By Mukurima X Muriuki
The Kikuyu have a saying: “Kiamia kimwe cimiaga ciothe.” This timeless saying talks about our societal interconnectedness; that our behavior is highly influenced by the oxygen we breathe from our environment.
Odhiambo Mbai, in his article: “Public Service Accountability and Governance in Kenya Since Independence,” explores the make-up of our oxygen. In this article, Mbai is dismayed that in spite of the many legal instruments and watchdogs institutions for regulating and monitoring the ethical standards of public officials, the management of public affairs and institutions by those who are entrusted with positions of authority in the country has not improved. Mbai goes on to regrettably, elucidate that this unfortunate pattern has deteriorated ever since independence.
Ladies and gentlemen, our social fabric, I can argue, has been conditioned to be unethical. This is the oxygen we breathe. Because we itch when matters ethical are brought close to us, it is not strange that we bribe. It is not strange that we have no accountability. It is not strange that corruption reigns. It is not strange that we can fake our way to the top. We want to sing that song “I am all the way up” but don’t want to use the rungs of a ladder to get there. We want to use shortcuts. Anybody remember Simple Homes?
My grandfather used to tell me that a boil can never be cured unless opened to the medicines of natural air. He would go on to sing a song to the effect that any judgement made in the heat of an emotion is rarely sound. To this end, I have found myself pondering a number of questions:
1. Joho used a fake KCSE result slip to gain admission to the university. I don’t know who is telling the Truth versus who is telling the truth. However, what I can deduce granted the foregoing is that Joho has been conditioned by our environment. Just like you and I. Pray tell me, have you ever bribed? Hmmmmm…Why do you bribe? We bribe because we want a certain advantage or to fast track a process. It may sound mundane, but that bribe allowed you to gain something that someone else deserved! If you have bribed in your life, no matter how small the amount was, you are no different from Joho.
2. Why should I be concerned with news that Joho used a fake result slip to gain University admission? What are my interests? Is my interest premised on political expediency? Is it that I really care about integrity and accountability? Or even justice? If I really care about integrity and accountability, what has been my stand on the runaway corruption?
I find the whole Joho debacle boring because it will play out eventually-like it always does. The system knows its people and will self-correct to what has been normalized. As such. it will be no different from the 2007 Post election violence. It will be no different from the NYS corruption saga. It will be no different from Goldenberg. It will be no different from Wagalla Massacre. It will be no different from any deplorable instance in the country you may think of, because the system knows the kind of oxygen society hangs on.
Finally, in exactly one week from today, Martin Luther King Jr the world will remember the day Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. You know I love Dr. King. And Dr King is celebrated world over. He is an icon. And we all remember the man, in spite of the fact that he wasn’t a perfect man. He cheated on his wife Coretta. He plagiarized his dissertation. He wasn’t anywhere near the holier-than-thou leaders we want in Kenya. But he served his people with diligence and dedication. He passed on to his children a better America than he found it. That’s what service is all about. Don’t we all remember the Kingsian philosophy on public service?
“You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve…. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love”