘Eating Co-efficient (β)’ into an equation to calculate the annual budget at Ministry headquarters and voila! Indulge me:
A = Ψ [n (γ) + β]
Legend: A – Annual Expenditure
Ψ – Inflation markup
γ – Monthly expenditure
n – Number of months in a financial year (12???)
β – Eating Co-efficient
Just like the mythical Dragon’s egg it will hatch into an adorable little devil. We will tend and feed this creature because we are fond of it. As it grows its appetite will proportionately increase and we will now trick our nemeses, then feed them to this little ‘pet.’ Eventually the pet will grow into an uncontrollable monster with an insatiable appetite which not even you can control and will ultimately devour you. The grouse of this piece is not to discuss corruption as a theme but rather to quantify the ill effects to us as a nation, to any prospect of development and how it curtails our efforts in fighting against the other evils that have been our Achilles’ heel since time immemorial like Poverty, Illiteracy and disease. Any discerning citizen of this country may no doubt have asked himself this question at one point or another. Why do we tolerate corrupt and weak-willed leaders to continue robbing us without raising any qualms? The more pressing question is: Why do you accept that an illiterate, pot-bellied, effeminate, incompetent and entirely unremarkable character who lacks moral grounding can be better than you the guy who leaves his house very early every morning and with great verve and optimism to engage in menial labour just for a trifle? Have we such low self-esteem that we relegate ourselves down the caste rungs to feel that only a particular class of people deserve the best in life and not us?
In recent times our televisions, radios and social media outlets have been inundated with news of corruption scandals that have pilfered money from the taxpayer’s purse. From the new season of the musical-chairs, that is the National Youth Service (NYS) scandal to Kenya Power and Lighting scandal with all the shell companies owned by employees of this grand monopoly of Electrical generation in Kenya to the Maize scandal where twenty-one maize suppliers received a grand sum of 1.4 billion. The latter is more puzzling as mathematically 1,400,000,000 divided by 21 people comes to a rough figure of 66 million per head. Where in Kenya can we find a parcel of land so expansive and so prolifically productive as to be able to reap such gain, give or take the prices of agricultural produce in just one season?
According to a 2016 report by the Kenya Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission we lose about 608 billion to corruption annually. This is roughly a third of our national budget. (I’m not sure whether to believe this report as some of its authors have been hounded out of office on; you guessed it, real or perceived misappropriation allegations but let us just live with the wisdom of the Serenity Prayer). Did I just hear a sigh of dismay and exasperation somewhere? Let me give you the computation of what 608 billion can do. Let us just say it can finance the bulk of the Government recurrent expenditure for the entire year. Putting it succinctly, salaries for all government ministries, departments and state corporations. Apparently, our constitution contemplated that a Technocrat Cabinet Secretary would be less amenable to such low-class depravity but we under-estimated the jarred monstrosity that is the ‘jiggered mind!’ A local media station hired experts to calculate the cost of what even a microcosm of that 600 billion that is 12 Billion Kenya shillings can do. Divided into our highest currency denomination; the 1000 shilling note, 12B will weigh about 12 tonnes. This is paper that even if all the rappers in America and Kenya ‘make-it-rain’ in their music videos for a whole month continuously they will still not empty those ‘paper-clouds!’ If you have ever seen an 18-tonne truck you definitely appreciate how massive a 12-tonne load of paper can be. If it falls on you it crushes you to what my aviation teacher at Mang’u High used to call ‘Marundiko ya Nyama.’ (sic) I will discuss in a future post why I am a writer and do not fly planes! Similarly, 12 billion is enough to comfortably run the biggest county by land area in Kenya, Turkana for a whole year. They run on about 10 billion. On our domestic front this figure could buy two packets of Maize flour and two bundles of spinach each for our entire approximately 45 million-strong population. I am working with a budget of 250 Kenya shillings per head.
I do not need to enumerate the many negative effects of corruption but as the title choice dictates I may just have to do it: Creativity, zeal, drive, passion and the joy of life is drained out of the citizenry that toils for hours on end every day and almost 7 days a week. These are the lucky few. Unemployment is exacerbated when adequate resource cannot be availed to be equitably injected into the economy for development and creation of new jobs. Funds are denied even to youths with feasible and workable business plans that would otherwise yield self-employment for themselves and create jobs for their peers and even plug our shortfall in revenue. Stolen money will no doubt be missed from the national budget. Crucial services like education, health, defence, internal security will grind to a stand-still. The recent reduction of National Police Service remuneration is not by default but just one catastrophic consequence of corruption. When bucket-loads of cash are scooped from our common economic pool and diverted elsewhere they are no longer available to go around and finance economic activity. Consequently, real suppliers are not paid, merchants cannot make sales, Principals have no working budget to run their school affairs making them only stick to the critical path and offer the most basic of amenities to their students, doctors cannot be paid and are forced to watch crest-fallen that patient they have nobly endeavoured to save pass-on in their arms from a treatable condition – a direct result of unavailability of medical supplies. Simply put service delivery is non-existent and consequently a dearth in any attempt at attainment of wide-ranging development agenda and implementation of manifesto items.
