I’m not one to dispense unsolicited political opinions, my views are often expressed with the single vote that I religiously cast on the D-day of the general elections and when I’m trying to sway the opinions of my extended family strewn allover Kenya and the Diaspora.
However, I bumped into an old friend who told me of a rising wave in my home county, Kirinyaga. After he broke into an eerie laughter that bordered on Satan’s own diabolical laughter, he proceeded to caution me on how Kirinyaga County would the laughing stock of the country. “Mbia cianyu cigukandwo ta minji minji; (your money will be chewed like peas)” he said in the most unflattering attempt at the Gikuyu Ndia dialect.
Though all I own in Kirinyaga is a bungalow which I rent to make my ends meet, that laughter nudged me out of my inaction, it reminded of the saying that; “the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that is what often makes it possible for evil to triumph.” I suddenly remembered I have civic responsibility and I still wield the mighty power of the pen.
For a county whose name means “crest of whiteness” in reference to the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Kenya, the preferred choice for the county’s governorship ought to have traits akin to those of Caesar’s wife; the throne can only be occupied by someone who is beyond reproach. In street parlance, that leader must be:
“mweupe kama pamba.”
I have cast my eyes far beyond the Mau Mau caves along the banks of Nyamindi River; panned wide and further afield, past the rice plains of Mwea, none of the Kirinyaga gubernatorial candidates can claim to have a record of as stellar in public service and a character as unassailable as that of Martha Karua.
From fighting the demons of a repressive, nay totalitarian, KANU regime; to agitating for the reintroduction of multi-party democracy in the early 1990s, Ms Karua has always stood for what is right and just for the Kenyan people even when it was not politically expedient.
Her steely conviction saw her walk out on former President Moi who was addressing a crowd in Kirinyaga at a time when open defiance of the Government could mean incarceration without trial. She at one point had to painstakingly explain to her two daughters that her work could lead to disappearance; before she embarked on playing the role of legal counsel for human rights activists and pro-democracy agitators.
John Steinbeck, an American author posited that “Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts… perhaps the fear of loss of power.” Not the iron lady. Her unyielding resolve saw her resign as Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs citing frustrations in running her docket. The former President, Mwai Kibaki had at the time appointed judges without her knowledge.
It is perhaps her combative nature that has seen her typified as arrogant. To some, Ms Karua conjures the image of Spartans, the most dreaded infantrymen in all of Greece who lived an austere life, abhorring any form of luxury.
The Spartan infantrymen were admonished by their mothers as they headed to war, “Come back with your shield – or on it.” The mothers would then openly rejoice if their sons died in battle, but hung their heads in shame if they survived.
Tough as a nail, Kenyan political pundits referred to her as “the only man” in Kibaki’s kitchen Cabinet, despite the fact that all the other Cabinet members were men. During long drawn stand-off pitting ODM against ODM over the outcome of the presidential election in 2008, she conspicuously emerged as the de facto commander of Kibaki’s infantrymen.
Undoubtedly, Ms Karua’s resume is in stark contrast with those of her opponents. While some are staggering under the weight of self-importance after a short stint in public service, Ms Karua has diligently served the public for over two decades without looking down upon the wretched of the earth.
The far reaching impact of devolution means that it comes with the transfer of political powers, economic decision making and autonomy to sub-national units. This can result to rapid development of counties or absolute stagnation as a few gnaw like rabid rats at the county coffers. We thus must be cautious about who we entrust with keys to the granary.
For Kirinyaga county to be assured of development and good governance, voters must be discreet and judicious in vetting potential candidates, and elect the most competent and ethical public servant, not only for the highest office in the county, but for other slots as well.
There are those who are suddenly exhibiting false humility after an epiphany that has either been triggered by an epic fall from grace or end of a political term. If we are ensnared by the ornamental glitters decorating a new cup, we might end up drinking from a poisoned chalice; while the milk and honey is in our mother’s old melamine cup. Surf the wave, don’t drown in it; most importantly, vote wisely