African politics, Kenya Watch

Kenya; A Sonko Nation

Kenyans were rightly outraged when their already well paid legislatures asked for a pay rise.

Some did it more loudly and creatively than others.

Overall, all were united the MP’s malfeasance has gone out of control, and their demands for pay increase even before their first month in office in an age of austerity was unwarranted.

Additionally, the legislatures asking for more salary will lead us down the slippery slope, other public employees- who rightly deserve, will ask for pay rise.

But is there seems to be a link between ostentatious display of wealth by Kenyans and the MP’s quest for salary increment.

The MP’s, are already one of the best remunerated in the world, but their demand for salary increment reveals a deep seated collectively pathology- the country’s inverted value system.

The seed for unbridled search of wealth, by all means, fair and foul, was planted at independence; despite rhetoric pretension to the contrary, Kenya started out on the path of unbridled capitalist, when in Ugandans Obote was experimenting with the common man charter, and Tanzania was embarking on Ujamaa socialism.

But the political elite kept on reassuring the sister countries, they were pursuing the same economic models as them.

Kenyatta while opposing the British, reserved deep admiration for their economic model, which he adopted- Although with a crude interpretation, if not downright cynical manipulation – he’s reputed to have told his people, steal so long as you are not caught. In his eyes wealth acquired through nefarious ways was better than an honest poor man.

Since then, this mindset has been deeply ingrained on the national psych. And it has in essence become the Kenya’s dream.

It is considered a sign of failure if one served in the government and retired without being wealthy- the constant refrain is no – s/he served in very lucrative ministry, but look he has nothing to show for it.

This institutionalized corruption, desensitized the citizens to its impact, embolden the participants, in the end, corruption is celebrated rather than frown upon. Any attempt at prosecution is seen as an attack on the community even when the “loot” is not shared with the community. That makes one question the energetic, albeit largely rhetoric effort expended on fighting corruption.

Kenya’s politician’s fear of humiliation, and, in order to live up to to the societal expectations compel them to be as wealthy as possible.

This has made the pursuit of public office an endeavor as self-enrichment. In the end election is an opportunity to make more money, and, since greed knows no bounds, once they make money, they would want more.

This inverted social value and the corresponding social expectation is pushing, especially young people into all sorts alternative parallel economic activity, some of it illegal.

The newly minted Senator for Nairobi, Mr Mbuvi, is the poster child of the young nouveau riche, and he has no compunction to flaunt his wealth. In his short career in politics, Sonko has pioneered a new cult of “leadership”- he caused a stir coming to parliament bedecked in jewelry and a ring- his signature attire, combines shiny Congolese musicians suits and a hat to boot, Sonko- a streetwise rich man, his nick name, has elevated sartorial inelegance to the ultimate level.

His remarkable ability, he claims is born of his initial modest background, of assisting the less fortunate by providing needs, all in full media glare, could be deemed altruistic, however, part of it reeks of self-indulgent narcissism.

Remarkably, Kenyans on Friday’s and Sunday’s head to the mosques and churches respectively in big numbers; on both days traffic jam in two busiest churches and mosque’s in Nairobi is unbearable. On Facebook and twitter, majority freely share not so subtle religious sermons.

In religions, sadaka- alms, and disdain for opulence, forms a core pillar-what your right hand gives, your left hand shouldn’t know. Giving should essentially should come from the heart.

Sonko’s exhibitionist tendencies is not limited to him, it is majority’s aspiration.

Beneath Kenya’s famed entrepreneurship and remarkable resilience, lies a hunger to be seen as wealthy, a sense of belonging to a specific “class”, however hollow, and the manner of acquiring that wealth notwithstanding. In our evolving inverted value system, one candidate in the last election ran on the tag of a hustler- making the word cool and elevating it into the mainstream.

The desire to make it in Kenya is extremely strong, but “hustling” to fulfill societal expectation is pushing many over edge.


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