But can we really stand up and purport not to be complicit in misdemeanors that see us regularly getting robbed for five years-a-time by electing incompetent and majorly repugnant characters as leaders? Our problem is that we are like the unskilled saber-juggler who in great naivety fails to realize that this is an art honed by eons of practice and by extension fails to expect that the saber will ultimately injure him or an innocent member of their audience. We are steeped in the mental slavery that affords us the notoriety in proffering praise, honour and even feel jealous of persons who own top of the range mechanisms of conveyance, monumental-flats with infinity pools and have children attending local versions of the ivy-league schools. We strip ourselves of the cloak of basic common sense and forget to ask critical questions like:
What does he do to make so much in such a short time?
What productivity does his wealth bequeath upon society?
Is his pecuniary tax load in the same regime as ours?
What measures has he/she put in place to ensure that they redistribute their wealth and build a replicable system, influence for good and build capacity, which can ultimately raise the living standards of the local community to his?
We are creatures of routine. We always slide back into the same pitfall of trying to outdo the other guy and accumulate as much material wealth as possible. This is not a new phenomenon. In the 16th Century famous politician, commentator on social affairs and author Niccolo Machiavelli observed in his book; bestseller – The Prince that, “Human beings are fickle, lazy and envious of gain. They are untrustworthy, unscrupulous, unreliable and braver in times of peace than when it counts the most.” Such a manifestation of mediocrity was not lost on the great writer. We fuel corruption when we elect reprehensible individuals to represent our interests forgetting that when two groups of horses pull at cross-purposes, the carriage can never be drawn forward.
Phew! I am tired of going on end about the problem statement. I will now attempt to prescribe medicament to whoever is interested in getting cured of this vice:
- We need a revolution. Like Dr. Miguna, let us ‘refuse to idly board the plane’ to Neverland! We need a revolution in both our mindsets and value sets. Let us call for accountability from our leaders and learn to burn in a bright, unmistakable, righteous rage. We must realize we are the bosses that employ the decrepit employees (leaders) who in an annual pilgrimage enrich themselves at our expense and cart away billions of our funds to foreign climes. We must say enough is enough and never again allow the exchequer to be an ATM for elites. We must unite against corruption and misgovernance and demonstrate against it in a loud, immutable voice. Taxes should no longer be crimped from our income solely for the benefit of a hallowed few and to the detriment of the Development agenda (Big 4).
- We need political goodwill from our Leadership class to prosecute and jail anyone who is culpable in corruption. There should be no sacred cows! We elected our President to represent our national interest, an overriding majority. Let not political or financial support from corruption cartels who may have supported your presidential campaign out-weigh your responsibility to your electorate. In the same book Mr. Machiavelli enthused the premium a prince should attach to the love and respect of his polity vis-à-vis the partisan and hypocritical interests of nobles and knights. As a creature of our constitution you are obligated to encourage and safeguard adherence to the rule of law. Our president must also know he occupies a very important and quite powerful seat. Though reduced, he yields massive power to influence political will for any cause of his choice. He should get creative. Shrugging your shoulders in diffidence and asking others what they expect you to do about corruption leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. Either style up or forget any legacy Your Excellency!
- Enforce proportionate punishment- more often than not perpetrators of this vice get –off easy with nothing more than a slap on the wrist. A guy steals 50 million and then is mock-arrested, wheeled to court and fined 2.5 Million! Is that the right level of punishment as retribution for such crimes? Levy a fine of four times the stolen amount and the universally accepted 15 years and above with no probability of ever holding public office again on release.
- Righteous Upbringing – A section of the Holy Bible, I think the Book of Proverbs Chapter 22 admonishes us to raise our children in the ways they should follow so that even in their old age they will not depart from it. Ground your progeny on the firm substratum of virtue, discipline and reverence for the dignity of work. Let them understand that even the Lord as a manager takes no pride in wealth devoid of productivity. Let them not just glorify the Range-rover but be aware of the process and system that is available to them to legitimately drive the same in their adulthood.
- Isolate perpetrators of corruption and avoid them at all costs. In breaking with the tradition of deification of copiously loaded characters and welcoming them to fund-raisers, ‘ruracios’, wedding committees, funerals and other social gatherings let’s all in force ostracize them! I will admit I only heard of this measure on TV yester-night but that does not devalue its prudence. In Uganda, it is said the Policemen who beat-up to a pulp long-time opposition politician Kizza Besigye were well documented and covered in all iterations of the media and everything concerning them was ted out in the public domain. As a consequence, they and their families became an odium to society such that no one wanted any part of association with them any longer. This is not any less than the perpetrators of corruption here deserve.
- Elect Noble characters as leaders – At Election time, we need those nondescript yet fearless, strong, honest and magnanimous personalities who toil in their salt-mines everyday eking out an honest living to come out in exercise of their constitutional rights, confidence and honourable self-esteem to offer themselves for election. I urge us to extol Integrity above all else. Money isn’t a thing. Come out and we will fund-raise for you in the age-old ‘Harambee’ spirit started by our founding father because you are the leader that we need. And when you get in, exercise vigilance so as not to fall into the same traps that now have strangle-hold on your predecessors.
- We need to bring back our nationalist psyche. Let us no longer ask what the nation can do for us but instead what we can do for our nation. First answer to that question is rid ourselves of crooked leaders we do not need.
If followed to the later this remedy is adequate in the short term to eliminate all variants of corruption and set us on the requisite orbit to accountable nationhood.